Linguistic Analysis and Ancient Indo-European Languages

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Abstract

Using modern linguistic theory to describe ‘dead’ languages is one of the theoretical and methodological challenges in contemporary linguistic research. In fact, theories of the twentieth century mostly aimed to account for speakers’ linguistic competence, thus basing their analysis on live speakers and their intuitions. However, drawing on evidence from languages such as Vedic, Greek, Latin, Hittite, Gothic, Celtic and Proto-Indo-European itself, the relevance of the ancient Indo-European languages to contemporary linguistic theory has been constantly shown, since the rise of the linguistic sciences in the early nineteenth century. In fact, the observation of ancient Indo-European languages and their descendants can prove useful as source of data for testing scientific hypotheses. In particular, as language universals should by definition be true of all human languages, linguists can examine not only languages spoken today, but also attested extinct languages as well (Song 2001: 16). The processes we observe in living languages can help us to gain knowledge about processes in the extinct languages and, vice versa, the analysis of data taken from extinct languages provide further insight that may either confirm or disprove hypotheses and patterns of development proposed for living languages. In fact, according to the so-called ‘Uniformitarian Principle’, language universals discovered in contemporary languages should also apply to ancient and reconstructed languages, based on the fact that languages of the past are not essentially different from those of the present (see Croft 2003).
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)7-12
Numero di pagine6
RivistaINVERBIS
Volume1 (2015)
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2015

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