Relations between Indoeuropean and Afroasiatic Languages

Relations between Indoeuropean and Semitic languages have often been maintained. Trubetzkoy, for example, has claimed that Indoeuropean languages developed from a Semitic-similiar stage to an Uralic-similiar one.

 On the other hand it is well known nowadays that the Semitic languages are one of six coordinate branches of the Afroasiatic (=Hamitosemitic = Erythraeic = Lisramic) languages beside Ancient Egyptian, Cushitic, Omotic, Chadic and Berberic. The Sahara must be assumed to be the original home of the Afroasiatic family. As an age of at least tenthousand years is supposed for this family it is worth noticing that the Sahara was green at the time of Proto-Afroasiatic and that Europe was under the influence of the last glacial epoch at the same time. It has been seldom noticed that any relationship between Indoeuropean and Semitic languages requires the assumption of a relationship between the Indoeuropean and the entire Afroasiatic family. This means relations to Northern Africa. But Proto-Indoeuropean existed almost fivethousand years ago somewhere in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless I think that there are some traces of possible relations between Indoeuropean and Afroasiatic languages. I have only the following explanation for this surprising situation: At the end of the last glacial epoch Europe started to get warmer and the Sahara started to become a desert. Probably many people migrated from the Sahara to Europe and Asia. It is possible that some of them contributed to the genesis of Proto-Indoeuropean which certainly took place somewhere in Eastern Europe.

 It must be mentioned that (due to the rule of glottochronology that the speed of language development corresponds to a loss of twenty percent of the main stock of words each thousand years) after ten thousand years the common main stock of words between related languages will be reduced to less than ten percent (and to less than five percent after twelve thousand years). At least this is the point from where on it can no longer be decided whether common features of two compared languages are due to a historical relationship between them or not, that means that the limit of (possible) coincidence is reached. Facing the high age of Proto-Afroasiatic and the (necessarily) higher age of a possible Proto-Indoeuropean/Afroasiatic, one comes to the conclusion that the relationship can be never proven. Therefore I do not want to prove a "genetic" relationship of the two families by showing possible common features but to point to a possible historical relationship of certain features themselves. Common features need not prove a "genetic" relationship of the compared languages but common origin of the features themselves. This fact is due to the possibility of historical relations like mixing or reciprocal influencing of neighbouring languages or language families.

 Just as in the case of the above-mentioned common features of Indoeuropean and Afroasiatic languages there also seems to be a common feature between (Indoeuropean), Afroasiatic and the central branch of Khoisan languages. This feature has led to the hypothesis of the Hamitic family which has now been rejected due to the establishment of the Afroasiatic family, which does not include central Khoisan. On the other hand, the relationship of the branches of Khoisan is still not proven but based on the common feature of clicks as phonemes. But that feature is not limited to the Khoisan languages as there are click languages in Eastern Africa too, one of them nowadays added to the Afroasiatic (Cushitic) family! Furthermore the central branch of Khoisan shows gender unsimiliar to other branches of Khoisan but similiar to Afroasiatic (and Indoeuropean) languages. The common origin of gender in Central Khoisan, Afroasiatic and Indoeuropean already has been maintained, as this feature is a rare one among the world's language families. This hypothesis could be right if limited to this common feature itself (influence of a source language) regardless of the "genetic" affiliation of the feature-sharing languages.

 So which are the features I want to point to after all these remarks?

 As you have seen above (see the origin of the verbal endings) Proto-Indoeuropean has a special set of perfect endings which are interpreted as original intransitive endings by me. This ending set is quite unsimiliar to the other ending sets in -m-, -s-, -t- and so on. I suggest the common origin of this ending set with the Afroasiatic verbal affixes:




1st person singular -h2e (-a) a- ?
2nd person singular -th2e (-tha) ta- ?
3rd person singular -0e (-e) i- ?
example oid-a, ois-tha, oid-e a-prus, ta-prus, i-prus
explanation of example "to know", perfect singular (Greek) "to decide", preterite singular (male) (Akkadian)

And furthermore one could assume the common origin of the gender system of Indoeuropean, Afroasiatic and Central Khoisan (as just mentioned above). Proto-Indoeuropean shows a gender system animate -m versus inanimate -d as just described (see the page referring to the Indoeuropean noun system). Afroasiatic shows a gender system male versus female (including things) with the female marker -t (for example Akkadian `sarr-um "king" versus `sarrat-um "queen". Nama (central Khoisan) shows a gender system male versus female versus common (= male or female), for example goma-p "bull" versus goma-s (dual -ra, plural -ti) "cow" versus goma-'i "cattle". If the Proto-Indoeuropean gender system animate versus inanimate goes back to a former gender system male versus female the markers seem to be identical in all three language families which would mean the common origin not only of the gender system as such but also of the elements used as markers for gender - that is the point!
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Written by Hans-Joachim Alscher