I've tried looking at Wikipedia but it is extraordinarily vague. Is it even known at all? I ask about this because I'm working on a very informal hypothesis about a period of common development between the Germanic, Celtic and Italic languages, but I would need to know when, more or less, they were spoken.

2 Answers 2


Looking at a few related wikipedia pages:

Italic peoples: Origins

According to David W. Anthony, between 3100–2800/–2600 BCE, a real folk migration of Proto-Indo-European speakers from the Yamna culture took place into the Danube Valley. These migrations probably split off Pre-Italic, Pre-Celtic and Pre-Germanic from Proto-Indo-European.1

  1. David W. Anthony - The Horse, The Wheel and Language pg.344

Genesis of Indo-European languages

Using a mathematical analysis borrowed from evolutionary biology, Don Ringe and Tandy Warnow propose the following evolutionary tree of Indo-European branches:23

  • Pre-Celtic and Pre-Italic (before 2500 BCE)


David Anthony, following the methodology of Ringe and Warnow, proposes the following sequence:26

  • Pre-Celtic and Pre-Italic (3000 BCE)
  1. Anthony 2007, pp. 56–58.
  2. Anthony 2007, p. 100.
  • 4
    Ringe's numbers are not widely accepted.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 13:54
  • these numbers are for pre-italic, not proto-italic so only gives us a terminus post quem (which, not coincidentally, lines up pretty exactly with the commonly accepted estimate for the PIE era), not an actual estimate
    – Tristan
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 9:15
  • 1
    And what's the difference between Pre-Italic and Proto-Italic? What meaningful observations can be made about them?
    – Alex B.
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 19:23
  • @AlexB. formally, pre-Italic would be the language reconstructed by internal reconstruction from proto-Italic. It's quite common in discussions of e.g. the breakup of PIE for pre-X to mean the dialect ancestral to X (this concept is inherently fuzzy). Pre-Italic is present in the initial PIE dialect continuum, but proto-Italic only appears later, following specific sound changes and grammatical changes
    – Tristan
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 9:08
  • Well, I'm not exactly a novice in historical linguistics and I do read a lot about certain IE languages a lot, viz. Italic. I just don't see much about Pre-Italic in linguistic research.
    – Alex B.
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 17:15

Umbrian & Faliscan are both attested and distinct as far back as the 7th century BCE (i.e. the 600s BCE), so this gives us a terminus ante quem (a latest possible date)

PIE is generally accepted to have broken up somewhere around 4500-5000 years ago or 2500-3000 BCE (see the dates given in ukemi's answer) giving us a terminus post quem (an earliest possible date)

That leaves us with a window of 3000-700 BCE or so which isn't especially helpful. I'm not sure if archaeology can be used to help narrow this down, but I think assuming it's nearer the later part of that (i.e. Italic only became distinct from the post-PIE continuum relatively late, around the time it arrived in Italy) is relatively safe and lines up with the ca. 1000 BCE given on wikipedia. The main thing to bear in mind is that the "ca." is doing a lot of work there

  • 25000 BCE seems just a tad early for the breakup of PIE. ;-) Commented May 5, 2020 at 13:56
  • good spot, and quite right, 25000 would definitely be a tad on the early side
    – Tristan
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 15:15

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