restricted access Chapter 4: The Origins of Indo-Hittite and Indo-European and Their Contacts with Other Languages

From: Black Athena

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T his chapter is concerned with the origins and development of the Indo-Hittite language family and those of its subset IndoEuropean , which today is the most widely spoken in the world. The chapter also deals with the linguistic contexts in which the two families were formed and the exchanges among these and other languages. As a whole this book is about the impact of two Afroasiatic languages, Egyptian and Western Semitic, on one Indo-European one, Greek. Before being able to isolate these, it is necessary to consider exchanges between these Afroasiatic languages and Proto-Indo-Hittite (PIH) and Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The results of some of these exchanges can be seen not only in the lexicon but also in the morphology and basic structure of the whole Indo-European language family. THE ORIGINS AND DIFFUSION OF INDOHITTITE AND INDO-EUROPEAN In the first half of the nineteenth century, romantic scholars who believed in the creative powers of cold and altitude maintained that IndoEuropean originated in the Himalayas or some other Asian mountain range. As the century wore on, this Urheimat shifted west, and it was generally agreed that PIE was first spoken by nomads somewhere to the north of the Black Sea. In the last fifty years, this Urheimat has been THE ORIGINS OF INDO-HITTITE AND INDO-EUROPEAN AND THEIR CONTACTS WITH OTHER LANGUAGES CHAPTER 4 [CH. 4] ORIGINS OF INDO-HITTITE AND INDO-EUROPEAN 91 generally identified with the so-called Kurgan culture (named after distinctive burial mounds) attested in this region in the Fourth and Third Millennia BCE. Possessors of this material culture appear to have spread west into Europe, southeast to Iran and India and south to the Balkans and Greece. The general scheme of expansion from Central Asia or the steppes developed before the decipherment of Hittite. The ability to read Hittite led to the discovery that it was a “primitive” Indo-European language and the further recognition of a whole Anatolian linguistic family. It is now generally agreed that Proto-Anatolian split from PIE before the latter disintegrated into its separate branches.1 It is impossible, however , to tell the length of time between the two events, which could be anywhere from five hundred years to ten thousand. In any event, the difference is sufficient to cause most general linguists to make the distinction between Indo-European and the larger grouping Indo-Hittite.2 If, as most historical linguists suppose, not merely Indo-European but also Indo-Hittite began north of the Black Sea, how and when did speakers of the Anatolian languages enter Anatolia? The terminus ante quem is provided by early Hittite names in merchants’ reports from the Assyrian commercial colony at Karum Kanesh in central Anatolia around 2000 BCE.3 Some authorities argue that the migration of Anatolian speakers into Anatolia took place early in the Third Millennium and was associated with destructions of the period known as Early Bronze Age II.4 Others prefer a later part of the Third Millennium when, Mesopotamian sources indicate, barbarians invaded Anatolia.5 These invaders would seem much more likely to have been Phrygian and Proto-Armenian speakers , that is to say Indo-Europeans in the narrow sense. The distinguished archaeologist James Mellaart has even suggested that the belt of destructions across northern Anatolia at the end of the twentieth century BCE recorded the arrival of the Hittites in central Anatolia.6 Early Hittite names attested to from before the destructions falsify this suggestion. Difficulties arise with other relatively recent scenarios from the Third Millennium. For example, linking an arrival in Anatolia with the primary split in Indo-Hittite would force the later dispersal of Indo-European languages to the late Third Millenium or even the Second. This dating would be difficult to reconcile with the association of the spread of IndoEuropean languages with that of the so-called Kurgan material culture that is attested archaeologically in the Fourth Millennium.7 If “Anatolian” 92 BLACK ATHENA speech only arrived in Anatolia at that time, it would also be difficult to explain the great and deep divisions among these languages, some already attested in the late Third and early Second Millennia BCE. They include not only the “central” Anatolian languages—Hittite, Luvian and Palaic—but also more remote ones—such as Lydian, Lycian and possibly even Carian and the Cretan language written in Linear A.8 It is even more difficult, if not impossible, to explain the extreme internal diversity of the...


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