Indo-European Languages

January 16, 2023 – 04:49 am

Indo-European Language Family (Hayden120)The Indo-European languages are a family of related languages that today are widely spoken in the Americas, Europe, and also Western and Southern Asia. Just as languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian are all descended from Latin, Indo-European languages are believed to derive from a hypothetical language known as Proto-Indo-European, which is no longer spoken.

It is highly probable that the earliest speakers of this language originally lived around Ukraine and neighbouring regions in the Caucasus and Southern Russia, then spread to most of the rest of Europe and later down into India. The earliest possible end of Proto-Indo-European linguistic unity is believed to be around 3400 BCE.

Since the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language did not develop a language.

Branches of Indo-European Languages


This branch of languages was predominant in the Asian portion of Turkey and some areas in northern Syria. The most famous of these languages is Hittite. In 1906 CE, a large amount of Hittite finds were made on the site of Hattusas, the capital of the Hittite Kingdom, where about 10, 000 cuneiform tablets and various other fragments were found in the remains of a royal archive. These texts date back to the mid to late second millennium BCE. Luvian, Palaic, Lycian, and Lydian are other examples of families belonging to this group.

All languages of this branch are currently extinct. This branch has the oldest surviving evidence of an Indo-European language, dated about 1800 BCE.


This branch includes two sub-branches: Indic and Iranian. Today these languages are predominant in India, Pakistan, Iran, and its vicinity and also in areas from the Black Sea to western China.


Rather than a branch of languages, Greek is a group of dialects: During more than 3000 years of written history, Greek dialects never evolved into mutually incomprehensible languages. Greek was predominant in the southern end of the Balkans, the Peloponnese peninsula, and the Aegean Sea and its vicinity. The earliest surviving written evidence of a Greek language is Mycenaean, the dialect of the Mycenaean civilization, mainly found on clay tablets and ceramic vessels on the isle of Crete. Mycenaean did not have an alphabetic written system, rather it had a syllabic script known as the Linear B script.

Indo-European language family treeThe first alphabetic inscriptions have been dated back to the early 8th century BCE, which is probably the time when the Homeric epics, the and the, reached their present form. There were many Greek dialects in ancient times, but because of Athens cultural supremacy in the 5th century BCE, it was the Athens dialect, called Attic, the one that became the standard literary language during the Classical period (480-323 BCE). Therefore, the most famous Greek poetry and prose written in Classical times were written in Attic: Aristophanes, Aristotle, Euripides, and Plato are just a few examples of authors who wrote in Attic.


This branch was predominant in the Italian peninsula. The Italic people were not natives of Italy; they entered Italy crossing the Alps around 1000 BCE and gradually moved southward. Latin, the most famous language in this group, was originally a relatively small local language spoken by pastoral tribes living in small agricultural settlements in the centre of the Italian peninsula. The first inscriptions in Latin appeared in the 7th century BCE and by the 6th century BCE it had spread significantly.


This branch contains two sub-branches: Continental Celtic and Insular Celtic. By about 600 BCE, Celtic-speaking tribes had spread from what today are southern Germany, Austria, and Western Czech Republic in almost all directions, to France, Belgium, Spain, and the British Isles, then by 400 BCE, they also moved southward into northern Italy and southeast into the Balkans and even beyond. During the early 1st century BCE, Celtic-speaking tribes dominated a very significant portion of Europe. On 50 BCE, Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (ancient France) and Britain was also conquered about a century later by the emperor Claudius. As a result, this large Celtic-speaking area was absorbed by Rome, Latin became the dominant language, and the Continental Celtic languages eventually died out. The chief Continental language was Gaulish.

Insular Celtic developed in the British Isles after Celtic-speaking tribes entered around the 6th century BCE. In Ireland, Insular Celtic flourished, aided by the geographical isolation which kept Ireland relatively safe from the Roman and Anglo-Saxon invasion.

The only Celtic languages still spoken today (Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton) all come from Insular Celtic.


The Germanic branch is divided in three sub-branches: East Germanic, currently extinct; North Germanic, containing Old Norse, the ancestor of all modern Scandinavian languages; and West Germanic, containing Old English, Old Saxon, and Old High German.

The earliest evidence of Germanic-speaking people dates back to first half of the 1st millennium BCE, and they lived in an area stretching from southern Scandinavia to the coast of the North Baltic Sea. During prehistoric times, the Germanic speaking tribes came into contact with Finnic speakers in the north and also with Balto-Slavic tribes in the east. As a result of this interaction, the Germanic language borrowed several terms from Finnish and Balto-Slavic.

Dutch, English, Frisian, and Yiddish are some examples of modern survivors of the West Germanic sub-branch, while Danish, Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish are survivors of the North Germanic branch.

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