A more recent, revised and updated version of this paper has been published (2019)

North-West Indo-European

From Old European

Revision as of 18:58, 30 October 2017 by Admin (talk | contribs) (Created page with "A common North-West Indo-European (NWIE) group is being increasingly accepted in the literature[Oettinger 1997][Oettinger 2003][Adrados 1998][Mallory and Adams 2007][Mallory 2...")
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

A common North-West Indo-European (NWIE) group is being increasingly accepted in the literature[Oettinger 1997][Oettinger 2003][Adrados 1998][Mallory and Adams 2007][Mallory 2013][Beekes 2011]. Genetic research indicates that there was an Indo-European-speaking community in close contact in the East Bell Beaker group, evolved from western Yamna migrants ca. 2500 BC. This group expanded successfully in a short period into wide territories of western, northern, and eastern Europe, territories whose languages later evolved into Celtic, Italic, and Germanic, and probably Balto-Slavic (or its substrate language, ‘Temematic’), thus allowing for certain innovations to spread between these languages[Harrison and Heyd 2007][Mallory 2013][Quiles 2017].

The Bell Beaker territory is to some extent coincident with the one identified of Old European hydronymy[Krahe 1964][Krahe 1949][Nicolaisen 1957], a quasi-uniform name-giving system for water courses that shows Indo-European water-words and suffixes following rules of Late Proto-Indo-European word formation[Adrados 1998].

Fragmentary languages probably belonging to this group are Lusitanian (sometimes linked with Celtic) and Venetic (sometimes linked with Italic). Dubious is the nature of proposed substrate languages, like Belgian, Sorothaptic, Pre-Celtic Irish, or Pictish. Probably unrelated, from a Palaeo-Balkan group, are Messapian and Illyrian.

yamna-bell-beaker.jpg Yamna - East Bell Beaker migration 3000-2300 BC. Most likely homeland of the North-West Indo-European proto-language. Adapted from Heyd[Harrison and Heyd 2007]

Proto-Romance reconstruction, albeit quite similar to Latin[Hall 1983], is obviously an artifice, not equal to Old Latin, since the development of Romance languages happened in the wide territories where Vulgar Latin was spoken in Antiquity. Romance languages were influenced by local, regional, inter-regional, or international contacts, so that they cannot be traced back to a single ancestral language without help from historical records and internal reconstruction. However, given the close community where the original North-West Indo-European homeland must have formed (most likely in the Upper Danube, between modern Southern Germany and Budapest), we can assume that most reconstructed changes for North-West Indo-European happened during a period of a close western Yamna–Classical Bell Beaker community, before its sudden European expansion.

The reconstruction of North-West Indo-European (like the reconstruction of Late Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Indo-Hititte) should therefore not be considered a mere theoretical exercise, but a pragmatic approach to the phonetic reconstruction of a real language, spoken by a close community of people that lived during the mid-3rd millennium in a relatively small region of central Europe. During and after their expansion, close ties were kept between vast regions of the Bell Beaker culture – in contrast to the relationship with neighbouring cultures, like the Corded Ware culture – which further supports its close ethnolinguistic identification.


Abbreviations of Proto-Indo-European language stages and dialects, with names used in this work and reference to older works, including approximate date guesstimates.


Stages of Proto-Indo-European evolution. IU: Indo-Uralic; PU: Proto-Uralic; PAn: Pre-Anatolian; PToch: Pre-Tocharian; Fin-Ugr: Finno-Ugric. The period between Balkan IE and Proto-Greek could be divided in two periods: an older one, called Proto-Greek (close to the time when NWIE was spoken), probably including Macedonian, and spoken somewhere in the Balkans; and a more recent one, called Mello-Greek, coinciding with the classically reconstructed Proto-Greek, already spoken in the Greek peninsula[West 2007]. Similarly, the period between Northern Indo-European and North-West Indo-European could be divided, after the split of Pre-Tocharian, into a North-West Indo-European proper, during the expansion of Yamna to the west, and an Old European period, coinciding with the formation and expansion of the East Bell Beaker group.


  • [Adrados 1998] ^ 1 2 Adrados, F.R. 1998. La reconstrucción del indoeuropeo y de su diferenciación dialectal. In Manual de lingüística indoeuropea, edited by F. R. Adrados, A. Bernabé and J. Mendoza. Madrid: Ediciones clásicas.
  • [Anthony 2007] Anthony, D. 2007. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
  • [Beekes 2011] ^ Beekes, Robert S.P. 2011. Comparative Indo-European Linguistics. An introduction. 2nd ed. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • [Harrison and Heyd 2007] ^ 1 2 Harrison, Richard, and Volker Heyd. 2007. The Transformation of Europe in the Third Millennium BC: the example of ‘Le Petit-Chasseur I + III’ (Sion, Valais, Switzerland). Praehistorische Zeitschrift 82 (2).
  • [Nicolaisen 1957] ^ Nicolaisen, W. 1957. Die alteuropäischen Gewässernamen der britischen Hauptinsel. Beiträge zur Namenforschung:211-268.
  • [Krahe 1949] ^ Krahe, H. 1949. Alteuropäische Flußnamen. Beiträge zur Namenforschung 1:24–51, 247–266 (and cont. in following volumes).
  • [Krahe 1964] ^ Krahe, H. 1964. Unsere ältesten Flußnamen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • [Mallory and Adams 2007] ^ Mallory, J., and D.Q. Adams. 2007. Reconstructing the Proto-Indo-Europeans. In The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • [Mallory 2013] ^ 1 2 Mallory, J.P. 2013. The Indo-Europeanization of Atlantic Europe. In Celtic From the West 2: Rethinking the Bronze Age and the Arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe, edited by J. T. Koch and B. CUnliffe. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  • [Oettinger 2003] ^ Oettinger, Norbert. 2003. Neuerungen in Lexikon und Wortbildung des Nordwest-Indogermanischen. In Languages in prehistoric Europe, edited by A. Bammesberger, M. Bieswanger, J. Grzega and T. Venneman. Heidelberg: Winter.
  • [Oettinger 1997] ^ Oettinger, Norbert. 1997. Grundsätzliche Überlegungen zum Nordwest-Indogermanischen. Incontri Linguistici 20 (93-111).
  • [West 2007] ^ West, M.L. 2007. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.