Episode 3: The Indo-European Family Tree

A look at the family tree of Indo-European languages and the relationship of English to those related languages. The closest relatives of English are highlighted, including the Germanic languages, Latin and Greek. We explore the background of English from the first Indo-Europeans to the first Anglo-Saxons in Britain.

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10 thoughts on “Episode 3: The Indo-European Family Tree

  1. The latest insights with regards to the Frisians are that the entire area got de-populated starting 275 AD. They joined the Franks. There is evidence to that provided by W.J.de Boone in 1954 in his book “The Franks from their first appearance till the death of Childerik”. In a new study from John Hines and Nelleke IJssennagger from 2017, it is demonstrated that those early Frisians spoke a Celtic dialect.
    Friesland got populated again round 425 by people using exactly the same earthenware as the Anglo-Saxons which went to Britain. In the Netherlands there are 24 known runic inscriptions. 22 of them are from Friesland. Exactly the same runic alphabet as found in Britain. So you can make the correct conclusion that when the Anlo’s and Saxon’s came to Britain, some of them stayed in the empty lands of Friesland. And that is exactly why English and Frisian are so much alike. And why English evangelists could speak so well with the Frisians in the late 600’s, early 700’s.

    • Thanks for the note. FYI, I discuss the relationship been Frisian and Old English in some detail in Episode 28. Be sure to check that out.

  2. A couple of comments.

    Firstly, it is my understanding that the High German / Low German distinction arises after the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England, and divides the continental West Germanic languages which underwent a consonant shift (High German) from those which didn’t. At the time of the invasion, I believe the West Germanic languages were divided into Istvaeonic, Ingvaeonic and Hermionic branches, and the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Friesians spoke Ingvaeonic dialects. This region was only considered to be a source of Low Germanic languages at a later date when that distinction evolved.

    Secondly, I believe that the only reference to the Jutes is through English sources, and that there is no attestation of their existence in continental Europe. I am led to believe that their existence in Jutland is mere guesswork, albeit an educated one.

    • Hi Bob. This episode is intended as a simple overview of the modern Indo-European languages. All of the specific points you mentioned are addressed in future episodes.

  3. Having learned Hoch Deutsch in Appenzell, Schweiz, I was surprised by the assertion Hoch Deutsch came from higher elevations. Since many sources say the Hannover dialect is the closest to Hoch Deutsch or standard German. Hannover is only 57 meters above sea level.

    I understood other Americans who spoke a German dialect like Dutch or Danish better than Americans who learned their German in Germany.
    I did see in other sources the idea that Low, Middle and High German related to altitudes.

    I am really enjoying the podcast. Thanks for your efforts.

    • I am very late to this, but there’s a reason Hannover (at low elevation) speaks the “purest” high-german.

      All high-german speakers have their own unique dialect, which occasionally borders on a language variant (Bavarian vs saxony vs Swabian). Region who used to speak Platt (a low-german language) speak high-german without a dialect, thus making them the “standard” speakers.

  4. I am betting this gets addressed much later, I am just getting into this. I wouldn’t ask til I was farther into the podcast except my brain keeps getting sidetracked. you don’t seem to be listing any of the Celtic languages as influencing English. My understanding is that it has been determined when the Angles and Saxons traveled, it wasn’t a mass invasion with the Britons slaughtered and pushed westward, but more of a gradual migration.

    My readings and podcast listenings about the history of Britain have been saying that some of the proof can be found in the language shifts, and that the Angles & Saxons language merged with the Celts, and many place names still have Celtic origins. Your language genealogy above (love it!!!) doesn’t seem to link Celts with Germanic. Also, it doesn’t take into consideration that Britain was quite Romanized for several centuries. Between the Romans running the place, and Christianity spreading, Latin influenced the language on the island before the Germanics and long before 1066 and Billy the Conc


    BTW, THANKS! I am taking online classes for a Master’s, and was super excited that the school I picked has an elective of History of the English Language. Granted, I am betting it will be a basic overview, but I find the topic fascinating.

    • Yeesh… I relistened to this episode without the distractions I had at first, and I retract the majority of my prior comments

      • No problem. If you would like, you can skip ahead to “Episode 30: The Celtic Legacy.” I discuss the somewhat limited impact of the Celtic languages on English in that episode. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series.

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