|pre-colonial era: eurasia
c. 3.2 billion native speakers
|linguistic classification||one of the world's primary language families|
- balto-slavic (baltic and slavic languages)
- hellenic (including greek)
- indo-iranian (indo-aryan, iranian, and nuristani)
- italic (including romance languages)
- anatolian †
- illyrian †
- daco-thracian †
- tocharian †
|iso 639-2 / 5||ine|
present-day distribution of indo-european languages in eurasia:
, and nuristani
dotted/striped areas indicate where multilingualism
- italicized branches mean only one extant language of the branch remains
- † indicates this branch of the language family is extinct
|part of a series on|
the indo-european languages are a large language family native to western eurasia. it comprises most of the languages of europe together with those of the northern indian subcontinent and the iranian plateau. a few of these languages, such as english, have expanded through colonialism in the modern period and are now spoken across all continents. the indo-european family is divided into several branches or sub-families, the largest of which are the indo-iranian, germanic, romance, and balto-slavic groups. the most populous individual languages within them are spanish, english, hindustani (hindi/urdu), portuguese, bengali, punjabi, and russian, each with over 100 million speakers. german, french, marathi, italian, and persian have more than 50 million each. in total, 46% of the world's population (3.2 billion) speaks an indo-european language as a first language, by far the highest of any language family. there are about 445 living indo-european languages, according to the estimate by ethnologue, with over two thirds (313) of them belonging to the indo-iranian branch.
all indo-european languages are descendants of a single prehistoric language, reconstructed as proto-indo-european, spoken sometime in the neolithic era. its precise geographical location, the indo-european urheimat, is unknown and has been the object of many competing hypotheses. by the time the first written records appeared, indo-european had already spread out into a large number of languages spoken across much of europe and south-west asia. written evidence of indo-european appeared during the bronze age in the form of mycenaean greek and the anatolian languages, hittite and luwian. the oldest records are isolated hittite words and names – interspersed in texts that are otherwise in the unrelated old assyrian language, a semitic language – found in the texts of the assyrian colony of kültepe in eastern anatolia in the 20th century bc. although no older written records of the original proto-indo-europeans remain, some aspects of their culture and religion can be reconstructed from later evidence in the daughter cultures. the indo-european family is significant to the field of historical linguistics as it possesses the second-longest recorded history of any known family, after the afroasiatic family in the form of the egyptian language and the semitic languages. the analysis of the family relationships between the indo-european languages and the reconstruction of their common source was central to the development of the methodology of historical linguistics as an academic discipline in the 19th century.
the indo-european family is not known to be linked to any other language family through any more distant genetic relationship, although several disputed proposals to that effect have been made.
during the nineteenth century, the linguistic concept of indo-european languages was frequently used interchangeably with the racial concepts of aryan and japhetite.