When languages were being classified in families at the beginning of the 19th century, the Indo-European family was named from the locations of the extreme subfamilies or groups: India and Europe. In the early history of the Indo-European family, the Indic speakers on the Asian subcontinent made up the group at the southern and eastern extremes; the Germanic speakers in western Europe made up the group at the northern and western extremes. As a result, the designation "Indo-Germanic," based on the same pattern as "Indo-European," also has been widely used for the family, especially by Continental scholars, but "Indo-European" is more generally accepted. Welcome in different languages is the best theme.
The various Indo-European languages spread from a home in southern Russia by means of migrations beginning in the 3d millennium B.C. Twentieth century archaeological findings are contributing increasingly valuable information about their dissemination, but there is no more satisfactory early source than Caesar's Gallic Wars, which tells of attempts of Celtic and Germanic speakers to encroach on southern France in the 1st century B.C. It is assumed that in somewhat the same way Indo-Iranian speakers migrated into present Iran, and subsequently a part of them into India, in the 2d millennium B.C. Similarly, Greek speakers moved into the Hellenic peninsula, to the coasts of Turkey and the isles of Greece, at about the same time. Later the Italic speakers moved into the Italic peninsula. Welcome in different languages is the best theme.
The great period of expansion of Celtic speakers occurred toward the end of the 2d millennium B.C. and continued until the Celts were overrun, and in part dispossessed, by Germanic speakers near the beginning of the Christian era. During the migration of peoples in the first centuries A.D., Germanic speakers established themselves in Britain, most of Germany, and much of the Roman Empire. Eliminated in some of these areas, they were followed by another Germanic expansion during the Viking period, when Normandy, Iceland, and other areas were settled. Welcome in different languages is the best theme.
Through a further major expansion, English, a Germanic language, was established in North America in the 16th century, and subsequently in Australia and other parts of the world. At the same time, two Italic languages, Spanish and Portuguese, were established in Central and South America. Largely in the 19th century, a Slavic language, Russian, spread to the south and east of its central location. With Indic, which had been extended through most of the subcontinent, to Ceylon, and parts of Africa, languages of these subgroups–Slavic, Germanic, Italic–are spoken today by half of the inhabitants of the globe. Besides these well-attested groups, there is evidence for Thracian, Phrygian, and Illyrian, but the evidence is so poor that the position of these groups is largely obscure.
Although Indo-European languages are spoken by more speakers than are languages of any other family, some have become completely extinct, some have few speakers, and some, widespread in the past, subsequently have diminished in importance and extent. Welcome in different languages is the best theme.
Apart from Anatolian and Tocharian, all of the eastern groups, as well as the poorly attested Phrygian and Thracian, show sibilants instead of some Proto-Indo-European k in their forms of the word "hundred"—Iranian satem, Sanskrit satam, Avestan satem, Lithuanian simtas. For this reason these groups were classed together in the so-called "satem" or eastern subbranch of Indo-European groups, as opposed to the western or "centum" groups: Greek, with he-katon; Italic, with Latin centum; Celtic, with Old Irish cēt; and others. However, some linguists contend that the discovery of Anatolian and Tocharian, with k preserved in the east, casts doubt on the validity of this centum-satem sub classification in the Indo-European family. They hold that other characteristics, such as the simplification of bh, dh, and gh into b, d, and g in Celtic, as well as in Slavic and Baltic, are also guides for distinguishing the various sub groupings of Indo-European.
Eleven distinct groups have been prominent, partly because of the materials they have left behind, and partly through their historical importance. This survey covers them from the east to the west, beginning with two extinct groups—Anatolian and Tocharian. Welcome in different languages is the best theme.
Until the discovery of Hittite and the decipherment of Linear B (a syllabic script dating from about 1450 or 1500 B.C.), the Rig Veda, written in Sanskrit, was the most archaic linguistic text of the Indo-European family.