The Marvel of Indo-European Cultures and Languages. The Lithuanian Bridge to Indo-European

Oleg Poljakov
The Marvel of Indo-European Cultures and Languages. The Lithuanian Bridge to Indo-European
Number of pages:
Vilniaus universitetas

The book The Marvel of Indo-European Cultures and Languages is written for all who are interested in the emergence of the ancient Indo-European languages. Language is the main phenomenon of every national culture, its main manifestation. The principal task of the book has not been to overcrowd the reader with historic and cultural matters, linguistic phenomena, structures and facts of these languages but to present these languages in the broad context of the history and the culture of the peoples who spoke or speak them, in their relationships to other languages and cultures. The aim is also to make the reader acquainted with the different scripts used for writing ancient Indo-European languages, peculiarities of their phonetic system, grammar and vocabulary. The appreciation of every language is enhanced by including large extracts from original texts which allow the reader to penetrate into its essence. Regretfully, many good and interesting books on the same subject after a substantial and all encompassing description of IE languages supply only small texts which provide only a general picture of these languages but do not reveal them in their richness. The provided descriptions of various scripts and vocabularies allow readers to take on any sign system and easily read all supplied texts. The book introduces the reader not only to the world of the ancient Indo-European languages, making him acquainted with their sources and development, but also invites the reader to think about major cultural, linguistic and language matters and phenomena and to investigate them.

The book has the subtitle The Lithuanian Bridge to Indo-European which has a reason. Indo-European studies is the field of linguistics which investigates the origin of Indo-European languages, their history, and development. These languages are widely spread on every continent. They descended from a common Primitive or Proto-Indo-European language that broke up into separate language branches more than four thousand years ago. All the modern Indo-European languages have changed immensely since then — with the exception of Lithuanian. Lithuanian seems like a miracle in the world of Indo-European languages, a kind of "a time machine", having remarkably preserved numerous archaic features of the Primitive Indo - European language. It has practically maintained most of the grammatical categories, morphophonological structure and the vocabulary of Late Primitive Indo-European, e.g. the word god *dewos ('god, the celestial one') had already altered its original form in the ancient IE languages – least in OL. DEIVOS, Osc. (dat. sg.) deívaí 'deae',

Skr. devas, Av. daēva- ('demon'), Gaul. devŏ-, and more in other languages: L. deus / dīvus 'divine' / Iuppiter 'Jupiter' (< *dous 'day, sky' + *patēr 'father'), Gr. δῖος dĩos 'divine',* OIr. día, ON. (pl.) tívar 'gods', OHG. ziu; OSl. áîãú (but äèâú 'divine').

In the modern IE languages, the original forms were replaced or have changed immensely, cf. Hindi īśvar, Pers. xodā, It. dio, Fr. dieu; Ir. dia, W. duw; Isl. guð, G. Gott; in modern Lithuanian, it differs slightly from PIE – m. diẽvas, f. deĩvė / deivė̃. Some other examples – the word son: Skr. sūnuṣ (rare used, more often – sutas), Av. hūnu-, Gr. υἱύς huiús (<*sū-), Goth. sunus, ON. sonr, OHG. sunu; OSl. ñûÍú, Toch. A. se, Toch B. soy or the word sheep: Skr. aviṣ, Gr. ὄϊς óis (dial. οϝις ois), L. ovis, OIr. ói, Goth. awi-str 'sheepfold', OHG. ou, OSl. îâü-öà. In modern IE languages, these words also were replaced by other words or changed enormously, cf. Hindi putra 'son', Gr. γιός giós / υιός uiós, G. Sohn, Slav. sin / syn, and Hindi bhēṛa 'sheep', Gr. πρόβατο, It. pecora, Fr. mouton, Sp. oveja; Isl. sauðfé, G. Schaf; Slav. ovca / ovce. Lithuanian preserves in many aspects still the IE original forms – sūnùs 'son' and avìs (<*oìs) 'sheep'. And such kinds of examples are numerous. The book is illustrated with a large number of pictures, maps, tables and diagrams, which are an additional source of relevant information. To aid understanding of complicated matters, the style of the language is made more vivid in certain respects but never misrepresents the relevant information and real facts. This is not an invention of the author – this manner of presentation is used by other scholars. It is also widely used in modern productions of classical operas, ballets, plays. The additional information is pointed out by a contrastive text field and script. It contains mainly popular, curious or fascinating facts that help to grasp complicated matters and facts presented in the main text more easily and add to it. The book is designed for all who are interested in ancient languages and their relationships, human culture, history, various semiotic systems – for young and old, males and females, students, priests, philologists and specialists in all other branches of knowledge. Its chapters can be used as a short introduction to comparative linguistics and ancient IE languages.

The author is deeply obliged to the member of the European Parliament A. Saudargas and to Vilnius University and its Rector, the Professor J. Banys, for the possibility provided for the writing and publication of this book. I am most grateful to the British Academy and Oxford University which in 1996, 1998, 2004, 2010, also to Göteborg University which in 1995 and to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences – in 2005 provided me with grants for research work in Great Britain and Sweden.

Oleg Poljakov

OLEG POLJAKOV, professor at Vilnius University since 1998, a Dr. phil. habil. of Heidelberg University
(1996) is the author of several books and more than a hundred fifty academic publications. His first speciality was Germanic languages. As a postgraduate student, he studied Indo-European linguistics. Following a tradition of the Moscow linguistic school established by F. F. Fortunatov, which calls for Lithuanian to be studied in Lithuania, the author spent three summers (1982–1984) in western Lithuania, working and studying Lithuanian in a village near Marijampolė. After defending his PhD thesis at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1985, his life and work have been attached closely to Vilnius University. In 1988–1990, he taught at the University of Greifswald (former East Germany), and in 1991–1994, 1996 was a habilitand at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, working as an academic researcher and running seminars for students. He has delivered lectures in Great Britain and Sweden. The main objects of his research are the relationships of Baltic, Slavonic and Indo-European languages, morphophonology, accentology, cultural studies, and edp. Since 1992 he is a member of the Society
for Indo-European Studies, and since 2008 a member of its Scientific Advisory Board.


Vilniaus universitetas

Universiteto g. 3, 01513 Vilnius
Tel.: (8 5) 268 7000 / 268 7010
Fax.: (8 5) 268 7009 / 268 7014


Oleg Poljakov

Tel.: +370 61919391