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See also: Indo-European Family of Languages, The (table)The Indo-European Family of Languages
Subfamily Group Subgroup Languages and Principal Dialects
Anatolian     Hieroglypic Hittite*, Hittite (Kanesian)*, Luwian*, Lycian*, Lydian*, Palaic*
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family of languages having more speakers than any other language family. It is estimated that approximately half the world's population speaks an Indo-European tongue as a first language. The Indo-European family is so named because at one time its individual members were prevalent mainly in an area between and including India and Europe, although not all languages spoken in this region were Indo-European. Today, however, the Indo-European languages have spread to every continent and a number of islands. It should be stressed that the term Indo-European describes language only and is not used scientifically in an ethnic or cultural sense. The languages classified as Indo-European are sufficiently similar to form one major linguistic division.

The characteristics Indo-European languages share with respect to vocabulary and grammar have led many scholars to postulate that they are all descended from an original parent language, called Proto-Indo-European, which is believed to have been spoken some time before 4000 B.C., perhaps before 8000 B.C. or earlier. Since there are no written records of Proto-Indo-European, it apparently was in use before writing was known to its speakers. Even its existence is an assumption, although a plausible one and the only really satisfactory explanation of the common features of the modern Indo-European languages. There has been much speculation as to the region where the speakers of Proto-Indo-European first lived and the nature of their culture, but nothing definite is known. One theory of the origin of the individual Indo-European languages suggests that as the ancient speakers of Proto-Indo-European migrated or moved away from each other, losing contact, their language broke up into a number of tongues. These tongues later also split up still further, eventually giving rise to the many modern Indo-European languages. For a classification of Indo-European subfamilies, groups, subgroups, and individual languages, see the table entitled The Indo-European Family of LanguagesThe Indo-European Family of Languages
Subfamily Group Subgroup Languages and Principal Dialects
Anatolian     Hieroglypic Hittite*, Hittite (Kanesian)*, Luwian*, Lycian*, Lydian*, Palaic*
..... Click the link for more information.
. By studying the vocabulary and grammar of the various daughter languages of which there are records, scholars have tried to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European and infer some of its characteristics. It appears to have been highly inflected in a distinctive way. Apparently, it also had three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives; eight cases for the noun; agreement between adjectives and nouns; and a free accent (i.e., one that could be placed on any syllable).

The descendant languages have all tended to discard to a greater or lesser extent these features of the mother tongue and to become simplified. For example, they substitute increasingly the use of word order and prepositions for inflections to indicate the relationships of words in a sentence. There also exists among the Indo-European languages a similarity of basic words (such as words denoting kinship, numerals, and parts of the body) that points to a common origin. Different forms of writing for the various Indo-European languages used both in ancient and modern times include cuneiform, hieroglyphics, and a number of alphabets, among them the Devanagari, Greek, Roman, and Arabic scripts.

See articles on many of the Indo-European subfamilies, groups, and languages.


See also E. Benveniste, Indo-European Language and Society (tr. 1973); P. Baldi, An Introduction to the Indo-European Languages (1983).

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1. denoting, belonging to, or relating to a family of languages that includes English and many other culturally and politically important languages of the world: a characteristic feature, esp of the older languages such as Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit, is inflection showing gender, number, and case
2. denoting or relating to the hypothetical parent language of this family, primitive Indo-European
3. denoting, belonging to, or relating to any of the peoples speaking these languages
4. the Indo-European family of languages
5. the reconstructed hypothetical parent language of this family
6. a member of the prehistoric people who spoke this language
7. a descendant of this people or a native speaker of an Indo-European language
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Ukko: the god of thunder of the ancient Finns and his Indo-European family (Journal of IndoEuropean Studies Monograph 51).
It has been noted often that the various functions of the potent verb "to be" in IndoEuropean languages, which induce the troubling peaks and valleys of Western metaphysics, are in Classical Chinese spread among many different words.
At first this piece seems an anomaly in the book, but by presenting a perspective on voice that is radically not IndoEuropean, it does a good job of suggesting potential alternative or "new" frames through which to engage issues.
One of the features of IndoEuropean languages which a student of etymology soon comes into contact with is the way in which the letters 'f' and 'p' frequently inter-change.
In their dictionary, Pastor and Roberts (1996: 132) explain how '*per(d)' (asignar, otorgar) may be the Indoeuropean root of the Latin word 'pars', which is, in turn, the origin of 'departir'.
Taking their cue from August Schlegel's division of languages into synthetic and analytical, philologists grouped all languages into a small number of types, usually three: isolating languages (such as Chinese), agglutinating languages (such as Arabic) and inflecting languages (IndoEuropean ones such as Sanskrit, Greek and Latin).
And of course some of the mostly IndoEuropean pairs below may be related 'pre-dictionary'.
Aristotle's "laws of thought" are rules for the clear, non-contradictory use of language (at least, IndoEuropean languages) but are not necessarily the best guide to grasping the nature of a process world.
Asi ocurre, por ejemplo, cuando se reconoce a los indoeuropeos como "the ancestors of English" (13), se alude a la difusion de "spoken varieties of Indoeuropean" (49) en conexion con "a series of migrations across Europe and Africa" (51), o se habla sin ambages de "speakers of Indoeuropean dialects" (50).
Perhaps it has something to do with language, for Welsh vocabulary is so easily identified with the earliest utterings on the Indian subcontinent, in the great IndoEuropean linguistic migration.
"Fighting Words: Aleman Partheneion 63 [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Journal of IndoEuropean Studies 7: 249-72.
"Kin Bonds" touches upon the Indoeuropean background of MoBr.