proto-indo european

Before Latin, Before Ancient Greek and Farsi, even before the Sanskrit of the Hindu Vedas, there was Proto-Indo-European. PIE is the reconstructed language from which all modern Indo-European languages; including English, Spanish, Urdu, Bengali and German, are derived.


There are no written records of this language but thanks to cunning linguists, we have been able to reconstruct the ancient tongue by looking at the most equivalent words and phrases in the oldest surviving examples of Indo-European languages and seeing what they have in common in order to determine what the common PIE root might have been. Some of the oldest Indo-European languages include Sanskrit from which Hindi, Urdu and other Indian languages derive, Hittite, which was spoken by an Indo-European people in Asia minor around 1600 BC, Old English and Old Norse, and Celtic languages such as Welsh.


No one knows for sure where PIE came from or who first spoke it, but most theories posit an origin somewhere in western Asia or Eastern Europe, generally around the black sea. The Aryans of Hindu religion were an ancient people who invaded India from the North and who it is  presumed spoke a PIE derivative or maybe PIE itself.


Even modern English resembles PIE in some respects. Look at the following Proto-Indo European translations and see if you recognize any similarities to English or other languages.


  • pH₂tér-“father”
  • bhréH₂ter-“brother”
  • swésor“sister”
  • dhugH₂-tér-“daughter”
  • suHnú-“son”


The following video helps you to learn to speak Proto-Indo-European:



Schleicher’s tale

The first attempt to reconstruct a piece of PIE was in 1868 by the German linguist August Schleicher. He made up a story which allowed him to choose vocabulary, the PIE equivalents of which he already knew. The passage in English is as follows:


On the mountain a sheep that had no wool saw horses — one pulling a heavy waggon, one a great load, and one swiftly carrying a man.

Then the sheep said to the horses: “It pains my heart to see a man driving horses”.

Then the horses said: “Listen, sheep: it pains our heart to see man, the master, making himself a warm garment from sheep’s wool, when the sheep has no wool”.

On hearing this, the sheep fled into the plain.


The Proto-Indo-European translation goes:


Gwrhéei hówis, qésyo wlhnéh ne est, hécwons spécet, hoinom kke gwrhúm wóccom wéccontm, hoinom-qe méghm ppórom, hoinom-qe ccménm hóocu ppérontm.

Hówis tu hecwoippos weuqét: “Céer hekknutór moi, hécwons héjontm hnérm widntéi”.

Hécwoos tu weuqónt: “Cluttí, hówei, céer kke hekknutór nsméi widntppós: hnéer, pótis, héwyom r wlhnéhm seppi qrnéuti nu qqérmom wéstrom; nécci héwyom wlhnéh hésti”.

Tód cecluwóos hówis héjrom ppugét.


Hear the spoken PIE translation in the video below.



There are many books to help you learn more PIE, including the fantastic AHD dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Watch the following video to learn more about the dictionary.


Written by Tom Rowsell