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Discover The Indo European Language Family

Discover The Indo European Language Family
Discover The Indo European Language Family

Written by Henry Mcdowell, follow him on Twitter.

When an average person hears about Indo-European language family, there is little information that is known or understood right until one reads into greater depth about linguistics. Although it consists of 446 current languages in Europe and Asia, a percentage of the Indo-European group represents only 6.2% of total languages that are spoken in our world. It makes it an important point to consider when researching linguistics or providing sufficient cultural research. 

First classified by Franz Bopp in 1816, this particular grouping represents large, complex structural interconnection. An average person would not see anything in common between complex Sanskrit, ancient Greek, or famous Latin. However, adding Old Irish, Icelandic, or even Prussian, there appear even more similarities. Add the languages of such countries like Pakistan or India, and you have the Indo-European family to learn about. Considering a mixture of cultures, customs, religions, it must be noted that modern scientists deal with about 2.6 billion speakers in total and the relevant branches that have their particular aspects. 

Countries That Speak Indo-European Languages 

Speaking of Indo-European countries, there are 46 lands that represent this branch which are divided even further. Currently, the list of people that belongs to our group contains forty-six countries: 

  • Afghanistan 
  • Albania 
  • Armenia 
  • Austria 
  • Azerbaijan 
  • Bangladesh 
  • Belarus 
  • Belgium 
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil 
  • Bulgaria 
  • Canada 
  • China 
  • Croatia 
  • Czech Republic 
  • Denmark 
  • Egypt 
  • Faroe Islands
  • Fiji 
  • Finland 
  • France 
  • Germany 
  • Greece 
  • Iceland 
  • India 
  • Iran 
  • Iraq 
  • Ireland 
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel 
  • Italy 
  • Jersey 
  • Latvia 
  • Lithuania 
  • Luxembourg 
  • Macedonia 
  • Maldives 
  • Myanmar 
  • Nepal 
  • Netherlands 
  • Norway 
  • Oman 
  • Pakistan 
  • Peru 
  • Poland 
  • Portugal 
  • Romania 
  • Russian Federation 
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa 
  • Spain 
  • Sri Lanka 
  • Suriname 
  • Sweden 
  • Switzerland 
  • Tajikistan 
  • Turkey 
  • Ukraine 
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Vatican State
  • Venezuela

Before we proceed with sub-branches that provide much better categorization, it is vital to understand what is the Indo-European language family and how exactly it has originated to include all relevant countries that have been listed above. According to linguists, definition of these entries goes back to factors that lie deep in history and which reflect language of an ancient, even prehistoric linguistic source. Since it is mostly reconstructed from Proto-Indo-European pattern, this particular case goes as far as Neolithic times. When scientists discovered several written records that had logical structure to them, there have already been various verbal types that could be met across various continents. Since Afroasiatic group (Egyptian) remains the oldest family with sufficient information, Indo-European plays an important role in second entry in our list in terms of volume as well as its existing research scope. 

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How The Language Families Are Divided? 

Turning to statistical information provided by various ethnologists and linguistic experts, there are currently 7,117 languages in use that have been divided into 142 distinct branch families. Also known as “current languages”, such entries belong to those linguistic forms that are currently used for communication. For example, if one turns to Latin, it is considered as “dead language” because there are no native speakers that would still be alive today. It also belongs to extinct examples that also do not have native speakers. 

Since most linguistic branches are quite large like our Indo-European language tree, there are smaller units that are known as phylogenetic patterns. A reason why they have been created is a common history and a socio-cultural background. If there is a common ancestor, it belongs to a group, which is a biological aspect and a way how phonetic has been shaped. The most important is to approach every “family” regardless of being isolated or collective as a tree by focusing on structure and related sub-groups. An only exception to these groups is Basque language, which stands alone since there are no aspects or factors that would have any similarities to any existing group. Although there have been numerous attempts to explore the Aquitanian language through the Basque, it did not succeed. Still, it has provided a good template regarding how a person should identify language distinctions and what analysis methods to implement. 

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Branches of The Indo-European Family 

  • Indo-Iranian 

Indian sub-group: 

Sanskrit (dead language), Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Bihari, Gujarati, Punjabi, Oriya, Rajasthani, Nepali, Assamese, Bundeli, Sindhi, Konkani, Pahari, Singhalese, Santali, Gypsy.

Iranian branch sub-group: 

Avestan (no natives these days), Persian (Farsi/Dari/Tajik), Afghan (Pashtu), Kurdish, Balouchi, Hazara, Aimak, Ossetian, Talyshe, Tat.

  • Greek: The Ancient Greek form and its modern Greek implementation. 

  • Italic or Romance Group 

Here is where Latin comes as the origin: 

Italian, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Mirandese, Provençal, Sardinian, Romanian, Romansch, Ladino, Friulian, Dalmatian, and Sicilian among other Romance languages and dialects.

  • Celtic 

Here we have Gaulish, Breton, Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Scots, and Manx.

  • Germanic 

Mostly originating from Gothic, it includes English, German, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian (both Bokmål and more recent Nynorsk), Icelandic, Faroese

Friesian, Dutch, and Afrikaans.

Baltic Sub-Group involves: 

Old Prussian, which is followed by Lithuanian, and Latvian. 

  • Slavic 

Polish, Czech, Slovak, Sorbian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Old Slavic, Belorussian, and Ukrainian.  

  • Anatolian 

This branch belongs to Turkey's Asian part. The largest representative is Hittite. The other entries include Lydian, Lycian, Palaic, and Luvian. All these languages that belong to the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European family of languages are currently extinct. 

Now there are three isolated entries: 

  • Armenian. It represents a very specific linguistic mixture that cannot be met anywhere else. 

  • Albanian (both Tosk and Gheg) 

  • Tocharian sub-branch. It belongs to Western China's inhabitants. Unfortunately, there is not enough information that would provide anything but only poetry-based or sacred texts that have been divided into Tocharian A and B text examples. 

Features of Indo-European Language Family 

It is important to consider creation of relevant dialects and how these various spoken forms have been created across countries that are close to each other. As an example, one may claim that Norwegians understand Danish for the most part, while most Romanian people will understand Bosnian. These small aspects of language and basic vocabulary and a sentence formation have helped to shape these divisions that we have listed above. 

Another prominent example is Afrikaans, which has been brought into the African continent by first Dutch settlers. Differences are quite specific, yet most people in South Africa would not have any trouble understanding Dutch in the Netherlands or Belgium. Speaking of Belgium, there is a Flemish dialect, which differs by including pronunciation taken from French. 

It reveals some features that all belong to Indo-European family of languages. Majority relate to the origins of each branch that we have reviewed. The Romance sub-group would include Spanish variations, except for our Basque entry. Then we have Latin as the origin, which helps Romance-based people understand each other. The same relates to professional translators at the best online translation services who have a deeper understanding of similar languages. 

Now there are even bonds between Slavic and German groups that have been noticed by some scholars. The East Germanic had several linguistic exchange factors, which has also affected Slavic family sub-groups. It has also inspired some word parts and verbs that have been formed with the same phonetic pattern that acts as helpful guidelines for linguists and foreign learners. 

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Most Widely Spoken Indo-European Language

As most of you might have probably guessed it by now, the most widely spoken Indo-European language is English. One should not forget, however, that the first speakers of this particular family in ancient times are the Kurgans. Some other languages that follow are Ukrainian and Spanish, which is because of their geographic distribution and location of most speakers that have either been born as natives or had to use a particular language because of socio-economic or political reasons. An example is the ex-USSR republics where the Russian language has been and still remains in use. The same relates to Spanish, Portuguese, and English colonies where the use of related languages became a part of a major dialect as it is in Australia, India, or South Africa. 

Now that we know that the most widely used Indo-European language today is English, it is necessary to remember that if one would take Latin as a counter-argumentation, it would relate to the entire Romance group. The same relates to Persian and some variations that have been different in certain time periods. If a person chooses Scandinavian group with the Frisian and the Old Norse, there is also a strong background that gave modern English its foundation. 

Without a doubt, English is the most popular language due to a number and its geographic distribution. Yet if one takes a deeper look at how the family branches have been created, the significance of all other languages is not much less.

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Cultural Impact of Indo-European Languages

Language is a constant exchange that helps to share specific socio-cultural and linguistic peculiarities. It has also helped linguists and research experts to shape diverse sub-groups and related branches. As it is known, the Slavic people have many in common, like a Ukrainian person will understand an individual from Poland, which is a Western Slavic country. The same is true for Swedes and Norwegians who will have a lot in common both in terms of understanding each other and related cultural traits. Once these similarities are outlined and analyzed, even a non-specialist might see why a strict organization helps with culture and sociology. 

Indo-European language has different cultures and crucial factors that have shaped a particular geographic area. If one chooses Germanic branch, it also includes countries and cultures that are similar. It helps to identify various dialects like it is in Belgium or Spain because once a linguist knows where to start and how to approach the land, methodology and research become much clearer. The key is to study each language by turning to the origin because it makes it possible not to miss all these important origin factors.