3

I've heard that there is a "family" of languages called the Uralic family. I looked up the association between the two languages. I found that there are possible cognates on Wikipedia.

I am floating the idea that the Uralic languages are related to the Indo-European languages like Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, etc. but I had a hard time finding anything that agrees with this. I think that they are more similar to the Germanic or Italic (especially Germanic) language families.

For example, the words no/not are the same in both languages: *ne. This shows a link, possibly through Uralic breaking off of Indo-European. The word for water, *weti sounds like the English word wet for the Germanic languages. For the Italic (Latin), the word is *mina in Uralic and in latin it is mihi.

I don't think so, but I've also heard that this topic is hotly debated, even among professional linguists.

Source for words: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Uralic_languages#Some_possible_cognates

  • 7
    You are making some confusion there. Germanic languages (English, German, the Scandinavian languages, etc) are Indo-European, no less than Latin, Greek or Sanskrit. Germanic is a recognized subfamily of Indo-European, as is Romance (which contains modern languages that developed from Vulgar Latin, such as French, Italian or Spanish). – LjL Oct 12 at 14:23
  • 1
    One thing that should be added to Ljl's answer is that languages can and do frequently borrow from their neighbors. It is hypothesized that speakers of proto-indo-european and speakers of proto-Uralic used to live quite close to each other, which means any similarity between the two could be the result of one borrowing from the other. For example the PIE root *wed- meaning "wet" (of which it is the etymology) might well be a loan from the PU *wete, or it might be the opposite, without PIE and PU being otherwise related. – Typhon Oct 14 at 21:07
  • @Typhon I've added something to mention that after the Sprachbund remark, although in my mind grammar features are more striking than a couple of words that may look similar, anyway... But since those were in the question, I guess it makes sense. – LjL Oct 20 at 15:43
14

There is an Indo-Uralic hypothesis, but perhaps the hypothesis that Indo-European and Uralic and several other families are related is more widely known (while still definitely controversial) as the Nostratic hypothesis. Yet another variant is Eurasiatic.

I'm afraid you will have to make up your mind, because evidence for these relationships goes back to a time that makes the comparative method stop convincingly working. Linguists cannot rule out these hypotheses, but most are skeptical of them (which is reasonable, since when evidence is insufficient, science prefers the null hypothesis, i.e. no relationship).

There are some perhaps striking similarities between some of the basic "grammar words" of Indo-European and some Uralic languages, like Finnish, but you have to keep in mind the likelihood of a Sprachbund effect over actual family relatedness. This may well extend to words like the ones you mention through early borrowings.

I should probably point out, given your particular question, that pretty much nobody, to my knowledge, hypothizes that Uralic is a branch of what we currently understand to be Indo-European, i.e. descended from our reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European; rather, what some linguists think is that both Indo-European and Uralic may be branches of an older language family that is no longer clearly attested.

  • 3
    Though "is a branch of IE" and "is related to IE" are sometimes not as distinct as one might imagine. When the Anatolian languages were discovered, they had branched off back before the then-oldest reconstructions of PIE—so "PIE" was redefined to an earlier point before this branching. It's not inconceivable that, if some strong new Indo-Uralic evidence were found, that "PIE" could get redefined again to the point right before Uralic split off. – Draconis Oct 12 at 19:20
  • 1
    @Draconis well, names are whatever we make them to be, but Uralic is an established branch, not something that was just discovered. I'd imagine it would tend to be kept as a term and something different used for the IE+Uralic umbrella, especially given these terms already exist (Indo-Uralic, Nostratic, Eurasiatic)... I'd expect one of them to be adopted, if the conjecture behind it were proven true. But anyway, I guess what I meant is that "pretty much nobody considers it a branch out of what we currently call Proto-Indo-European". I can reword. – LjL Oct 12 at 20:31
  • 1
    Oh, no, you're absolutely right; this just seemed like a bit of information that doesn't need to be in the answer, but might be of interest to readers (hence comment). – Draconis Oct 12 at 20:33
  • usually grammatic evidence is taken as the convincing argument, precisely because words are more prone to be loaned and thus substituted – vectory Oct 18 at 5:01
  • 1
    @RobertColumbia There's some evidence that the oldest reconstructible stages of PIE had no separate feminine, only a common-neuter distinction, as LjL said. Also ergativity! Sadly the ergativity didn't last. – Draconis Oct 21 at 3:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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