Language: The Indo-European myth

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    Is it true that European tongues stem from a single parent language? Was Indo-European ever spoken?

    Is it true that European tongues stem from a single parent language? Was Indo-European ever spoken? (Shutterstock)

    Myths and legends are part of the human species since the dawn of man, being the creation of the brain and having become the collective lore of humankind. Science is trying hard to debunk all the erroneous ideas that we have been piling for ages but, unfortunately, to no avail. Logic and common sense are no match against rooted myths and ideas of long standing, which hold us back and cloud our thinking no matter how hard we try to dispel them. The collective myth tradition is a thick wall to pull down.

    People in general have their share of preconceived ideas about the linguistic phenomenon, and myths and legends have been created to explain the unexplainable.

    The idea of a common ancient language, Indo-European, supposedly spoken thousands of years ago, from which our languages derive, was a theory invented in the 19th century in order to explain the unexplainable, similar to when we do not understand a process in nature we say it is a miracle. Observing similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, linguists concluded that there might have been a language from which the others sprung. This is a myth, a legend that does not have a leg to stand on. There is no written evidence of such a language, so the whole theory is not supported by empirical, scientific knowledge. Sir William Jones was the precursor of this harebrained idea in 1786.

    The Indo-European myth gave rise to another more dangerous one: The Aryan Race, the Caucasian peoples who inhabited Europe, Caucasus, and spoke that supposed language. We remember the tragic results of such myths.

    The origin of language is lost in the shadows and mists of time and we may try to figure out all kinds of fancy answers and solutions which may sound acceptable, but they are unscientific and fanciful. Languages have been evolving and changing forever, in order to accommodate themselves to new needs and changing conditions. The simple disparity the way man has solved the communication problem, shows that there is a common link in them all: the fact that ideas must be expressed using sound, voice.

    The best theory is that Darwin’s evolution applies to language itself as well, as man had the need to communicate simple ideas to others and evolved a means of doing this along time in a helter-skelter way, at random, not having a purpose, a blueprint, an outline. If man is the result of randomness, language is also the result of randomness, of chance and evolution during millions of years. Evolution in language is the evolution of man, a slow process that has not stopped yet and will never stop.

    Man’s great leap forward in evolution was to attach meaning to sound, retain both and pass it on to new generations. In millions of years he had been able to acquire the possibility of making diverse sounds, and his brain put two and two together so that humanity could evolve and perpetuate itself.

    The idea of an Indo-European origin of European languages would simply be a stepping stone in the evolution of language, which takes place faster, much faster than the evolution of man. Language is made of sounds, and sounds change fast.

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