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Historical and Comparative Linguistics

Comparative Indo-European Linguistics

Reconstructing language history and prehistory in the context of the Indo-European language family.

Some of the world’s largest languages today, such as English, Hindi, Persian, Russian and Spanish, as well as ancient languages like Latin, Ancient Greek and Sanskrit, all belong to the same language family: Indo-European. Indo-European languages show similarities that point to a common ancestor: Proto-Indo-European. Proto-Indo-European was probably spoken between 4500 and 2500 BCE in what is now Eastern Ukraine. However, it was never written and it is the task of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics to reconstruct it on the basis of the similarities between the Indo-European languages.

Comparative Indo-European Linguistics at LUCL stands out with its broad coverage of Indo-European languages and its focus on the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European phonology (the sound system), morphology (inflection of words), and the lexicon (words).

Lines of research

Apart from phonology, morphology and the lexicon, important lines of research of our team include:

  • Contact linguistics: effects of linguistic contacts can be used to elucidate the prehistory of individual languages, and may even be used to uncover languages not attested otherwise.
  • Phylogeny: if Indo-European is conceived of as a tree growing different branches, which languages belong to one branch, and where are the nodes?
  • Prehistory: where and when were the languages we can reconstruct spoken? How can we link linguistic reconstructions to data from archaeology and genetics?
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