There were Indo-Europeans
LinguistThe legend of the lost Indo-Germanic
Since the end of the 18th century, the topic of Indo-Europeans has been a cyclical long-runner among humanities scholars. Ever since the British lawyer and Indologist William Johns noticed striking similarities between Sanskrit and many European languages during the first language comparisons.
Gradually the idea emerged in the humanities that these similarities were due to a Proto-Indo-European language - which might come from a Proto-Indo-European people. But now Jean-Paul Demoule asks "Where on earth are the Info-Europeans?" The French archaeologist recently published a book under this title, a true tome, in which he goes against the grain of the concept of the Indo-Europeans. Suzanne Krause reports
More than 30 years ago, Jean-Paul Demoule first devoted himself to the Indo-Europeans. Since then, the subject has not let go of the professor of European prehistory at the Sorbonne in Paris, who also co-founded the French institute for rescue excavations. In his new book, he sums up the scientific status in a compact, but easily understandable way.
"The fact is that a large part of the languages in Europe and those from Iran, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are very similar to one another. In terms of vocabulary and syntax, they are more closely related than to the Semitic or Sino-Tibetan language families."
An observation that bothered linguists two centuries ago. They explained these similarities with the aid of the classic family tree model of the Latin language, which was carried across Europe by the Roman conquerors and which forms the basis of today's Romance languages.
"And so it was soon assumed that the linguistic relationship between the European and West Asian languages was based on an original language, spoken by an original people who came from an original home. Since the 19th century, scholars began to look for it - them are still looking for today. "
Original language, original people, original home - Demoule does not use these German terms by accident. They were shaped by German scholars who carried out so-called Indo-Germanic studies in the form of comparative grammar in the 19th century and who for a long time were considered leading specialists in the field of Indo-Europeans. Demoule postulates:
"At that time the Germans were far from being united, there was Prussia, the Austrian Empire and countless duchies in which German was spoken. It was only from 1871 that political unity gradually emerged. Until then, it was the language that defined someone as a German That is why there was much greater interest in linguistic research in the German-speaking area than in France.
The French scientist meticulously documents how the current thesis of Indo-European original language, original people, original home originated in scholarly circles, and how it was built up and expanded layer upon layer. Following the spirit of the respective epoch. Demoule rolls up this development from behind. The researcher took for granted that in the distant past there was a people in a certain place who used a language on which other, today's languages are based. His search for traces, documented on 750 pages, leads to a sobering result.
"I looked at which archaeological finds would underpin linguistic research and the postulate of the original language and the original people. And according to the current state of knowledge, there is nothing that is unambiguous."
The same is true in linguistics, biology, and mythology. The Sorbonne professor sums up: the Proto-Indo-Europeans - our ancestors ... - nothing but a myth, a legend.
"Europeans are in what I would call schizophrenic. All the peoples of the world have their origin myth, which explains where they come from or that they were created by a god [and that they are much more beautiful and better than any neighboring peoples .] The myth of origin of the Europeans, however, which explains the origin of the world and of man, is anchored in the Bible, and this sacred scripture the Europeans owe to those who see them as their worst enemies, who are expelled and massacred over the centuries . "
"Spirits believing in progress, such as Voltaire in the first place, tried to determine the European origins differently, incarnated in a different people. At first the scholars were fascinated by India's earlier high culture. That was also the case with the German romantics, with Herder, Schlegel and others."
Demoule is not limited to the scientific side. He also sheds light on the political excesses that led to racial theory and Aryan theories in the name of the much-invoked Indo-European indigenous people. The myth of the purebred European indigenous people continues to inspire right-wing extremist circles to this day. And is the reason why the French media vehemently enter into the discussion of his theses. The daily Le Monde describes his scientific documentation as 'explosive'. How explosive is shown by the reaction of Emilia Masson, member of the French Science Council CNRS.
"What bothers me about Demoule's book is that he is not strictly limited to the scientific, but that he also interweaves politics, nationalism and racism."
Emilia Masson has been researching the development of the written language for a long time, using the Hittite tablets. Hittite is the oldest known Indo-European language. Masson vehemently rejects Demoule's thesis that the Indo-European original language is nothing but a constructed myth. She refers to the protohistoric rock carvings in the southern French Alps, which she has been researching for a quarter of a century. For Emilia Masson, the engravings on the local Mont Bego represent the last stage before the introduction of the written language. Here Indo-Europeans would have paid homage to their gods, immortalized their concept of the world.
"Jean-Paul Demoule hardly seems to me the right person on the subject of Indo-Europeans. As an archaeologist specializing in prehistory, he generally does not work with written documents. So he has no access to philological, linguistic, grammatical subtleties. Without them Exact knowledge of these source texts, however, lacks the right insight into the languages and cultures. After all, the written documents convey the traditions of a community, its social structures, its religious practices. Demoule therefore questions the existence of the Indo-Europeans is to a certain extent normal. "
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