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Indo-European Language Roots

Some of us read dictionaries for fun. Some of us are intrigued by the commonalities in the myths and music of Ireland and India. Some of us enjoy learning new languages and exploring their interrelationships.

But most of us are especially absorbed with the mystery of who we are and where we came from -- a mystery that can be researched from many standpoints - linguistics, archeology, mythology, religion, and, now, genetics.

Almost all the European languages (exception: Basque and, possibly, ancient Pict), along with Persian, Sanskrit and their daughter languages, have common roots and comprise the Indo-European language family tree.

Scholars are attempting to trace these languages back to a common proto-Indo-European and thereby place the origin of the people groups speaking these languages. Since the linguistic and archeological records are sometimes in conflict, this is a lively field of debate.

The addition of DNA testing in tracing genetic roots has only complicated the issue and made it all the more interesting.

Buy Books about Indo-European Language Roots
In Search of the Indo-Europeans
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In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth
by J. P. Mallory


Detailed, well-balanced introduction to the history of the Indo-European peoples - tracing their roots from the early proto-Indo-European language and their diaspora through the archeological record.
Comparative Indo-European Linguistics
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Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction
by Robert S.P. Beekes


First, the author introduces the languages in the Indo-European family, then discusses how language changes and how these changes can be used to trace the development of the Indo-European languages and their relationships. Lots of references - lists, maps, illustrations, etc. Perhaps not for beginners.
American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
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The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (2nd Edition)
edited by Calvert Watkins


A must-have resource for exploring the Indo-European roots of the English language (over 13,000 English words are traced). Also includes a lively and informative introduction on reconstructing proto-Indo-European and the origins of Indo-European culture. Recommended.
Origins of English Words
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The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
by Joseph Twadell Shipley


Delightful discourses on the roots and history of English words - great fun to read, and terrific as a reference. Accessible and invaluable for anyone who enjoys learning the etymology of our language.
Indo-European Language and Culture
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Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction
by Benjamin W., IV Fortson


"A comprehensive overview of comparative Indo-European linguistics and the branches of the Indo-European langage family, covering both linguistic and cultural material. The book opens by introducing the comparative method of linguistic reconstruction and discussing the culture and homeland of the Indo-Europeans. There follow thorough overviews of the phonology, morphology, and syntax of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European. Each branch's development from ancient to modern times is outlined [along with illustrative samples and translations]." - back cover. A good introductory textbook meant for undergraduate students.
Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages
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A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages: A Contribution to the History of Ideas
by Carl Darling Buck


The title is scarier than the book! Professor Buck groups words by topic (like in a thesaurus), then lists the words as they appear in the various Indo-European languages, followed by an interesting discussion of how they were chosen and have evolved. Terrific for comparing the words used by different peoples.
Origin of Language
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The Origin of Language: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue
by Merritt Ruhlen


Without any prior background in languages (other than English), the author teaches you how to classify languages and construct a language family tree. A hands-on guide to beginning linguistics. Controversial book, as the author supports a Proto-World language thesis. I'm not in the know, but assume this means he believes in just one original language for everyone.
History of Pagan Europe
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A History of Pagan Europe
by Prudence Jones, Nigel Pennick


A little off-topic, but included here because the authors provide a thorough and scholarly discussion of the ancient beliefs of all the European peoples (eg, Greek, Roman, Slavic, Germanic, Celt), which is helpful in tracing common motifs and myths - a fascinating subject in itself, and combined with linguistic studies, confirmation of the persistence of belief and symbol from most ancient times.
How to Kill a Dragon
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How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics
by Calvert Watkins


A masterpiece in literature and linguistics, Watkins traces the roots of the dragon-slayer/divine hero myths throughout the Indo-European world and establishes the unifying role of poet in the Indo-European peoples. A wonderful accomplishment, a delight to read.