Language and Language Families
World Languages-- Today there are
approximately 6,000 languages spoken
around the world. We do not know for certain
if all of these derive originally from one
common ancestor or parent language.
Language Origins
Monogenetic Theories – Language
origins in ONE common source, a
 Garden of Eden– Common Source
 Tower of Babel—Language diversity
as punishment.
Language Origins
Multi-Source Theories– Several
Proto-Languages emerge in different
locations around the world, either
around the same time or at different
Language Families
We do know that many languages are
related to each other. We call these
groups of languages that have a
common ancestor Language
 English is part of the Indo-European
Language Family.
Discovery of Language Families
Although we don't have any evidence of
the original parent language (the culture
that spoke it did not possess writing), we
call the original language Proto-IndoEuropean.
 An Englishman, Sir William Jones (1786)
was the first to notice that some
languages were related to each other by
comparing words in Sanskrit (a very
ancient I-E language) with words in Greek,
Latin and English.
Comparative Linguistics
Comparative Linguistics–
The study of the relationships between
different languages, often with the
goal of reconstructing or identifying
the parent language.
There are 10 major groups within the
Indo-European Family of Languages.
 1. Germanic (English is part of this
group or sub-family).
 2. Italic– This includes the Romance
(Roman) languages of Latin (parent),
French, Spanish, and Portugese.
I-E Language Groups (10)
3. Celtic—This was one of the
earliest and most wide-spread of the
IE languages throughout Europe. Its
descendants include Irish Gaelic,
Scots Gaelic, Breton, and Welsh.
 4. Hellenic—The languages and
dialects of Greece, including AtticIonic (Athens) from with Modern
Greek derives.
IE Language Groups (10)
5. Balto-Slavic– This includes most
of the major languages of Eastern
Europe, including Polish and
 6. Albanian
 7. Armenian
IE Language Groups (10)
8. Indo-Iranian: Some scholars divide
this into two separate groups.
 A. From this group we get most of
the major languages spoken in India,
inluding Hindi and Urdu.
 Sanskrit is the most ancient written
form of IE (written Hindu)
IE Language Groups (10)
8.B– We also get many of the most
ancient languages spoken in Iran,
including Persian.
 9. Anatolian—This is an ancient
language group. The most wellknown language in this group is
Hittite, a language documented in the
Old Testament.
IE Language Groups (10)
Tocharian– An isolated language (no
longer spoken) discovered from
fragments of texts in Western China.
Language Families (Two Models)
Family Tree Model—Helpful because
it shows patterns of direct descent.
Wave Model—Helpful because it
shows more complicated interrelationships among languages, how
they influence each other over time.
Proto Indo-European (Map)
Major immigration probably began in
3rd or 4th millennium BCE.
 Location was probably in Northern
Central Europe (Southern Russia).
 Origins were perhaps among the
Kurgans who lived somewhere north
of the Caspian Sea.
Cognates-- I-E languages have similar word
Numbers-Body parts-- heart, head, foot.
Natural phenomena-- star, snow, sun,
Plant/animal names-- beech, bear, corn,
Cultural terms-- yoke, mead, weave, sew.
Highly inflected language–
Inflections on the end of words were used to
indicate such grammatical functions as
case, number tense, person, and mood.
The best examples of this are Sanskrit,
Greek, and Classical Latin.

AJC Article on Dialects - The University of West Georgia