The Indo-European Family of
Most languages in Europe,
the Middle-East, and India appear to descend from a common
ancestral language known to scholars as "proto-Indo-European,"
as set forth by William Jones
and his work with Sanskrit. This common ancestral language
appears to be unrelated to other world languages spoken in China,
Vietnam, Korea, Tibet, Africa, indigenous Australia and indigenous
America, Polynesia, Finland, Hungary, the lands of classical
Hebrew, and other regions. Discussion of non-Indo-European
languages can be found elsewhere on this
Today, the Indo-European
languages have spread across large portions
of the globe. They include diverse tongues like English,
Russian, French, Latin, and Hindi. While English is very different
from Hindi, for instance, they both come ultimately from the
same source: Indo-European.
The Indo-European languages
fall into two general branches. At some time in the distant
past, the original Indo-European speakers migrated westward
and eastward from a location north
of the Middle East. We can trace those migrations by looking
at vocabulary in each language, and gradually seeing the sound
changes that took place over time as the tribes drifted further
apart. The Indo-European tribes that migrated westward tended
to pronounce words with hard /k/
sounds--a velar stop. On the other hand, those that migrated
eastward pronounced similar words with /s/
or /sh/ sounds--a fricative sound.
Likewise, the westward travelers tended to have certain vowel
sounds transform into /e/ sounds
while the eastward travelers tended to switch to /a/
sounds over time, and the labio-velar stops in westward traveling
tribes tended to turn into velar sounds. Philologists have named
the two branches Centum and Satem.
Centum is the ancient word for "one hundred"
in Latin, a language in the
western branch of Indo-European. Satem is the ancient
word for "one hundred" in Avestan,
a language in the eastern branch of Indo-European. The two words
illustrate the major changes in a single word as the Indo-European
tribes drifted in two different general directions.
Below, you will
see three thumbnail images. These three images are parts
of charts showing the two branches of Indo-European languages.
On the left, the Centum appears
in green. On the right, the Satem branch
appears in yellow. The vertical
chart in the middle shows both Centum and Satem
branches at once. You can click on any of these three
to enlarge them and reveal a more detailed interactive
map. Black and white copies of the Centum chart and the
Satem chart are also available if you wish to print out
charts of Indo-European languages and the maps showing
the spread of each Indo-European language, were created by
Daniel M. Short
for his website at http://www.danshort.com/.
These images are used with the author's permission, and they
are copyrighted by Daniel Short as of 2002. These charts should
not be reproduced or reused without Mr. Short's permission.
You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information. These images are not public domain.