Some historical linguists include Hurrian words in the reconstruction of Proto-Indogermanic. However, cognates between Hurrian and Indogermanic languages are mainly restricted to Greek and to the Anatolian branch, and for Greek a non-Indogermanic substrate is a plausible explanation of the Hurrian cognates. Also for Anatolian branch a substrate relation is plausible.

What is the current thinking of the relation between Indogermanic and Hurrian?

BTW, In this comment I have explained my preference of the term Indogermanic over Indoeuropean.

  • Are you asking about the Indo-Aryan names/words in the Mitanni texts?
    – fdb
    Dec 18, 2018 at 17:02
  • @fdb No, I am not asking about these words. Dec 18, 2018 at 17:06
  • Related question with not-so-untypical example and not-so-untypical reasoning: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/23039/… Dec 18, 2018 at 17:06
  • 1
    Re your 'btw', isn't Indo-Germanic simply the German term for Indo-European? So they actually mean the same thing. Dec 18, 2018 at 23:00
  • 1
    @amegnunsen Regardless his controversial theories and character, it is inaccurate to label A. Fournet an amateur.
    – Midas
    Dec 22, 2018 at 18:22

2 Answers 2


Arnaud Fournet & Allan R. Bomhard did a joint effort on the Indo-European elements in Hurrian. I am not aware of any other attempt to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European/Proto-Indo-Germanic by including Hurrian into the equation. The idea is nevertheless controversial and has no wider support. Consider therefore this suggestion a minority view.

There are however other theories regarding non-Indo-European words found in Germanic languages and Celtic that have exclusive cognates only in Greek (within IE). This peculiar (Non-Indo-European/Pre-Greek/Pre-Germanic) vocabulary is related to agriculture and marine animals, therefore has led in turn several scholars to suspect a source near Greece, Asia Minor and the Near East where Hattic, Hurrian, Urartian and Minoan were once spoken. Since agriculture spread into Europe from Anatolia, through Greece, it is possible that early Indo-Europeans came in contact with those early farmers and adopted those terms. Of course, the current material is very scarce to prove this, but its a better shot explaining the presence of such vocabulary instead of trying to fit non-Indo-European words into Indo-European reconstructions.

For more details I suggest the following works (in order of relevance):

Kroonen, G., 2012. Non-Indo-European root nouns in Germanic: evidence in support of the Agricultural Substrate Hypothesis. A linguistic map of prehistoric Northern Europe, pp.239-260.

Schrijver, P. C. H. (2011). 'La langue hattique et sa pertinence possible pour les contacts linguistiques préhistoriques en Europe occidentale'. Contacts linguistiques dans l’Occident méditerranéen antique, 241-255.

Schrijver, P.C.H., 2007. Keltisch en de buren: 9000 jaar taalcontact (pp. 1-32). Utrecht University.

Kroonen, G.J., 2012. On the etymology of Greek ἄγλῑς and γέλγις 'garlic': an Akkadian loanword in Pre-Greek. Journal of Indo-European Studies, 40, p.289.

Tardivo, G., & Kitselis, 2017, P. Prometheus or Amirani part 2. An updated study on the Pre-Greek substrate and its origins, Palaeolexicon.


(The answer from Midas is correct and more authoritative, here I will answer with a different focus.)

The current thinking on the classification of Hurro-Urartian is still that it is a primary language family, with no phylogenetic relation to Indo-European.

There were generally rejected attempts by Diakonoff to connect it to the Northeast Caucasian family of Lezgic and Vakh, which as far as I know were based on coincidences or loanwords or other features that one might expect after thousands of years of contact.

So there is no direct relationship. There are three main points of contact between Hurro-Urartian and Indo-European:

  1. Contact between Hurro-Urartian and ill-fated Indo-European languages like Luwian and Hittite, which was a very dominant language across the region.

  2. Contact between Hurro-Urartian and Iranic languages, over which little is written, but from the times and dates we know must have been significant. It includes Cimmerian from North of the Black Sea.

  3. Contact between Hurro-Urartian and Armenian and proto-Armenian.

The latter was intensive. Armenia was originally a translation of Urartu, and Ararat - the Semitic and then European cognate of Urartu - is still generally synonymous with the Armenian highlands. Hurro-Urartian languages were still widely spoken in Armenia in the first millennium BC, the language shifted to Armenian only gradually. Unsurprisingly, the Hurro-Urartian substrate in Armenian is significant and mostly in those words for native concepts. There are also speculations about structural influence, certainly Armenian while typically Indo-European in some ways has areal features, for example lack of grammatical gender, and arguably post-positions, and phonology, for example consonant clusters.

Beyond that, there is some less direct contact between Hurro-Urartian and the ancestors of other living Indo-European languages, for example via Hittite with Greek, via Hattic or via Semitic, which was very dominant. Note that there is a growing view that Armenian, Greek and Albanian split a bit later than the rest, that Armenian was related to Phrygian, and that the proto-Armenian language moved eastward, but this is not the only view.

There are notably Wanderwörter from the region of unknown origin or considered simply substrate, for example cherry, and ancient loans like wine. But of course historically there has been too much focus on vocabulary and even pronunciation and strict trees and not enough on deeper mechanics and possible fusion.

There is also the Anatolian hypothesis. Personally I find it implausible but accept that the overall story may be complicated, clearly multiple waves of Indo-European languages were attested in the Armenian highlands and Mesopotamia even back when nearly all civilisational output was in the other direction.

The longer and more intense the contact, the more the languages bleed together, and the more tempting it becomes to purposefully or foolishly re-construct a pseudo-scientific phylogenetic relationship.

  • 1
    I believe there are more words to extract from Armenian and Urartian. Personally, I suspect that there are few words in Urartian coming from early Armenian that didn't survive in Armenian until it was written. Definitely a fascinating field of study. Regarding Phrygian, there is a growing opinion that it is the missing link between Greek and Armenian. Kortland put recently (2016) Thracian into the equation.
    – Midas
    Dec 23, 2018 at 7:56
  • 1
    There are plenty of words in Armenian with no etymology, and earlier substrate languages are on obvious candidate. Placenames are also interesting. Dec 23, 2018 at 19:54
  • 1
    I have no reason to doubt that proto-Armenian was a Paleo-Balkan language that moved over to the East. It even fulfils most criteria of the Balkan sprachbund. But Armenian has a lot of features more like Kartvelian and Iranic than like Greek or general IE. For example no pluralisation after a number. It has cases but adjectives are invariant. Dec 23, 2018 at 20:10
  • I don't remember who said Armenian is a language saturated by Luwian and Iranic languages, but I fully agree. Its surroundings have resulted the Armenian we know today.
    – Midas
    Dec 23, 2018 at 20:49
  • I might phrase it as: 1. Armenian probably preserves more of both Hurro-Urartian and the Anatolian branch of IE than any other living language, simply because no other living language has much influence from them at all. 2. Armenian has so much Iranic that it preserves many Iranic senses and pronunciations lost in modern Persian. Dec 24, 2018 at 6:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.