Language Tree

This is very nice indeed:

Basque is missing – it should be another offshoot like the Uralic languages – and I was also interested to learn that Georgian isn’t an Indo-European language, so doesn’t appear either.

(Via)

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25 thoughts on “Language Tree

  1. Interesting that Estonian is from a completely different branch than Lithuanian or Latvian, despite being neighbours.

  2. Interesting that Estonian is from a completely different branch than Lithuanian or Latvian, despite being neighbours.

    Yes, I knew that, having asked people when I did my Baltic trip in 2012. Lithuanians and Latvians can’t understand one another, but those living close to the border know enough of each language to do so and if you know both you’ll see the similarities. Estonians can’t understand Finnish, but don’t have the same difficulties learning it as everyone else. Their real problem with Finnish is the thousand or so who turn up on the ferry in Tallinn each Saturday and Sunday to get totally plastered on cheap booze.

  3. My wife had some schooling in Swabia, some university in Bavaria, and more than a decade living in Scotland. She approves of the relevant tongues being shown separately.

    But neither of us can work out wot meanz the bit about “recorded native speakers before year 0”.

  4. But neither of us can work out wot meanz the bit about “recorded native speakers before year 0”.

    Nor can I, but it’s a beautiful tree.

  5. “Hungarian is another oddity, I’m told”

    Hungarian is odd because Hungarians are not originally “from” Europe, their origins lie somewhere off in central Asia but no-one knows where – Like Finnish people they settled here and have mostly lost anything distinctive about their appearance due to intermarraige and their cultural connections to Austria, but their language remains different.

  6. Tim, I thought Basque was sui generis, rather than a branch of the Uralic group. In other words, a language isolate:

    A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical (or “genetic”) relationship with other languages, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language. Language isolates are in effect language families consisting of a single language. Commonly cited examples include Ainu, Basque, Korean, Sumerian, and Elamite, though in each case a minority of linguists claim to have demonstrated a relationship with other languages.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_isolate

  7. Tim, I thought Basque was sui generis, rather than a branch of the Uralic group. In other words, a language isolate

    Exactly, so it should be depicted as an independent shrub like the Uralic languages are in the drawing. Offshoot was probably the wrong word.

  8. Hungarian is another oddity, I’m told.

    That’s why it’s shown as a separate tree.

  9. Hungarian is another oddity, I’m told.

    That’s why it’s shown as a separate tree.

    Not a big enough screen to see it.
    Meanwhile, there are 6,000 + languages, declining with trade, and half of them seem to be in New Guinea.

  10. Language tree. Sounds very Darwin.
    Except even darwinists are beginning to to see the tree more as brushwood than tree.

  11. The best books on this subject that I know of are J.P. Malory’s ‘In Search of the Indo-Europeans’ and David Anthony’s ‘The Horse, the Wheel and Language’. From them I learned that:

    There is a theory that Basque might be related to Etruscan, which would make them survivors of a very ancient Mediterranean language family (or more likely group of families).

    Uralic and Indo-European are growing out of the same soil as they have enough similarities that they probably have a very deep common root, Proto-Indo-Uralic.

    Georgian is the main representative of the Caucasian language family which might also have some genetic relationship to Indo-European, though this is a lot more doubtful.

    The picture is slightly controversial in that it doesn’t show the Anatolian branch that arguably belongs on the Indo-European tree – perhaps being the first branch, though it’s a weird member of the family (e.g. no grammatical gender). The Hittites are the most famous representatives of this branch (e.g. their word for water was something like “wa-atar”). The Trojans probably spoke an Anatolian language, Luwian.

  12. Hungarian is actually related to Finnish, and thus Estonian. As the tree shows of course. Thus leading to the old joke, what’s the difference between Finns and Hungarians? The Finns were the ones who couldn’t read the sign saying “This way to Hungary.”

    One of those jokes that can be reversed of course….

  13. Also interesting to note is the number of languages in India. Many people don’t realise that despite being a single country there are several mutually-unintelligible language blocs, hence the use of English as a lingua franca.

  14. dearieme and Tim, The image is from an on-line comic called Stand Still, Stay Silent, and is about Scandinavian countries 90 years after a bio-weapon (of sorts) wipes out the majority of Europe’s (and presumably the world’s) population, and also about a group of young adults that are tasked with exploring the “Silent World”. That’s what is meant by “Year 0”, as the story’s characters consider that the calendar starts from the year of the initial illness cropping up.

  15. Occitan closer to Spanish than French or Italian? Not convinced. And Yiddish, to the extent it is a single language, has a Slavic dialect as well, it’s not just a dialect of German. Branches can grow together as well as apart.

    Nice to see a rhine-franconian branch, where I live, a variant of that is the everyday spoken language, though it is no longer so different from standard German.

  16. Unless I’m blind, Manx doesn’t get a gig there.
    A notable exclusion is Sorbian. It deserves a twig of its own on that tree.

    Especially if Cornish has a branch the size it does.

    Neither Finnish nor Estonian do I speak, however back before the Iron Curtain fell, every Estonian I knew (not a large sample size) told me that they had their TV antennas in Tallinn pointed toward Finland, as they could understand the transmissions. Soviet TV was apparently shit.
    So everybody in Soviet Estonia who could catch a bounce from Helsinki (about 80km or so) watched more or less the same TV we did.

    The poor bastards current problem is that about half their population are ethnic Russians, thanks to Soviet internal migration.

  17. Neither Finnish nor Estonian do I speak, however back before the Iron Curtain fell, every Estonian I knew (not a large sample size) told me that they had their TV antennas in Tallinn pointed toward Finland, as they could understand the transmissions.

    Interesting! The only Estonian citizens I know are ethnic Russians (but they speak Estonian), so hadn’t heard that before.

  18. The image is from an on-line comic called Stand Still, Stay Silent, and is about Scandinavian countries 90 years after a bio-weapon (of sorts) wipes out the majority of Europe’s (and presumably the world’s) population, and also about a group of young adults that are tasked with exploring the “Silent World”.

    Thanks for this, Robert!

  19. Interesting! The only Estonian citizens I know are ethnic Russians (but they speak Estonian), so hadn’t heard that before.

    They actually said something like: The Finnish language is close to Estonian, and we can understand Finnish TV.
    When the Iron curtain fell they suggested I catch a hydrofoil from Helsinki and visit.
    Alas circumstances got in the way – though I saw much of the freshly lifted Iron curtain lands, including a long stint in central Lithuania.

    Often do I wonder what I’d have experienced in newly liberated Tallinn.

  20. They actually said something like: The Finnish language is close to Estonian, and we can understand Finnish TV.

    Yeah, my Estonian friend said they can communicate.

    When the Iron curtain fell they suggested I catch a hydrofoil from Helsinki and visit.

    I did the ferry crossing in winter. Cold doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    Alas circumstances got in the way – though I saw much of the freshly lifted Iron curtain lands, including a long stint in central Lithuania.

    I’ve spent enough time in Vilnius, albeit much later than you (2012-14 mainly). Lovely city.

    Often do I wonder what I’d have experienced in newly liberated Tallinn.

    Would have been awesome. Cold, but awesome.

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