Paired Horse and PIE breakup

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at WXS.NL
Wed Nov 11 15:28:02 UTC 1998

"N. Ganesan" <naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>   [mobility, writing...]
>   These two factors gave rise to a communications
>   revolution and may be the reason why Romance
>   languages are mutually understandable in that
>   wide area for this long time.

I'm really not sure.  As a native speaker (of Spanish and Catalan), I
can vouch for Romance being largely mutually understandable. Happens
all the time when Spaniards meet Italians.  I'm pretty sure the same
goes for Slavic, having once upon a time taken part in a conversation
in Russko-Polski with a certain Malgorzata and a Bulgarian guy whose
name I forget.  Undortunately, I don't speak any Bantu or Polynesian
language, but I would think that most of those languages (time depth
comparable to the 1000 ~ 2000 years of Romance and Slavic) are also
largely mutually intelligible, despite the lack of Roman roads or
(until recently, and Easter Island excepted) writing.
I also happen to be a native speaker of Dutch, which is mutually
intelligible with German and to some extent with English. But the
Scandinavian languages are practically incomprehensible without
study.  Now we're talking about a separation (N. vs. W. Germanic)
that's probably in the range of 2500 ~ 3000 years or so.  Since I
have no reason to assume that IE languages are in any way special, my
impression is that on average the cut-off point for mutual
intellegibility is around 1500 ~ 2000 years.

>   What about my thinking on a possible
>   scenario? (after Dr. Vidal's posts,
>   esp. Hittite, I read Macqueen's The Hittites also)
>   Proto-Hittites left for
>   Anatolia around 3500 B.C. There is
>   2000 years to develop Hittite.
>   Indo-Greeks left for their destinations
>   around 3000 B.C. The first literatures
>   in Greek is 8th century BC (Homer)
>   and in Sanskrit is 1000 BC (cf. recent Indology
>   postings). There is 2000 years for
>   the Greek or Sanskrit literature
>   to develop. Also, this scenario allows for
>   making Hittite the aunt of the
>   sisters - Greek and Sanskrit.

Yes, this is precisely the scenario suggested by Gimbutas and
Mallory, and others I suppose.  I can't falt out deny that it might
have happened that way, but with the numbers you give, the chance
that it did so is, IMHO, very small indeed from a linguistic

The thing is that Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian, and to a lesser
degree Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Celtic, Italic and Tocharian, share a
rather large number of *identical* developments (such as creation of
a feminine gender by adding *-[o]H2, etc.).  If Hittite/Anatolian
left 3500 BC, and Indo-Greek separated 3000 BC, as you say, there is
only 500 years for all these *shared* developments to take place,
followed by 2000 years wherein Sanskrit and Greek developed their
differences.  In other words, and based upon my [necessarily
subjective, I might say "holistic"] assessment of Hittite, Greek and
Sanskrit as linguistic systems, almost everything happened in the
first 500 years, and very little in the next 2000 years.  It's
possible, but it's not parsimonious.  Hence my alternative theory
that if Indo-Greek separated c. 3500 ~ 3000, then Hittite must have
separated already by 5500 (and the Western languages + Tocharian
somewhere in between those dates).

Of course, in order to make my case, I must find archaeological
parallels, and indeed the significant event in the period 5500 BC ~
5000 BC is the spread of agriculture into Central/Western Europe
(Danubian/Linear Ware/LBK culture) and the Ukrainian steppe
(Dnepr-Donets culture).

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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