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Examples: English, Spanish, French, German, Russian.
Indeed, more than half the world's population speak one or more of these languages either as a mother tongue or as a business language.
Examples: Portuguese, Hindi, German, Bengali.
Examples: Latin, Greek, Persian, Sanskrit, Pali.
Examples: Greek, Yiddish, Polish, Armenian, Romany, Kurdish, Italian, Punjabi, Gujarati.
The Indo-European languages stretch from the Americas through Europe to North India.
The Indo-European Family was originally thought to have originated in the forests north of the Black Sea (in what is now Ukraine) during the Neoloithic period (about 7000BC). Modern research appears to indicate an origin in Anatolia (Modern Turkey). Either way, the people bagan to migrate between 3500BC and 2500BC, spreading west to Europe, south to the Mediterranian, north to Scandinavia, and east to India.
The Indo-European Family is divided into twelve branches, ten of which contain existing languages. I will describe each of these branches separately.
One group of Celts moved back to France. Their language became Breton spoken in the Brittany region of France. Breton is closer to Welsh than to French.
Other Celtic languages have became extinct. These include Cornish (Cornwall in England - now being revived), Gaulish (France), Cumbrian (Cumbria), Manx (Isle of Man - another language being revived), Pictish (Scotland) and Galatian (spoken in Anatolia by the Galatians mentioned in the Christian New Testament).
Welsh has the word order Verb-Subject-Object in a sentence. Irish has the third oldest literature in Europe (after Greek and Latin).
They include English, the second most spoken language in the world, the most widespread, the language of technology, and the language with the largest vocabulary. A useful language to have as your mother tongue.
Dutch and German are the closest major languages related to English. An even closer relative is Frisian.
Flemish and Afrikaans are varieties of Dutch while Yiddish is a variety of German. Yiddish is written using the Hebrew script.
Three of the four (mainland) Scandinavian languages belong to this branch: (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish). Swedish has tones, unusual in European languages. The fourth Scandinavian language, Finnish, belongs to a different family.
Icelandic is the least changed of the Germanic Languages - being close to Old Norse. Another old language is Faroese.
Gothic (Central Europe), Frankish (France), Lombardo (Danube region), Visigoth (Iberian Peninsula) and Vandal (North Africa) are extinct languages from this branch.
German has a system of four cases and three genders for its nouns. Case is the property where a noun takes a different ending depending on its role in a sentence. An example in English would be the forms: lady, lady's, ladies and ladies'. The genders are masculine, feminine and neuter. German has three dialects spoken in northern Germany, southern Germany and Austria, and a very different form spoken in Switzerland.
English has lost gender and case. Only a few words form their plurals like German (ox, oxen and child, children). Most now add an s, having been influenced by Norman French.
These languages are all derived from Latin. Latin is one of the most important classical languages. Its alphabet (derived from the Greek alphabet) is used by many languages of the world. Latin was long used by the scientific establishment and the Catholic Church as their means of communication.
Italian and Portuguese are the closest modern major languages to Latin. Spanish has been influenced by Arabic and Basque. French has moved farthest from Latin in pronunciation, only its spelling gives a clue to its origins. French has many Germanic and Celtic influences. Romanian has picked up Slavic influences because it is a Latin Language surrounded by a sea of Slavic speakers. Portuguese and Spanish have been separate for over 1000 years. The most widely spoken of these languages is Spanish. Apart from Spain, it is spoken in most of Latin America (apart from Portuguese speaking Brazil, and a few small countries like Belize and Guyana).
Romansh is a minority language in Switzerland. Ladino was the language spoken by Spain's Jewish population when they were expelled in 1492. Most of them now live in Turkey and Israel. Provincial and Catalan are closely related languages spoken in the south of France and the north-east of Spain, respectively.
Note that Basque (spoken in parts of Spain and France) is not an Indo-European language - in fact it is totally unrelated to any other language of the world.
Galician is a Portuguese dialect with Celtic influences spoken in the north west of Spain. Finally, Moldavian is a dialect of Romanian spoken in the Moldova. Under the Soviets the Moldavians had to use the Cyrillic alphabet. Now they have returned to the Latin alphabet.
Apart from Latin, other extinct languages include Dalmatian, Oscan, Faliscan, Sabine and Umbrian.
Latin had three genders and at least six cases for its nouns and a Subject-Object-Verb sentence structure. Most modern Romance languages have only two genders, no cases and a Subject-Verb-Object structure.
In general, the Catholic peoples use the Latin alphabet while the Orthodox use the Cyrillic alphabet which is derived from the Greek. Indeed some of the languages are very similar differing only in the script used (Croatian and Serbian are virtually the same language).
One of the oldest of these languages is Bulgarian. The most important is Russian. Others include Polish, Kashubian (spoken in parts of Poland), Sorbian (spoken in parts of eastern Germany), Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Macedonian, Bosnian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian.
The Slavic languages are famed for their consonant clusters and large number of cases for nouns (up to seven). Many of the languages have three numbers for verbs: singular, dual and plural. Macedonian has three definite articles indicating distance; all are suffixes: VOL (ox), VOLOT (the ox), VOLOV (the ox here), VOLON (the ox there).
Lithuanian is one of the oldest of the Indo-European languages. Its study is important in determining the origins and evolution of the family. Lithuanian and Latvian both use the Latin script and have tones. Lithuanian has three numbers: singular, dual and plural.
Prussian is an extinct language from this branch
Greek is one of the oldest Indo-European languages. Mycenaean dates from 1300BC. The Ancient Greek of Homer was written from around 700BC. The major forms were Doric (Sparta), Ionic (Cos), Aeolic (Lesbos), and Attic (Athens). The latter is Classical Greek.
The New Testament of the Christian Bible was written in a form of 1st Century AD Greek called Koine. This developed into the Greek of the Byzantine Empire. Modern Greek has developed from this.
Greek has three genders and four cases for nouns but no form of the verb infinitive. The language has its own script, derived from Phoenician with the addition of symbols for vowels. It is one of the oldest alphabets in the world and has led to the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. The Greek Alphabet is still used in science and mathematics.
Until the 1970s Greek was a Diglossic language. This means that there were two forms: Katharevoussa used in official documents and news broadcasts and Demotic used in common speech.
The Greek spoken in Cyprus includes many Turkish, Arabic and Venetian words and has a different pronounciation to the official Greek of Greece.
There are two dialects that have been diverging for 1000 years. They are mostly mutually intelligible. Geg is spoken in the north of Albania and Kosovo (Kosova). Tosk is spoken in southern Albania and north west Greece.
The ancient Illyric and Mesapian languages, spoken in parts of Italy, are considered by some to be an extinct member of this branch.
All languages in this branch are extinct.
Hittite is the earliest Indo-European language known in Europe. It has two noun genders, animate and inanimate. It has post-positions.
Armenian is spoken in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (an enclave in Azerbaijan). The language is rich in consonants and has borrowed much of its vocabulary from Farsi (Iranian). Nouns have 7 cases and the past tense of verbs take an E prefix like Greek.
The main language of this branch is Farsi (also called Iranian, Dari and Persian), the main language of Iran and much of Afghanistan. Kurdish is a close relation. Kurdish is spoken in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq by the Kurds. It is the second largest of the Iranian languages after Farsi. In Turkey it was banned until recently.
Pashto (also called Pushtu or Pakhto) is spoken in Afghanistan and parts of north west Pakistan. Baluchi is spoken in the desert regions between Iran, Afganistan and Pakistan. These languages are written in the Nastaliq script, a derivative of Arabic writing. It is interesting that you cannot tell which family a language belongs to by the way it is written.
Ossetian is found in the Caucasus mountains, north of Georgia. Tadzhik is a close relative of Farsi, written in Cyrillic and spoken in Tadzhikistan (of the former USSR) as well as northern Afghanistan.
Avestan is the extinct language of the Zoroastrian religion. Scythian is an extinct language of a warrior people who once lived north of the Black Sea.
Of the modern North Indian languages, Hindi and Urdu are very similar but differ in the script. The Hindi speakers are Hindus and use the Sanskrit writing system called Devanagari (writing of the Gods). Urdu is spoken by the Muslims so uses the Arabic Nastaliq script. These two languages are found in north and central India and Pakistan. Nepali is closely related to Hindi.
Bengali (West Bengal as well as Bangladesh), Bhili (Central India), Oriya (in Orissa), Marathi (in Maharashtra), Assamese (in Assam), Punjabi and Lahnda (from the Punjab), Maithili and Maghadi (from Bihar), Kashmiri (Kashmir - written mainly in Nastaliq), Sindhi (the Pakistan province of Sindh - also written in Nastaliq), Gujarati (Gujarat in western India), Konkani (in Goa, an ex Portuguese colony, uses the Latin script), Sinhalese (Sri Lanka - uses its own script derived from Pali), Maldivian (Maldives - with its own script based on Arabic).
Sanskrit had three genders as has Marathi; most modern Indic languages have two genders; Bengali has none.
The fascinating point about India is that the south Indian languages (like Tamil) are not Indo-European. In other words, Hindi is related to English, Greek and French but is totally unrelated to Tamil. North Indians visiting Madras (in the south) are as baffled by Tamil as a foreigner would be.
Welsh : Irish Gaelic : Scottish Gaelic : Breton|
Cornish : Gaulish : Cumbrian : Manx : Galatian
English : Dutch : Flemish : Frisian : Afrikaans|
German : Yiddish : Danish : Swedish : Norwegian
Faroes : Icelandic
Anglo Saxon : Old Norse : Frankish : Gothic
Lombardo : Visigoth : Vandal
|Romance (Latin) Branch|
Italian : Sardinian : French : Provencal : Catalonian|
Spanish : Ladino : Galician : Portuguese : Romansh
Romanian : Moldavian
Latin : Oscan : Umbrian : Faliscan : Sabine : Dalmatian
Russian : Belorussian : Ukrainian : Polish : Sorbian|
Czech : Slovak : Slovene : Croatian : Serbian
Kashubian : Bulgarian : Macedonian : Bosnian
Old Church Slavic
Lithuanian : Latvian|
Mycenaean : Koine : Byzantine Greek
Classical Greek (Attic : Doric, Ionic, Aeolic)
Illyric : Mesapian
|Hittite : Lydian : Lycian: Luwian : Palaic|
Dacian : Thracian : Phrygian
Farsi : Kurdish : Pashto : Baluchi : Ossetian : Tadzhik|
Persian : Avestan : Scythian
Hindi : Urdu : Nepali : Bengali : Assamese : Oriya|
Kashmiri : Punjabi : Sindhi : Marathi : Gujarati
Bhili : Lahnda : Maithili : Magahi
Konkani : Sinhalese : Maldivian : Romany
Sanskrit : Pali : Ardhamagadhi
|Turfanian : Kuchean|
Greek language and linguistics.
A site for the Romani people and language.
Hindi - The Language of Songs
A large resource for the Hindi language.
Good site for translation.
History and language of Persia / Iran.
Yiddish language and culture.
Italian site looking at Indo-European theories and problems.
Urdu-English.com helps with providing free Urdu to English online lessons, beginner to advanced level. Help is also provided for the life in the UK test and UK driving test.