Build your knowledge of Indo-European languages, how they changed through time, and how to reconstruct ancient languages. Every language belongs to a language family; a group of languages that are genetically related to each other. Indo-European is the name of the language family to which English belongs, along with many sub-families such as Germanic languages and Romance languages.
The Indo-European language family is now known to consist of thirteen major branches and a number of now extinct languages of which only fragments have been preserved that may once have formed branches of their own.
You’ll delve into the structure and origins of these branches. Not only will you learn about the oldest languages belonging to the Indo-European language family, but you’ll also learn about linguistic reconstruction, how you can tell whether two languages are related to each other and how language changes.
This course will guide you through the different groups of Indo-European languages. You’ll look at some of the oldest texts from these languages, including Ancient Greek and Sanskrit, and learn about the importance of oral traditions in the history of these texts.
As you progress through each of the branches of the language tree, you’ll begin to piece together the Proto-Indo-European language bit by bit by comparing and contrasting each different language in the tree.
What you will learn
The Indo-European language family
This week we will introduce the Indo-European language family. We will explain what a language family is and how the Indo-European language family was discovered. We will also provide you with an overview of the languages that belong to the Indo-European family.
During this course, you will not only learn about the oldest languages belonging to the Indo-European language family, but also about linguistic reconstruction. This week starts with an overview of the basic linguistic concepts that you will need to understand when taking this course. If these are new to you, it may be a good idea to print them or write or them down so that you can consult them later on during the course if necessary. After this short introduction to linguistics, you will learn how you can tell whether two languages are related to each other and how language changes.
Greek and Sanskrit
Ancient Greek and Sanskrit are among the most important languages for the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European. We will therefore start our journey through the Indo-European language family with these two languages. This week you will learn about the oldest texts in the Ancient Greek and Sanskrit languages. You will also learn about the importance of oral traditions in the history of these texts. We will take the first steps towards reconstructing Proto-Indo-European by studying the vowels of Greek and Sanskrit. We will end this lesson by introducing the concept of Ablaut.
Iranian and Armenian
You now know about the oldest Ancient Greek and Sanskrit texts. You also understand how to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European vowels by comparing Greek words to Sanskrit words. This week we will take a look at the oldest Iranian languages: Avestan and Old Persian. You will also expand your knowledge of the evolution of Indo-European vowels when we introduce two sound laws that affected Indic and Iranian languages. At the end of this week’s lesson, we will introduce another branch of Indo-European: Armenian.