Indo-European Language Family Essay

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1. Introduction A stunning result of linguistic research in the 19th century was the recognition that some languages show correspondences of form that cannot be due to chance convergences, to borrowing among the languages involved, or to universal characteristics of human language, and that such correspondences therefore can only be the result of the languages in question having sprung from a common source language in the past. Such languages are said to be "related" (more specifically, "genetically related", though "genetic" here does not have any connection to the term referring to a biological genetic relationship) and to belong to a "language family". It can therefore be convenient to model such linguistic genetic relationships via a "family tree", showing the genealogy of the languages claimed to be related. For example, in the model below, all the languages B through I in the tree are related as members of the same family; if they were not related, they would not all descend from the same original language A. In such a schema, A is the "proto-language", the starting point for the family, and B, C, and D are "offspring" (often referred to as "daughter languages"); B, C, and D are thus "siblings" (often referred to as "sister languages"), and each represents a separate "branch" of the family tree. B and C, in turn, are starting points for other offspring languages, E, F, and G, and H and I, respectively. Thus B stands in the same relationship to E, F, and G as A does to B, C, and D. B and C, therefore, are proto- languages too, but are they are "intermediate proto-languages". It is thus possible to determine not only overall family relationship, but also degrees of relatedness — the languages in a single branch, e.g. E, F, and G, are more closely related to one another than each of them is to a language in a different branch, e.g. H, I, or D.

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