There is no direct record of Proto-Indo-European and there's barely any non-hypothetical evidence of Proto-Indo-Europeans. Why is Indo-European considered a language family while Ural-Altaic isn't, when the latter makes more sense nearly in every way?


1 Answer 1


For Indogermanic, there are ample word correspondences and regular sound laws allowing the reconstruction of a proto-language (at two levels, one before and one after the split of the Anatolic branch including Hittite). There is no doubt that the known branches all belong to one language family.

For Ural-Altaic (proposed in very different shapes comprising more or less branches) no convincing sound correspondences and sound laws have been found up to the present day. That the languages are typologically similar is not enough to demonstrate a language family.

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    Note that Sir Cornflakes is using the name Indogermanic rather than the more common Indo-European. I explain this only to show why this is an answer to the question.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 22:43
  • I don't think that this is a proper answer. It barely restates the premise of the question without much insight. It is vicious circular reasoning in particular because "sound law" is historically defined on the model of Indo-European, not the other way around.
    – vectory
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 15:39
  • @vectory: Finno-Ugric was recognised as a language family even before Indogermanic, and it has rigorous sound laws, too, and was later successfully extended to Uralic by including the Samoyedic languages. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 15:50
  • Yes, I heard about that, not often enough. Correspondances have been proposed in other comparisons much earlier, but a) the iron doctrine of sound law was made up in the 19th century, b) the time depth of what can be reconstructed is fairly shallow and anything beyond that may be controversial c) to the effect that the theory wasn't extend so much as altered to separate Samoyedic and posit a lower node, which is notoriously under researched. Other language families can be named, certainly, but those are either fairly small, incomplete or working with spelling, not sound, and historical bias.
    – vectory
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 16:15

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