Original language

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In linguistics, the original language (also basic language or proto- language ) is a generally hypothetical form of language from which all languages ​​of a language family or a genetic unit have developed. Hypothetical original languages ​​can be partially reconstructed using the methods of comparative linguistics . Original languages ​​in this sense are the subject of the article.

This is to be distinguished from a primitive early form of the language, which was spoken by prehistoric humans several million years ago (see also the origin of the language ) and which can also be referred to as "original language" or "proto language". There is no linguistic knowledge about a “original language” in this sense. Not much more is known about it than that it must have existed.


By systematically comparing the related successor languages ​​(for example using word equations ), original languages ​​can be made accessible to a certain extent. However, an exact and complete reconstruction is not possible with hypothetical original axes.

Latin , the original language of the Romance languages, is an exception : the origin is extremely well documented by written sources and does not have to be reconstructed. However, the common starting point of the Romance languages ​​is not the classical Latin of the written tradition, but the spoken Latin of late antiquity . This Vulgar Latin has to be reconstructed, especially on the basis of the individual Romance languages.

Original language and daughter languages

The follow-up talks (sometimes also called "follow-up talks") are often referred to as daughter languages . The original language would then actually be the "mother tongue", but because the term mother tongue already has a different meaning, it is rarely used in this sense. Occasionally, however, the term parent language is used instead .

Original language and pre-original language

According to the outdated family tree theory , an original language can be understood as the root of a tree whose branches represent the later individual languages. Strictly speaking, however, it is not about the root, but about the point of branching. An original language is not just any common preliminary stage, but the “youngest” common pre-form of all recorded languages ​​of a language family (comparable to the last common ancestor in genetics, see Most recent common ancestor ).

The original language belonging to a language family "X" is called "Ur-X" ("Proto-X") or "X", an earlier stage "Early-Ur-X" and a preliminary stage "Vor-Ur-X" or " Before-X "(" Before-X "). The distinction between “Ur-X” and “Vor-Ur-X” is not always carefully observed, especially if no other known language forms have branched off between the preliminary stage and the proto stage. The older forerunners (Vor-Ur-X) cannot be inferred in a comparative way, but only through internal reconstruction , possibly with the help of early loanword layers .

Original languages ​​as "modern" languages

The term original language or proto language can misleadingly suggest that it is a simple or "primitive" language . However, the original languages ​​researched in linguistics have nothing to do with the origin of the language . The acquisition of language skills by humans took place in unknown intermediate steps for at least thousands of years. Original languages, which can be linguistically reconstructed in many details, are to be distinguished from a highly speculative " proto-language " that was spoken by primitive men.

A theoretical proto-world language (a hypothetical original language of all languages ​​spoken today) would also be very far ahead of a concrete original language such as the Proto-Indo-European , which dates back to around 3500 BC. Chr. Dated. This dating marks the beginning of the late Neolithic . Original languages ​​in the sense discussed here always belong to a limited, demonstrably historically connected group of languages.

Original languages ​​do not have a more “primitive” structure than today's languages. Basically, they are completely normal, "modern" and very complex languages, comparable to the languages ​​known from antiquity, the Middle Ages and the present. With these highly developed original languages ​​one could in principle express anything, although expressions for modern appearances are of course missing.


A typical example of a reconstructed original language is the Indo-European original language (Urindo-European), which has been reconstructed from the individual Indo-European languages . Following the example of Indo-European, original languages have now been reconstructed for many language families or genetic units, for example Proto- Ural , Proto- Turkic , Proto- Mongolian , Proto- Tungus , Proto- Sinotibetic , Proto- Semitic , Proto- Afro-Asian , Proto- Nilosaharan (with restrictions), Proto- Bantu and many others.

On the other hand, there are significant language families in which a reconstruction of the original language has not yet been successful, e.g. B. the Niger-Congo languages .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Original language  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Basic language  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Proto language  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations