Introduction to Comparative Indo-European Linguistics

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  • The Indo-European language family
    • This week we will introduce the Indo-European language family. We will explain what a language family is and how the Indo-European language family was discovered. We will also provide you with an overview of the languages that belong to the Indo-European family.
  • Language Change
    • During this course, you will not only learn about the oldest languages belonging to the Indo-European language family, but also about linguistic reconstruction. This week starts with an overview of the basic linguistic concepts that you will need to understand when taking this course. If these are new to you, it may be a good idea to print them or write or them down so that you can consult them later on during the course if necessary. After this short introduction to linguistics, you will learn how you can tell whether two languages are related to each other and how language changes.
  • Greek and Sanskrit
    • Ancient Greek and Sanskrit are among the most important languages for the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European. We will therefore start our journey through the Indo-European language family with these two languages. This week you will learn about the oldest texts in the Ancient Greek and Sanskrit languages. You will also learn about the importance of oral traditions in the history of these texts. We will take the first steps towards reconstructing Proto-Indo-European by studying the vowels of Greek and Sanskrit. We will end this lesson by introducing the concept of Ablaut.
  • Iranian and Armenian
    • You now know about the oldest Ancient Greek and Sanskrit texts. You also understand how to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European vowels by comparing Greek words to Sanskrit words. This week we will take a look at the oldest Iranian languages: Avestan and Old Persian. You will also expand your knowledge of the evolution of Indo-European vowels when we introduce two sound laws that affected Indic and Iranian languages. At the end of this week's lesson, we will introduce another branch of Indo-European: Armenian.
  • Balto-Slavic and Italic
    • You are now familiar with the oldest texts in the Greek and Indo-Iranian languages and are able to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European vowels and diphthongs. You understand a number of Indo-Iranian sound laws: Bruggmann's law, Grassmann's law and the palatalization of velars. This week you will learn about three additional branches of Indo-European: Baltic, Slavic and Italic. We will introduce you to the oldest texts in these languages. You will also learn how to reconstruct some Proto-Indo-European consonants: the so-called palatovelars. Finally, we will explain the concept of relative chronology in historical linguistics. Each lesson, you are also learning new linguistic terms. If you come across a technical term of which you don't remember the meaning, you can always consult the overview of linguistic terminology that can be found at the end of lesson 2.
  • Celtic and Germanic
    • So far, you have learned about six branches of Indo-European, including Baltic, Slavic and Italic. You know what satem- and centum-languages are and are able to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European palatovelar consonants. This week is about the Celtic and Germanic languages. You will learn about the oldest texts in various Celtic and Germanic languages. You will also learn that these are centum languages. We will introduce a new set of Proto-Indo-European consonants: the so-called labiovelars. Finally, we will explain how the Proto-Indo-European consonants evolved in the Germanic languages.
  • Anatolian and Tocharian
    • Last week we discussed the Celtic and Germanic languages and the way their consonants evolved. You now know what Grimm's and Verner's laws are and you are able to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European labiovelar consonants. This week you will learn about the most recent addition to the Proto-Indo-European language family: Anatolian and Tocharian. As usual, we will tell you about the oldest texts in these languages. You will also find out what their place in the Indo-European language family is and how you can set up a language family tree. Finally, you will learn about perhaps the most difficult part of the Proto-Indo-European sound system: the so-called laryngeals.
  • Indo-European culture and society
    • You now know which old sources are used when Indo-European languages are compared to each other. You also know which sounds are reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European and you have the skills to do this yourself. This is the final week of the course. You will learn about Indo-European society and culture: who were the people who spoke Proto-Indo-European? How did they live? What is know about their religion and about the oral texts that they used?