Ask a question about 'Indo-Hittite'
Start a new discussion about 'Indo-Hittite'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
In Indo-European linguistics, the term Indo-Hittite (also Indo-Anatolian) refers to Sturtevant
Edgar H. Sturtevant
-Biography:Sturtevant was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, the older brother of Alfred Sturtevant. He studied at the University of Chicago receiving there in 1901 a Ph.D. with a dissertation on Latin case forms. He became an assistant professor of classical philology at Columbia University in New...

's 1926 hypothesis that the Anatolian languages
Anatolian languages
The Anatolian languages comprise a group of extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in Asia Minor, the best attested of them being the Hittite language.-Origins:...

 may have split off the Proto-Indo-European language
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 considerably earlier than the separation of the remaining Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

. The term is somewhat imprecise, as the prefix Indo- does not refer to the Indo-Aryan
Indo-Aryan languages
The Indo-Aryan languages constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family...

 branch in particular, but is iconic for Indo-European, and the -Hittite part refers to the Anatolian language family as a whole.

Proponents of the Indo-Hittite hypothesis claim the separation may have preceded the spread of the remaining branches by several millennia, possibly as early as 7000 BC. In this context, the proto-language
A proto-language in the tree model of historical linguistics is the common ancestor of the languages that form a language family. Occasionally, the German term Ursprache is used instead.Often the proto-language is not known directly...

 before the split of Anatolian would be called Proto-Indo-Hittite, and the proto-language of the remaining branches, before the next split, presumably of Tocharian
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

, would be called Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

(PIE). This is a matter of terminology, though, as the hypothesis does not dispute the ultimate genetic relation of Anatolian with Indo-European, it just means to emphasize the assumed magnitude of temporal separation.


Traditionally there has been a strong notion among Indo-European linguistics that the Anatolian branch was separated earlier than other branches. Within the Kurgan
Kurgan is the Turkic term for a tumulus; mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves, originating with its use in Soviet archaeology, now widely used for tumuli in the context of Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology....

 framework the split time is estimated at roughly 4000 BC.

Some fundamental shared features, such as the aorist
Aorist is a philological term originally from Indo-European studies, referring to verb forms of various languages that are not necessarily related or similar in meaning...

 category of the verb (which denotes action without reference to duration or completion), with the perfect active particle -s fixed to the stem, link the Anatolian languages closer to the southeastern languages such as Greek and Armenian, and to Tocharian.

Features such as the lack of feminine gender in the declensions of nominals, a division between an "animate" common gender and an "inanimate" neuter gender, a reduced vowel system, a tendency towards a greater simplicity of the case system, a less typical Indo-European vocabularity, and other striking features have been interpreted alternately as archaic debris, as the nucleus for future developments, or just as being caused by prolonged contacts in typologically alien surroundings "en route" or after their arrival in Anatolia. In favor of the Indo-Hittite hypothesis are the very Indo-European agricultural terminology conserved in Anatolia, otherwise considered the cradle of agriculture, and the laryngeal theory that hypothesize the existence of one or more additional stop or spirant consonants in the Indo-European parent language that has only been attested in Hittite
Hittite language
Hittite is the extinct language once spoken by the Hittites, a people who created an empire centred on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia...

 and of which only traces are left outside Anatolian. However, in general this hypothesis is considered to attribute too much weight to the Anatolian evidence and it has been demonstrated already in 1938 that the Anatolian group should be placed on the same level as other Indo-European subgroups and not as equal with Indo-European. According to another view the Anatolian subgroup left the Indo-European parent language comparatively late, approximately at the same time as Indo-Iranian and later than the Greek or Armenian divisions. A third view, especially prevalent in the so-called French school of Indo-European studies, holds that extant similarities in non-satem languages in general—including Anatolian—might be due to their peripheral location in the Indo-European language area and early separation, rather than indicating a special ancestral relationship.

From the point of view of phylogenetics, the Indo-Hittite hypothesis is strongly corroborated by the lack of any Indo-European innovations in Anatolian. Notably, Anatolian doesn't have the IE gender system opposing masculine : feminine; instead we have a rudimentary noun class system based on an older animate : inanimate opposition reminiscent of noun class systems in non-Bantu Niger-Congo languages.


Recent subgrouping calculations of Indo-European branches using a method that accounts for the distribution of PIE verbs (SLR-D), reject an early separation of Anatolian languages altogether and yield results that place a genealogical split of Anatolian (and Tocharian) within a more recent grouping together with Greek, Albanian and Armenian, in a single branch together with Indo-Iranian, though at distance from the genealogical splits of Balto-Slavic, Italo-Celtic and Germanic that are harboured within another branch, thus supporting proponents of an IE expansion that roughly parallels the adoption of the bronze metallurgy.

Hence, a crucial question is, whether the Anatolian branch split off before the beginning of the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

, or even the Chalcolithic. A Bronze Age society is usually reconstructed from PIE vocabulary, but it is unclear whether this necessarily holds for inherited vocabulary in Anatolian. The Early Bronze Age starts in Anatolia at least with the beginning of the 3rd Millennium cal. BC. In the Caucasus the Bronze Age begins roughly 3300 BC. It is possible that the Proto-Anatolians were involved with the earliest development of Bronze metallurgy. In any case, while evidence that Anatolian shares common terminology of metallurgy with other branches would speak against Indo-Hittite, discarding the value of this evidence does not automatically favour the concept of Indo-Hittite, since even a 'moderate Indo-Hittite' split around 4000 BC would clearly predate the Bronze Age.

Validation of the theory would consist of identifying formal-functional structures that can be coherently reconstructed for both branches but which can only be traced to a formal-functional structure that is either (a) different from both or else (b) shows evidence of a very early, group-wide innovation. As an example of (a), it is obvious that the Indo-European perfect subsystem in the verbs is formally superimposable on the Hittite ḫi-verb subsystem, but there is no match-up functionally, such that (as has been held) the functional source must have been unlike both Hittite and Indo-European. As an example of (b), the solidly-reconstructable Indo-European deictic pronoun paradigm whose nominatives singular are *so, *sā (*seH₂), *tod has been compared to a collection of clause-marking particles in Hittite, the argument being that the coalescence of these particles into the familiar Indo-European paradigm was an innovation of that branch of Proto-Indo-Hittite.