Open main menu

Pre–Indo-European languages

  (Redirected from Pre-Indo-European languages)

Pre-Indo-European languages are any of several ancient languages, not necessarily related to one another, that existed in prehistoric Europe and South Asia before the arrival of speakers of Indo-European languages. The oldest Indo-European language texts date from the 19th century BC in Kültepe in modern-day Turkey, and while estimates vary widely, spoken Indo-European languages are believed to have developed at the latest by the third millennium BC (see Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses). Thus the Pre-Indo-European languages must have developed earlier than, or in some cases alongside, the Indo-European languages that ultimately displaced them.[1][2][3]

A handful of these languages still survive; in Europe, Basque retains a localized strength with fewer than a million native speakers, while the Dravidian languages of South Asia remain very widespread there, with over 200 million native speakers. Some of the pre-Indo-European languages are attested only as linguistic substrates in Indo-European languages. A few others (such as Etruscan, Minoan, Iberian, etc.) are also attested from inscriptions.[citation needed]


Before World War II, all the unclassified languages of Europe and the Near East were commonly referred to as Asianic languages; the term encompassed several languages that were later found to be Indo-European (such as Lydian), and others (Hurro-Urartian, Hattic etc.) were classified as distinct language families. In 1953, linguist Johannes Hubschmid identified there having been at least five pre-Indo-European language families in Western Europe: Eurafrican, which covered North Africa, Italy, Spain and France, Hispano-Caucasian, which replaced Eurafrican and stretched from Northern Spain to the Caucasus Mountains, Iberian, which was spoken by most of Spain prior to the Roman conquest of the Iberian peninsula, Libyan, which was spoken mostly in North Africa but encroached into Sardinia and Etruscan, which was spoken in Northern Italy.[4] The term pre-Indo-European is not universally accepted, as some linguists maintain the idea of the relatively late arrival of the speakers of these unclassified languages to Europe, possibly even after the Indo-European languages; they prefer to speak about non-Indo-European languages. A new term, Paleo-European, was coined relatively recently.[when?] The latter term is not applicable to the languages that predated or co-existed with Indo-European outside Europe (in Iran or India).[citation needed]

Surviving languagesEdit

Surviving pre-Indo-European languages are held to include:[5]

Languages which contributed a substrate to Indo-European languagesEdit

Examples of suggested or known substrate influences on specific Indo-European languages include:[citation needed]

Attested languagesEdit

Languages which are attested in inscriptions include:[citation needed]

Later Indo-European expansionEdit

Further, there have been replacements of Indo-European languages by others, most prominently of most of the Celtic languages by Germanic or Romance varieties due to Roman rule and the invasions of Germanic tribes.

But also, languages replaced or engulfed by Indo-European in ancient times must be distinguished from languages replaced or engulfed by Indo-European languages in more recent times. In particular, the vast majority of the major languages spread by colonialism have been Indo-European, and this has in the last few centuries led to superficially similar linguistic islands being formed by, for example, indigenous languages of the Americas (now surrounded by English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and French), as well as of several Uralic languages (now surrounded by Russian).[citation needed] A large number of creole languages have also arisen based upon Indo-European colonial languages.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World (Oxford, 2010)
  2. ^ Haarmann, Harald. Pre-Indo-European Writing in Old Europe as a Challenge to the Indo-European Intruders Indogermanische Forschungen; Strassburg Vol. 96, (Jan 1, 1991): 1
  3. ^ Roger Blench, Matthew Spriggs (eds.) Archaeology and Language III: Artefacts, Languages and Texts, (2012, Routledge)
  4. ^ Craddock, Jerry Russell (1967). The unstressed suffixes in the western Mediterranean with special regard to Hispano-Romance (Thesis). University of California, Berkeley. p. 40.
  5. ^ Peter R. Kitson, "Reconstruction, typology and the original home of the Indo-Europeans", in (ed.) Jacek Fisiak, Linguistic Reconstruction and Typology, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 1997, p. 191.
  6. ^ Aikio, Ante (2012). "An essay on Saami ethnolinguistic prehistory" (PDF). Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne. Helsinki, Finland: Finno-Ugrian Society. 266: 63–117. Retrieved 5 July 2017.


Archaeology and cultureEdit

  • Anthony, David with Jennifer Y. Chi (eds., 2009). The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000–3500 BC.
  • Bogucki, Peter I. and Pam J. Crabtree (eds. 2004). Ancient Europe 8000 BC—1000 AD: An Encyclopedia of the Barbarian World. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Gimbutas, Marija (1973). Old Europe c. 7000–3500 B.C.: the earliest European cultures before the infiltration of the Indo-European peoples. The Journal of Indo-European Studies 1/1-2. 1-20.
  • Tilley, Christopher (1996). An Ethnography of the Neolithic. Early Prehistoric Societies in Southern Scandinavia. Cambridge University Press.

Linguistic reconstructionsEdit

External linksEdit