Monday, October 27, 2008

Indo-European Homeland: "Ur Heimat"

Scheme of Indo-European migrations from circa 4000 to 1000 BCE according to the Kurgan hypothesis. The purple area corresponds to the assumed Urheimat (Samara culture, Sredny Stog culture). The red area corresponds to the area that may have been settled by Indo-European-speaking peoples up to circa 2500 BCE; the orange area to 1000 BCE.

Urheimat (German: ur- original, ancient; Heimat home, homeland) is a linguistic term denoting the original homeland of the speakers of a proto-language.

Since many peoples tend to wander and spread, there is no single Urheimat. The Indo-European Urheimat, for example, is different from the Germanic or Romance [Roman] Urheimats. If the proto-language was spoken in historical times, the location of the Urheimat is typically undisputed.

The Roman Empire is clearly the Urheimat of the Romance languages. If the proto-language is unattested, however, its existence, and by consequence the existence and exact location of its Urheimat, may always be of a hypothetical nature.

Indo-European homeland
After this manner, scholars have tried to identify the homeland of the Proto-Indo-European language, to which the term Urheimat is most frequently applied. Possibly relevant geographical indicators are common words for "beech" and "salmon" (while there is no common word for "lion," e.g.—the fact so many European words for "lion" are similar-looking cognates is due to more recent borrowings). Many hypotheses for an Urheimat have been proposed, and Mallory (1989:143) said: “One does not ask ‘where is the Indo-European homeland?’ but rather ‘where do they put it now?’ ”

Mallory (1997:106) states that current discussion of the Indo-European homeland problem is largely confined to four basic models, with variations; these are, in chronological order: More>>

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