Question Which European Languages are not Indo-European? on History.SE got this peculiar comment from user mathreadler:

None of them are. Indo-European is completely made-up language family by Britons who wanted India to have excuse to be part of Europe in some sense so they could use the massive population as power of social influence

Is it really so? Or if not, is there an account available online where a linguistic layman may rear about how this notion came about and how it was refuted?

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    See en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-European_studies#History for starters. Commented May 23, 2019 at 14:34
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    See also the Wikipedia article about William Jones to understand where this specific perception (might) originate from.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 14:41
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    This is political nonsense. Hindutva operatives are spreading a silly meme that says India was the source of all knowledge and language, because Sanskrit. They're on a par with the American know-nothings who talk about Noah's Ark with dinosaurs. Be careful; ignorance is dangerous.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 16:07
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    That's just nationalists projecting hard. Because they cannot comprehend that anyone would study history just to get close to the objective truth, when they meet a theory they don't like, in their mind it can only be because scholars of those other nation are distorting history to put forth the superiority of the wrong nation.
    – jick
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 17:36
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    @KilianFoth, not every known language. Some languages like Pictish are known to have existed but are so scantily documented that there's not much consensus about if it was Indo-European or not. Or have I misunderstood what you're saying? Commented May 24, 2019 at 10:27

2 Answers 2


The claim cited in the quote is definitely wrong. The existence of language families is inferred from the data on extant and ancient languages, and there is a rigorous methodology used in this inferential process. So, it does not matter who looks at the data, experts from all over the world should come to an agreement on the existence and membership of a language family.

There are some fringe cases (e.g., very large and deep language families like Nostratic, or single languages with disputed family affiliations) but Indogermanic is a clear and fully accepted grouping.

Even a layman should be able to see the impressive correspondences layed out in this wikipedia article on Indo-European vocabulary. Contrast this with data from a non-Indogermanic language like Turkish, Japanese, or Tamil for an unrelated language.

  • Did you intend "Indogermnaic" here rather than "Indo-European"? If so, what's the difference? I couldn't find the term in WP, but did find a reference to it in Wictionary that implies its an obsolete term.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 15:16
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    @T.E.D. Indogermanic is a little old-fashioned in English, but obsolete is an exaggeration. It's also important to note that its German equivalent (Indogermanisch) is the usual term for Indo-European, and so many German speakers carry this usage over into English. The two are essentially synonymous
    – Tristan
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 15:23

The Indo-European family is completely made up, yes. But not for the reason cited in that comment. And the fact it's made up doesn't mean it's not real.

Sciences often posit the existence of things we can't actually directly observe, just because these things explain what we can observe. In Ancient Greece, some simple thought experiments showed that atoms must exist, even though you can't see an atom. (Later, we invented microscopes and other proofs, which allow us to observe them directly).

And Proto-Indoeuropean has been posited as an ancient language, not because any of us have ever heard or spoken it, but because it explains some of our observations of the languages of Europe and parts of Asia. (Later, perhaps someone will invent a time-machine of some sort that will allow us to observe Proto-Indoeuropean more directly.)

The Indo-European family is just the group of languages that we suppose have derived from Proto-Indoeuropean.

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    PIE is reconstructed to be accurate. When you say "made up" it can refer to a product of imagination and not something based on real data and scientific observation.
    – Midas
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 19:34
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    You could say that PIE is only made up to the extent that we're wrong about it.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 0:49
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    @Midas, I am using the phrase "made up" to mean invent, imagine, concoct, and my point was that PIE has essentially been made up to fit the data on what it could have been like. That doesn't seem to be what the quote in the OP meant by "made up" though! Commented May 24, 2019 at 7:37
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    @curiousdannii - it's the old, "All models are wrong, some models are useful" trope. Commented May 24, 2019 at 15:19
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    @AndrewAlexander exactly. It's like Newtonian mechanics. It's 100% "wrong" in the strict sense, but it presents a relatively simple model that is "good enough" 99% of the time. Commented May 24, 2019 at 15:48

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