Proto indo european (aka PIE) is an unrecorded (as far as we know) language that was possibly spoken in southern Russia or Ukraine. Let’s suppose that there was a building underground sealed with rocks that holds the bodies of dead people who spoke PIE. And, let’s say that the cave was extensive, similar to what was seen in Ancient Egypt but smaller in size. There were skulls (presumably of important and in this case possibly literate people) of the dead and, most importantly, writing, probably about religion and a little history. Let’s say these writings were written in a way that was similar to cuneiform and there were about 200 writings, written on rocks similar to adobe in Native American settlements. (This adobe like material was, of course, preserved.) Some explorational linguists explore the area, which was flat land as the PIE homeland was described as.

Speaking of PIE, why do we call a language a language and not a danguage?

  • Hi, Dinguistic, and welcome to the site! Your second question ("danguage") can be easily answered, so I'd recommend asking it separately: there's a convention of one question per post on this site, and no real stigma about posting more than once to get multiple questions out.
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 19:23
  • 2
    Adding "what if" to a fantasy scenario doesn't create a question. Are you asking what this would prove, or how we would decide that it was PIE, or how Indo-Europeanists would react, or what the popular media would make of it, or how it would square with central asian theories?
    – user6726
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 20:46
  • For a similar, though much later, scenario, and its results, consult this Language Log post.
    – jlawler
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


This sounds somewhat like a worldbuilding question—you're working on a story of some sort, and are looking for some linguistic details to include. So I'm going to approach it from that angle.

"Proto-Indo-European", as it's commonly used, doesn't refer to a specific, actual recorded language. Instead, it refers to a sort of hypothetical reconstruction. We know that various languages are related, and probably descend from a common ancestor; PIE is our attempt to reconstruct that common ancestor. To use a biological analogy, we know that humans and chimpanzees had a common ancestor at some point in the past, and there must have been, at some point, a last common ancestor. We can even try to reconstruct what that last common ancestor might have looked like. But finding fossils of that single specific ancestor is vanishingly unlikely.

What's more likely is that we'd find documents written in a previously-unknown Indo-European language, either written down much earlier than anything we already have, or having branched off from the others much earlier than anything else we currently know about. Or even both! And, in fact, this has happened in the past—when Bedřich Hrozný managed to decipher some cuneiform tablets in 1917, and showed that the language on those tablets was Indo-European. The "Anatolian" languages, as they're now known, were written down a millennium before any other other Indo-European languages, and also split off earlier than any other IE branch. And, even more startlingly, they showed evidence of phonemes that until then had been purely hypothetical, Saussure's coefficients sonantiques (now called "laryngeals").

Could something like that happen again? Absolutely! It's not likely, but it's plausible enough to build a story out of it. There are even several as-yet-undeciphered scripts out there in the world that might turn out to encode Indo-European languages. And evidence like that might completely rewrite the textbooks on Proto-Indo-European. It might not be PIE itself, but for story purposes the effect would be the same.


RE: Speaking of PIE, why do we call a language a language and not a danguage? => I'm not sure if I understand this question, but, PIE for "tongue" was probably *dnghu(a). This word has often interfered with verbs meaning "to lick", with l-, hence the initial of Latin lingua, whence French langage and English language.

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