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The North-West Indo-European dialect continuum, also Europe’s Indo-European, was spoken in the European Subcontinent in the centuries on either side of 2500 BC, evolving into the Pre-Celtic, Pre-Italic, Pre-Latin (probably within Pre-Italic), Pre-Germanic, Pre-Baltic, Pre-Slavic (or Pre-Balto-Slavic) IE dialects, among others. Its original common location is usually traced back to some place to the East of the Rhine, to the North of the Alps and the Carpathian Mountains, to the South of Scandinavia and to the East of the Eastern European Lowlands or Russian Plain, not beyond Moscow.
The Corded Ware complex of cultures traditionally represents for many scholars the arrival of the first speakers of Northern Dialects in central Europe, coming from the Yamna culture. The complex dates from about 3200-2300 BC. The Globular Amphorae culture may be slightly earlier, but the relation between these cultures remains unclear.
NOTE. According to Adrados (1998), “[o]ne has to distinguish, in this huge geographical space, different locations. We have already talked about the situation of Germans to the West, and by their side, Celtic, Latin and Italic speakers; Balts and Slavs to the East, the former to the North of the later. See, among others, works by Bonfante (1983, 1984), about the old location of Baltic and Slavic-speaking communities. Isoglosses of different chronology let us partially reconstruct the language history. Note that the output obtained with Phonetics and Morphology match up essentially those of Porzig, who worked with Lexica”. Kortlandt (1989), also considers that “[i]t is possible that the speakers of Italo-Celtic must be assigned to the Globular Amphora culture, and that Germanic grew out of a later component of the Corded Ware horizon (…) The Indo-Europeans who remained after the migrations became speakers of Balto-Slavic. If the speakers of the other satem languages can be assigned to the Yamnaya horizon and the western Indo-Europeans to the Corded Ware horizon, it is attractive to assign the ancestors of the Balts and the Slavs to the Middle Dnieper culture [an eastern extension of the Corded Ware culture, of northern Ukraine and Belarus]. If the origin of this culture “is to be sought in the Sredny Stog, Yamnaya and Late Tripolye cultures” and this phase is “followed by a middle period where the classic Corded Ware amphorae and beakers appear” (Mallory 1989: 248), the course of events corresponds nicely with the development of a satem language which was drawn into the western Indo-European sphere of influence”. Similarly, Adrados (1980) about the dialectal situation of Slavic (under a linguistic point of view): “To a layer of archaisms, shared or not with other languages (…) Slavic added different innovations, some common to Baltic. Some of them are shared with Germanic, as the oblique cases in -m and feminine participle; others with Indo-Iranian, so satemization, Ruki sound law (more present in Slavic than in Baltic) (…) Most probably, those common characteristics come from a recent time, from secondary contacts between IE III B [=Northern IE] (whose rearguard was formed by Balto-Slavs) and A [=Southern IE] (in a time when Greeks were not in contact anymore, they had already migrated to Greece)”.
On the archaeological quest for the Urheimat, Mallory & Adams (2006) make a complete summary of the different frameworks and models used. About the Retrospective Method, still favoured by many linguists, it is the “method where one examines those archaeological cultures that must have been associated with different Indo-European language groups and attempts to work backwards to the ‘proto-culture’. The unit of analysis here is the so-called ‘archaeological culture’, a classification device employed by archaeologists to deal with similar and geographically confined material culture and behaviour (…) Many of the language groups of Europe, i.e. Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, and Slavic, may possibly be traced back to the Corded Ware horizon of northern, central, and eastern Europe that flourished c. 3200-2300 BC. Some would say that the Iron Age cultures of Italy might also be derived from this cultural tradition. For this reason the Corded Ware culture is frequently discussed as a prime candidate for early Indo-European”.
Italic (with Latin), Celtic and Germanic are usually classified within a common West Indo-European nucleus. Balto-Slavic, on the other hand, is usually placed somewhere outside that West IE core, but always in close contact with it, as a North-West Indo-European dialect. Linguists have pointed out language contacts of Italic with Celtic, Celtic with Germanic, and Germanic with Balto-Slavic. Southern dialectal isoglosses affect Balto-Slavic and Tocharian, and only partially Germanic and Latin. NOTE 1. Celtic too shares isoglosses with Southern dialects, according to Meier-Brügger (2003): “Celtic contacts with eastern Indo-Europe are ancient. Compare the case, among others, of relative pronouns, which in Celtic, contrarily to the Italic *kwo-/*kwi-, is represented by *Hi̯o-, a characteristic that it shares with Greek, Phrygian, Indo-Iranian and Slavic”. Even though classifications of early proto-languages may vary depending on different criteria, they all have a known common origin, which is generally easier to reconstruct than their dialectal groupings. For example, if we had only some texts of Old French, Old Spanish and Old Portuguese, Mediaeval Italian and Modern Romanian and Catalan, then Vulgar Latin (ca. 200 AD) – i.e. the features of the common language spoken by all Romance speakers, not the older, artificial, literary Classical Latin (ca. 100 BC) still less Old Latin (ca. 700 BC) – could be easily reconstructed, but the dialectal groups not. In fact, the actual groupings of the Romance languages are controversial, even knowing well enough Archaic, Classic and Vulgar Latin, and the history of Romance languages. Hence the difficulties in reconstructing and grouping individual North-West IE dialects, but the certainty in reconstructing a common North-West or Europe’s Indo-European language using raw linguistics, better explained if combined with archaeological data.
NOTE 2. On the inclusion of Pre-Latin IE within West Indo-Europe, against it there are some archaeological and linguistic theories (see Szemerényi, Colin Renfrew; v.s. for J.P. Mallory); Polomé (1983) & Schmidt (1984) say innovations common to Celtic and Germanic (later than those common to Celtic, Latin and Germanic), come from a time when Latin peoples had already migrated to the Italian peninsula. On the unity of Proto-Italic and Proto-Latin, Adrados (1998): “dubious is the old unity scheme, no doubt only partial, between Latin and Osco-Umbrian, which has been rejected by famous Italian linguists, relating every coincidence to recent contacts. I am not so sure about that, as the common innovations are big; cf. Beeler 1966, who doesn’t however dispel the doubts. Obviously, according to the decision taken, there are different historical consequences. If one thinks that both linguistic groups come from the North, through the Alps (cf. Tovar 1950), from the end of the 2nd millennium, a previous unity can be proposed. But authors like Devoto (1962) or Szemerényi (1962) made Latin peoples come from the East, through Apulia”. There has been a continued archaeological and (especially) linguistic support by mainstream IE studies to the derivation of Italic (and Latin) from a West Indo-European core, even after critics to the old Italo-Celtic concept (C. Watkins Italo-Celtic Revisited, 1963, K.H. Schmidt Latein und Keltisch, 1986); see Porzig (1954), Dressler (1971), Tovar (1970), Pisani (1974), Lehmann (1974), Bonfante (1983, 1984), Beekes (1995), Adrados, Bernabé, Mendoza (1998), etc.; on the archaeological question, see Ghirshman (1977), Thomas (1984), Gimbutas (1985), Harall (1995),…
Evolution of the reconstructed laryngeals of Proto-Indo-European in Europe’s Indo-European include these vowel colourizations and compensatory lengthenings:
- PIE *H1, the neutral laryngeal: *h1a→a, *h1e→e, *h1o→o; *ah1→ā, *eh1→ē, *oh1→ō.
- PIE *H2, the a-colouring laryngeal: *h2a→a, *h2e→a, *h2o→a; *ah2→ā, *eh2→ā.
- PIE *H3, the o-colouring laryngeal: h3e→o, h3o→o; eh3→ō, oh3→ō.
- Often, but not always, interconsonantal H → a; as, *ph2tḗr → patḗr (cf. PII pitāˊr).
- PIH *r̥H→r̥̄, *l̥H→l̥̄, *n̥H→n̥̄, *m̥H→m̥̄; also, iH→ī, uH→ū.
- PIH *H before consonants → EIE Ø; cf. PIE *h1dent-, EIE dentis (cf. PGk odōnts), “tooth”; PIE *h2stér-, EIE stḗr (cf. PGk astḗr), etc.
NOTE. The question is often made the other way round in IE studies, i.e. “according to these vowels reconstructed for North-West Indo-European, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, which combination of laryngeal+vowel or vowel+laryngeal could make them all fit into a common mother-language?” For clarity purposes, Common PIE is taken in this book as example for the phonology of early dialects, but enough certainty in vocalism (for language revival purposes) is to be found only in EIE, PGk and PII; exact regularity or congruence of a common Proto-Indo-European phonology is neither necessary nor searched for, as there are many variations in the laryngeal theories proposed by scholars, who reconstruct from just one (Szemerényi) to eight (Puhvel) or nine (Adrados); a general reconstruction of three laryngeals is used here for its simplicity and wide acceptance today. For more on this see Appendix II.3, The Laryngeal Theory.