The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported primarily by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2018 Fund Drive (
Ask Your Question

What are the criteria adopted for identifying Indo-European family of languages? How does Sanskrit,an Indian language, fulfill this criteria?

asked 2015-03-29 23:29:48 -0400

A S Sundar gravatar image

As per Wikipedia,Indo-European languages include around 439 languages spoken in Europe and parts of Asia.A few languages spoken in India are also included in the list.I would like to know the criteria adopted for including Indian languages, especially Sanskrit in the Indo-European language family.

edit retag flag offensive close merge delete

1 answer

Sort by » oldest newest most voted

answered 2015-04-01 00:05:23 -0400

Norvin Richards gravatar image

In general, the way you demonstrate that two languages are related is to show that there's a reliable pattern in which, when one language has sound X, the other language has sound Y (what are usually called 'sound correspondences'). If the sound correspondences are extensive enough, we conclude that they can't be a coincidence, and are the result of the two languages diverging from a common source.

So, for example, there are many Sanskrit words that have a 'p' where a corresponding Latin or Greek word would also have a 'p': Sanskrit pāda 'foot', Latin ped-, Greek pod-: Sanskrit nápāt- 'descendant', Latin nepōt- 'nephew, grandson': Sanskrit pitár- 'father', Latin pater.

And there are many Sanskrit words that have a ś (a kind of 'sh' sound) where Latin has a 'k' sound, spelled 'c' in Latin: Sanskrit dáśa 'ten', Latin decem: Sanskrit śvaśrū 'mother in law', Latin socrus.

Not all of the languages of India are Indo-European: there are also, for example, Sino-Tibetan languages (like Meitei and Bodo), Dravidian languages (like Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu), and Austro-Asiatic languages (like Santhali). But Sanskrit and its descendants are Indo-European.

--Norvin Richards

edit flag offensive delete link more
Login/Signup to Answer

Question Tools

1 follower


Asked: 2015-03-29 23:29:48 -0400

Seen: 167 times

Last updated: Apr 01 '15