Glorious Indian Heritage (Part -6)
By Dr. Gauri Shankar Gupta
Indo-European languages are those languages or language groups that have been derived from Sanskrit. Commonality of European languages and Sanskrit was first suggested by Sir William Jones (1746-1794) who was a Sanskrit scholar. Systematic comparisons by several scholars between these languages supported this suggestion. Although, some western scholars believe that these languages have common ancestry from Proto-Indo-European (PIE); none of them despite extensive research have been able to find any trace of the so-called Proto-Indo-European. Therefore, it is now well established that Sanskrit is the oldest of all Indo-European languages and is the mother of over 400languages in this category. There are 11 main branches of the Indo-European language family. These include;Balto-Slavic, Celtic, Germanic, Italic, Slavic, Indo-Iranian, Greek, Albanian, Armenian, Tocharian and Anatolian. Depending on the source one may find slight difference in the nomenclature of these groups. The map on the following page taken from Encyclopaedia Britannica provides a concise view of these languages(https://www.britannica.com/topic/Indo-European-languages).
Although, some of these languages are now extinct; the Indo-European languages still cover most of the major spoken world languages as given below.
The postfix ‘er’ indicates occupation / type of work.
The prefix ‘a’ makes opposites meaning.
The prefix ‘un’ makes opposites meaning.
The prefix ‘pr’ indicates better / advanced.
From the above illustrations it should be clear that most of the European languages have borrowed their grammar, structure and vocabulary from Sanskrit. It is normal that when something is borrowed from the mother source, certain features are left out. At the same time some new features are added depending on the local conditions. This is also true for all dimensions of life – law, customs, festivals, cuisine, costumes etc. We Indian should be proud of the fact that Sanskrit is not only the oldest surviving language of the world but also has given birth to over 400 languages called Indo-European Family Languages and has influenced many more in South East Asia, North Asia and Central Asia as explained in my previous article.
(Writer is Former Ambassador/High Commissioner of India)