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The Roots of Indo-European Language

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The Indo-European language family is the largest linguistic group in the world; three out of the four most spoken languages in the world (Spanish, English and Hindi) derive from Indo-European roots, and its three billion native speakers cover the globe. Where did the language family originate, and how did its reach extend from the southern tip of the Americas to the northern edges of Russia?

One conventional theory, known as the Kurgan hypothesis, holds that the 6,000 year-old language spread from the Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea. Another model links the linguistic origins to the spread of agriculture in southern Turkey, from as early as the 8th millennium B.C.E. A recent study in Science* utilized a biological and statistical approach, mapping 103 ancient and contemporary languages to model the linguistic spread. Examining key words with shared ancestral cognates (for example, the word for mother is similar across many Indo-European languages) along with grammatical structures, the researchers suggest that the language family comes from Anatolia and was spread with the advent and dispersal of farming. As it spread, the language took on regional variations and mixed with local languages to branch out into the hundreds of Indo-European languages spoken today. Several different aspects of the recent research point to Southern Turkey as the original source for Indo-European language. Yet the debate rages on—proponents of the Kurgan hypothesis suggest that the language split cannot extend back over 7,000 years ago, because various Indo-European languages share words for technologies that developed at a later time.

A map of Indo-European languages in the modern world.


*Read more in: Remco Bouckaert, Philippe Lemey, Michael Dunn, Simon J. Greenhill, Alexander V. Alekseyenko, Alexei J. Drummond, Russell D. Gray, Marc A. Suchard, Quentin D. Atkinson, “Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family.” Science 24 August 2012:
Vol. 337 no. 6097 pp. 957-960.

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8 Responses

  1. Puzzled Nate says:

    The Philistines are listed as Ham’s descendants, but were using a language akin to Greek, a IE language; likewise the Hittites, also listed as descending from Ham, were using a IE language. So, why isn’t Ham associated with Europeans?

  2. Gulpezir Orbey says:

    Nobody knows this language group is 6000 year old ,Because there is no proof. I think The scythians spread the Iranian language to Europe. And besides, This indo-European language is the mixture of Semitic(Aramaic) and Sumerian languages.And it went to Iran and India.Then scythians spread to the Europe.
    There is no INDO_EUROPEAN PEOPLE.There were onlythe scythians. And the Anatolian and Greek languages turned into Indo-European because Iranians captured Anatolia before 500 BC.

  3. Anare Tamani says:

    Biblical records point to Ararat (in Turkey) as landing place or Ark…is Anatolia around this area?…

  4. Ed says:

    Kristina, For this finding to be consistant with the confusion at Babel, it would mean that the people given the origional ‘stem’ language, that gave rise to all the IE languages, must have migrated north-west together from Babel, about 1100 klms from Anatolia, totally plausable migration.
    A good article is found at http://creation.com/the-tower-of-babel-account-affirmed-by-linguistics . God bless.

  5. Allan Richardson says:

    Our Biblical heritage comes through Hebrew, a Semitic (non-IE) language related to ancient Phoenician, Sumerian, and Aramaic, and modern Arabic; there is no hard scientific evidence that IE, Semitic, and all the other language families are part of a “universal” language, and the historical “noise” makes it unlikely we will ever know, barring the invention of time travel.

    The languages in the Canaan to Babylon “fertile crescent” were closely enough related that it would have made sense to Bronze Age people in that area that they had once been the same language, although Egyptian belongs to a totally different language group, so the story must date back to a time before the Semitic peoples had extensive contact with Egyptians, Hittites, Philistines (believed to be early Greeks by some), or other non-Semites. It was included in the Torah because of its moral lesson about human pride.

  6. Allan Richardson says:

    If the tower of Babel refers to an actual building project, it would probably be the ziggurat at Babylon, or an imaginative extension of that project. All of these events took place where non-Indo-European languages were, and are, spoken. In Anatolia, the IE language Hittite was spoken, and later of course, Greek, later replaced by Turkish, which is not an IE tongue.

  7. kristina murray says:

    Anatolia is modern Turkey. Could that be where the tower of Babel was built?

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8 Responses

  1. Puzzled Nate says:

    The Philistines are listed as Ham’s descendants, but were using a language akin to Greek, a IE language; likewise the Hittites, also listed as descending from Ham, were using a IE language. So, why isn’t Ham associated with Europeans?

  2. Gulpezir Orbey says:

    Nobody knows this language group is 6000 year old ,Because there is no proof. I think The scythians spread the Iranian language to Europe. And besides, This indo-European language is the mixture of Semitic(Aramaic) and Sumerian languages.And it went to Iran and India.Then scythians spread to the Europe.
    There is no INDO_EUROPEAN PEOPLE.There were onlythe scythians. And the Anatolian and Greek languages turned into Indo-European because Iranians captured Anatolia before 500 BC.

  3. Anare Tamani says:

    Biblical records point to Ararat (in Turkey) as landing place or Ark…is Anatolia around this area?…

  4. Ed says:

    Kristina, For this finding to be consistant with the confusion at Babel, it would mean that the people given the origional ‘stem’ language, that gave rise to all the IE languages, must have migrated north-west together from Babel, about 1100 klms from Anatolia, totally plausable migration.
    A good article is found at http://creation.com/the-tower-of-babel-account-affirmed-by-linguistics . God bless.

  5. Allan Richardson says:

    Our Biblical heritage comes through Hebrew, a Semitic (non-IE) language related to ancient Phoenician, Sumerian, and Aramaic, and modern Arabic; there is no hard scientific evidence that IE, Semitic, and all the other language families are part of a “universal” language, and the historical “noise” makes it unlikely we will ever know, barring the invention of time travel.

    The languages in the Canaan to Babylon “fertile crescent” were closely enough related that it would have made sense to Bronze Age people in that area that they had once been the same language, although Egyptian belongs to a totally different language group, so the story must date back to a time before the Semitic peoples had extensive contact with Egyptians, Hittites, Philistines (believed to be early Greeks by some), or other non-Semites. It was included in the Torah because of its moral lesson about human pride.

  6. Allan Richardson says:

    If the tower of Babel refers to an actual building project, it would probably be the ziggurat at Babylon, or an imaginative extension of that project. All of these events took place where non-Indo-European languages were, and are, spoken. In Anatolia, the IE language Hittite was spoken, and later of course, Greek, later replaced by Turkish, which is not an IE tongue.

  7. kristina murray says:

    Anatolia is modern Turkey. Could that be where the tower of Babel was built?

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