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Half of All Languages Come from One Root Language.

Half of All Languages Come from One Root Language. How it Spread Is Something of Debate


The sheer variety of languages on Earth is dizzying in their array and divergence. What’s more intriguing, is that about half of them spoken today by some three billion people, come from a single root language, used thousands of years ago. Hindi, Bengali, Persian, English, German, Spanish, and Greek, all come from the same root, known as Proto-Indo-European (PIE). In total, 400 languages and dialects originate from PIE.

German linguist August Schleicher reconstructed its vocabulary back in 1868. He wondered what PIE sounded like. So he created a fable called “The Sheep and the Horses.” Over the years, as more information has been unearthed about the Bronze Age cultures who spoke this language, the fable has been updated. Of course, scholars argue over what PIE actually sounded like. Nothing is definitive. But we have an approximation.


The full article plus video, audio and some interesting images can be found here:


March 24, 2017



Certainly an interesting and worthwhile topic but the title of this thread is poorly worded and factually wrong.

While a bit under half the people in the world speak Indo-European languages, the 400 languages mentioned in the original post is closer to about a tenth of the total number of natural languages (not including conlangs) spoken in the world today.


The title of the Thread seems to be just the title of the article. I don't get the math either. I believe there is something like 6500 languages alive today (more depending on the source). My guess is linguists aren't very good at math.


Big Think strives to be some sort of pop-intellectual website like TED, but a lot of their articles are pretty half-baked.


The article is a decent summary of the other articles. It is my experience of these forums that most users are looking for short quick bits of info not in depth research. If you read the article you can then go to the other articles they mention and get a better view of what they are summarizing.


This is true, I didn't mean to put down your contribution here. I'm speaking more from previous experience I've had with that site.


Perhaps they are measuring the amount of people speaking these languages, so maybe more like "Half the world knows languages stemming from one original language".


A more accurate title though probably not as catchy.


But that's not a reasonable excuse for poorly informed article titles.


I don't understand your comment. I was not making an excuse for the title. My last sentence wasn't even serious.


When I have used the article title as the Discussion title people complained. When I haven't used the article title as the Discussion people have complained more.


Sounds like a mix of Welsh, German and Old English.


Ötzi would have been a good name for a band. If I hadn't read the article I would have thought the audio was a Gaelic language.


Ötzi would have been a good name for a band.

DJ Ötzi is actually the name of a hugely popular Austrian singer. Click at your peril...



Video not available for me. I think a lot of people have heard this one even if they don't know it's Ötzi.


For those interested in PIE, the game "Far Cry Primal" takes place in prehistoric Europe and all dialogue in the game is actually in reconstructed PIE with varying forms and dialects depending on the tribe! Listen to some of the dialogues!


A really interesting article, thanks for sharing it.

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