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Early Indo-European Texts

The oldest surviving texts in Indo-European languages were written about 4,000 years ago; yet this was still long after the demise of the Indo-European ancestral tongue, Proto-Indo-European. Then, too, not all Indo-European peoples acquired the art of writing at the same time: some were still living in pre-literacy a mere 1,000 years ago. Others, notably in the Balkans, are known to have had writing ca. 2,000 years ago, but too few documents survive to permit reconstruction of their languages; these quite fragmentary records invite hypothetical glosses, reconstructions, and linguistic claims that are often rather wild, but we avoid that here.

We present a sampling of early Indo-European texts in the known language families. Our texts are not necessarily the oldest available, but they are representative of what is now accessible. Each family is represented by texts in one or, often, multiple languages or dialects. Each section below includes a short introduction to the geographic areas in which the languages were spoken; links are provided to online maps maintained by the University of Texas Library, most of which show modern political boundaries. To make reading convenient while you refer to these maps, they open in a separate window.

Celtic Family

Celtic languages were spoken in the British Isles, in Spain and across southern Europe to central Turkey. For the Celtic language family we have ten texts in Old Irish with English translations. See, also, the Indo-European Documentation Center's Celtic text sample.

Germanic Family

Germanic languages were spoken in England and throughout Scandinavia & central Europe to Crimea in the Ukraine. For the Germanic language family we have ten texts in Old English (a.k.a. Anglo-Saxon) representing West Germanic, ten texts in Old Norse representing North Germanic, and yet another ten texts in Gothic representing East Germanic, all with modern English translations. See, also, the Indo-European Documentation Center's Germanic text samples.

Italic Family

Italic languages were spoken in Italy and, later, throughout the Roman Empire including modern-day Portugal, Spain, France, and Romania. For the Italic language family we have ten texts in Latin, and another ten texts in Old French, all with English translations. See, also, the Indo-European Documentation Center's Italic text samples.

Baltic Family

Baltic languages were spoken in Lithuania & Latvia. For the Baltic language family we have seven texts in Lithuanian, and another three texts in Latvian, all with English translations.

Slavic Family

Slavic languages were spoken throughout eastern Europe plus Belarus & the Ukraine & Russia. For the Slavic language family we have ten texts in Old Church Slavonic (a.k.a. "Old Church Slavic") with English translations. See, also, the Indo-European Documentation Center's Slavic text samples.

Balkan Family

Balkan languages were spoken mostly in the Balkans and far western Turkey. These languages, grouped here into a family, are perhaps loosely connected, and their genetic relationships are largely unknown. For the Balkan language group we have five texts in Albanian (incl. Tosk and Geg dialects) with English translations.

Hellenic Family

Hellenic languages were spoken in Greece and the Aegean Islands and, later, in other areas conquered by Alexander (but mostly around the Mediterranean). For the Hellenic language family we have ten texts in Classical Greek ("Attic"), and another ten texts in New Testament Greek ("Koine"), all with English translations. See, also, the Indo-European Documentation Center's Hellenic text sample.

Anatolian Family

Anatolian languages were spoken in Anatolia, a.k.a. Asia Minor, a.k.a. modern Turkey. For the Anatolian language family we have ten texts in Hittite with English translations. See, also, the Indo-European Documentation Center's Anatolian text samples.

Armenian Family

Armenian was and is spoken in Armenia and nearby areas including eastern Turkey. For the Armenian language family we have five texts in Classical Armenian with English translations.

Iranian Family

Iranian languages were spoken from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Iran to Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey. For the Iranian language family we have six texts in Avestan, and another four texts in Old Persian, all with English translations.

Indic Family

Indic languages were spoken in India and Pakistan. For the Indic language family we have ten texts in Ancient Sanskrit ("Rigvedic") with English translations. For those with more serious interests we have, without translation, the complete text of the metrically restored Rigveda in ten volumes, in the Unicode character set only. See, also, the Indo-European Documentation Center's Indic text sample.

Tocharian Family

Tocharian languages were spoken in the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang, in far western China. For the Tocharian language family we have five texts in Tocharian A ("Turfanian"), and another five texts in Tocharian B ("Kuchean"), all with English translations.