Indo-European studies

study of speakers of the Indo-European languages

Indo-European studies is a field of linguistics and an interdisciplinary field of study dealing with Indo-European languages, both current and extinct.[1] The goal of those engaged in these studies is to amass information about the hypothetical proto-language from which all of these languages are descended, a language dubbed Proto-Indo-European (PIE), and its speakers, the Proto-Indo-Europeans, including their society and Proto-Indo-European mythology. The studies cover where the language originated and how it spread. This article also lists Indo-European scholars, centres, journals and book series.

Quotes edit

  • Competent authorities have warned against the “semi-conscious prejudices on original genetic characteristics of the Indo-Europeans: they are supposed to be blond and blue-eyed”.
  • To be sure, neither Jones nor anyone else was wrong to perceive strong and systematic similarities among Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, and the rest. The question is what one makes of these similarities, and one steps onto a slippery slope whenever analysis moves from the descriptive to the historic plane of linguistics. In specific, reconstructing a "protolanguage" is an exercise that invites one to imagine speakers of that protolanguage, a community of such people, then a place for that community, a time in history, distinguishing characteristics, and a set of contrastive relations with other protocommunities where other protolanguages were spoken. For all of this, need it be said, there is no sound evidentiary warrant.
    • Lincoln, B. (1999). Theorizing myth: Narrative, ideology, and scholarship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.95
  • One can perceive a hierarchy of prestige and a legitimation strategy in the citation practices of those who write on Indo-European myth, religion, and civilization. Those who publish in the most scurrilous sources fail to provide footnotes at all, or do so in quite haphazard fashion . Those whose writings appear in Nouvelle Ecole and Mankind Quarterly, however, regularly invoke articles from the more reputable Etudes indo·europeennes and JIES to establish their scholarly bona fides. In the latter publications and the very best books, authors tend to base themselves on the writings of Georges Dumezil as the firm rock on which all can rest, secure against challenge.
    • Lincoln, B. (1999). Theorizing myth: Narrative, ideology, and scholarship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.123
  • 'Germanism' arose amidst the peculiar political condition of nineteenth century Germany. . . . it has become the political shibboleth of the occidental nations. . . . we cannot see any reason why, in India, we should pin our anthropological faith in [it] .... We find that pan-Germanic bias is in possession of the field of enquiry of the ancient Indian civilization and Indian scholars are imbibing it through the medium of the English language. In the field of anthropology, "Germanism" reigns supreme in India, the Indians, . . . seeing the outside world only through the English language, have accepted the views of the "Master" people as the only truth. . . . And we glory in it because it is the gift of the "Master" people.
    • B. N. Dutta (1936) quoted in Bryant, E. F. (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : the Indo-Aryan migration debate. Oxford University Press. ch 1

Aryan idols: Indo-European mythology as ideology and science edit

Arvidsson, Stefan (2006), Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, translated by Sonia Wichmann, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Several people who have examined Indo-European scholarship have drawn parallels between research about the Proto-Indo-European world and myths, in the sense of narratives about origin. Indo-European research has, in many ways, been an attempt to write the origin narrative of the bourgeois class - a narrative that, by talking about how things originally were, has sanctioned a certain kind of behavior, idealized a certain type of person, and affirmed certain feelings. Certainly, there have been some scholars who have not identified themselves with the Proto-Indo-Europeans, but they are few.
    • Arvidsson, S. (2006). Aryan idols: Indo-European mythology as ideology and science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.319-320
  • For over two hundred years, a series of historians, linguists, folklorists, and archaeologists have tried to re-create a lost culture. Using ancient texts, me­ dieval records, philological observations, and archaeological remains, they have described a world, a religion, and a people older than the Sumerians, with whom all history is said to have begun. Those who maintained this culture have been called “Indo-Europeans" and “Proto-Indo-Europeans," “Aryans” and “Ancient Aryans," “Japhetites," and “wiros," among many other terms. These people have not left behind any texts, no objects can definitely be tied to them, nor do we know any “Indo-European” by name. In spite of that, scholars have stubbornly tried to reach back to the ancient "Indo-Europeans," with the help of bold historical, linguistic, and archaeological reconstructions, in the hopes of finding the foundation of their own culture and religion there.
  • The fundamental thesis of this study is that these prehistoric peoples have preoccupied people in modern times primarily because they were, to use the words of Claude Lévi-Strauss, “good to think with," rather than because they were meaningful historical actors. The interest in the “Indo-Europeans,” “Aryans,” and their “others” (who have varied through history from Jews to savages, Orientals, aristocrats, priests, matriarchal peasants, warlike nomads, French liberals, and German nationalists), stemmed—and still stems—from a will to create alternatives to those identities that have been provided by tradition. The scholarship about the Indo-Europeans, their culture, and their religion has been an attempt to create new categories of thought, new identities, and thereby a future different from the one that seemed to be prescribed.
  • There are people who, independently of the debate about Dumézil, have main­ tained that the scholarly work on the Indo-Europeans is simply a collection of myths. So, for example, the historian Léon Poliakov titled his book on the Indo-European discourse Le Mythe Aryen. The British archaeologist Colin Renfrew has described the research on Indo-Europeans as “a modern myth,“ and Bruce Lincoln has argued, in a book analyzing the research about Indo- European mythology, that this research has been “mythology with footnotes.“9 The French classicist Jean-Pierre Vernant also calls the nineteenth-century scholarship “a web of scientific myths.“ (5)
  • The discussion about the Indo-Europeans has never been pure and simple fiction. The question is, however, what relationship the scholarly pursuit of knowledge has to mythical thinking and to its more universal rela­ tive, ideology—if we define ideology as a somewhat coherent system of ideas and norms that express a socially determined interest.(6)
  • *If what I claimed above is true, that the research on Indo-Europeans has not given rise to myths in the sense of sheer fiction, one might still suppose that it has given rise to another kind of myth—namely, myth as normative narrative. In this sense of the word, myth involves a narrative about origins that gives in­ dividuals a feeling of belonging with others; that motivates certain actions; that legitimizes specific institutions; and that presents certain behaviors, feelings, and norms as natural, eternal, and necessary.(7)
  • First, there is no direct evidence for the culture of the Indo-Europeans, with the result that researchers have used their imagination to a very high degree. It is o nly with the help of methodologically problematic linguistic and archaeological theories that they have been able to chisel an Indo- European culture in to being. (8).
  • Muller and Schmidt shared the view that an original monotheism had survived beneath the surface o f the Indo-European mythologies. The main evidence for this was the reconstruction of the name of the highest god of the Indo-Europeans: *Diéus ph2ter, “Heavenly Father." Scholars with Chris­ tian faith and a preference for “Aryan ancestors" liked to present the Indo- Europeans as caretakers o f a religion that resembled true Christianity. A more radical researcher like Ernest Renan, on the other hand, idealized the polytheism of the Indo-Europeans. Along with Müller, Christian Lassen, Adolphe Pictet, and others, Renan constructed an ideologically very effective and long-lived opposition between Indo-European, or Aryan, and Semitic. They connected Shem's family line with monotheism, intolerance, egotism, conservatism, otherworldliness, irrational rituals, and a lack o f feeling for art and nature. On the other hand, the Indo-European peoples were seen as spiritual, imaginative, humanistic, philosophical, sincere, and freedom loving. With the establishment of this dichotomy, the discourse about the Indo-Europeans became intimately connected with anti-Semitism during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is important to realize, however, that the exaltation of the Indo-Europeans or the A ryans—especially during the nineteenth century, but also later, for example, for the socialist Gordon Childe—was a song of praise for the modern citizen with a scientific out­ look, liberal values, and humanistic ideals. In the nineteenth century, the Indo-Europeans were mainly models for a progressive bourgeois ideology, and the attacks on Jewish and Semitic religiosity (which sometimes included Christianity) aimed to form a worldview that fitted modern society and was not necessarily connected to any racial ideology. (310)
  • The discourse about the Indo-Europeans was also dependent on the most powerful movement o f the nineteenth century, imperialism. To an even greater extent than concerned the view of Semites, racism was present in the scholars' depictions o f how the Indo-European colonizers in ancient times conquered a dark, primitive original population. The Indo-Europeans were presented as humanity's cultural heroes, who, undefeated throughout history, spread knowledge and ruled over lower peoples, and who therefore seemed predestined to remain rulers even in the future. The “Aryan” colony o f India came to have a special place in this context. The scholars' racist at­ titude made them seek evidence in the Vedic texts that the ancient Aryan immigrants (a rya s) had had a racial consciousness, and that the caste society was a kind o f apartheid system from the very beginning. But reference to the higher castes as “Aryan brothers" could also be used for humanitar­ ian aims. By referring to the relationship between Europeans and Indians, people imagined that they could more easily reform the Hindu culture and modernize or “Indo-Europeanize" Indian society. (310-11)

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