Standard Average European

Standard Average European (SAE) is a concept introduced by Benjamin Whorf to distinguish Indo-European and especially Western Indo-European languages from languages of other grammatical types. According to Whorf, people whose languages have very different systems of grammar perceive reality in different ways and conceive of it in different forms. He further hypothesized that language wields a profound influence on human thought - this is known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.

Studies of grammatical systems appear to support the existence of large language groups or "sprachbunds". The more central members of the SAE sprachbund are Romance, Western Germanic, Baltic and Slavic. The North Germanic and Eastern European languages tend to be more peripheral members.

Alexander Gode, who was instrumental in the development of Interlingua, characterized this language as Standard Average European. [] [] The Romance, Germanic, and Slavic control languages of Interlingua are reflective of the language groups most often included in the SAE sprachbund. Piron described the vocabulary of Esperanto as being largely Romance and especially French, with Germanic and Slavic elements. [] . However, Piron did not describe Esperanto as being Standard Average European.

tandard Average European as a sprachbund

According to Martin Haspelmath (2001), the SAE languages form a sprachbund characterized by the following features:

# definite and indefinite articles (e.g. English "the" vs. "a");
# postnominal relative clauses with inflected, resumptive relative pronouns (e.g. English "who" vs. "whom");
# a periphrastic perfect formed with 'have' plus a passive participle (e.g. English "I have said");
# a preponderance of generalizing predicates to encode experiencers, i.e. experiencers appear as surface subjects in nominative case, e.g. English "I like music");
# a passive construction formed with a passive participle plus an intransitive copula-like verb (e.g. English "I am known");
# a prominence of anticausatives in inchoative-causative pairs (e.g. in the pair "The snow melts" vs. "The flame melts the ice", the intransitive verb is derived from the transitive);
# dative external possessors (e.g. German "Die Mutter wusch dem Kind die Haare" = "The mother washed the child's hair", Portuguese "Ela lavou-lhe o cabelo" = "She washed his hair");
# verbal negation with a negative indefinite (e.g. English "Nobody listened");
# particle comparatives in comparisons of inequality (e.g. English "bigger than an elephant") ;
# equative constructions based on adverbial-relative clause structures (e.g. French "grand comme un élephant");
# subject person affixes as strict agreement markers, i.e. the verb is inflected for person and number of the subject, but subject pronouns may not be dropped even when this would be unambiguous (only in some languages, such as German and French);
# differentiation between intensifiers and reflexive pronouns (e.g. German intensifier "selbst" vs. reflexive "sich").

Besides these features, which are uncommon outside Europe and thus useful for defining the SAE area, Haspelmath (2001) lists further features characteristic of European languages (but also found elsewhere):

# verb-initial order in yes/no questions;
# comparative inflection of adjectives (e.g. English "bigger");
# conjunction "A and B";
# syncretism of comitative and instrumental cases (e.g. English "with my friends" vs. "with a knife");
# suppletivism in "second" vs. "two";
# no distinction between alienable (e.g. legal property) and inalienable (e.g. body part) possession;
# no distinction between inclusive ("we and you") and exclusive ("we and not you") first-person plural pronouns;
# no productive usage of reduplication;
# topic and focus expressed by intonation and word order;
# word order Subject Verb Object;
# only one gerund, preference for finite subordinate clauses;
# specific "neither-nor" construction;
# phasal adverbs (e.g. English "already", "still", "not yet");
# tendency towards replacement of past tense by perfect tense.

There is also a broad agreement in the following parameters (not listed in Haspelmath 2001):

* absence of phonemic opposition velar/uvular;
* only pulmonic consonants;
* at least three degrees of vowel height (minimum inventory "i e a o u");
* predominantly suffixing morphology;
* moderately synthetic fusional morphological typology;
* nominative-accusative morphosyntactic alignment.

The sprachbund defined this way consists of the following languages:

* Germanic languages;
* Romance languages;
* Baltic languages;
* Slavic languages;
* Albanian;
* Greek;
* Hungarian.

The Balkan sprachbund is thus included. Not all the languages listed above show all the twelve listed features; the western European languages show more SAE features than the eastern and northern ones, with German, Dutch, French, Occitan and the Northern Italian languages at the core of the sprachbund. All SAE languages except Hungarian are Indo-European languages, but not all Indo-European languages are SAE languages: the Celtic, Armenian and Indo-Iranian languages remain outside the SAE sprachbund, as do the non-Indo-European languages of Europe except Hungarian.

The Standard Average European sprachbund is most likely the result of ongoing language contact beginning in the time of the Völkerwanderung and continuing during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance until today. Inheritance of the SAE features from Proto-Indo-European can be ruled out because Proto-Indo-European, as currently reconstructed, lacked most of the SAE features.


Haspelmath, Martin. 2001. The European linguistic area: Standard Average European. "Handbuch der Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft" vol. 20.2, pp. 1492-1510.

Heine, Bernd and Kuteva, Tania. 2006. "The Changing Languages of Europe". Oxford University Press.

ee also

*Languages of Europe

External links

* [ “The Notion of Standard Average European”] , by Paolo Ramat.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Standard Average European — Unter Standard Average European (auch SAE Sprachen genannt) versteht man einen europäischen Sprachbund, d. h. eine Gruppe von europäischen Sprachen, die sich in einer Reihe von Sprachstrukturmerkmalen gleichen, obwohl sie nicht unbedingt… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Standard Gross Margin — Standard Gross Margins or SGMs are a way of classifying farms according to the type of enterprises on the farm, and their relative contribution to overall profit. The SGM provides a measure of a holding s business size, irrespective of its area… …   Wikipedia

  • European route E79 — is a road part of the International E road network. It begins in Oradea, Romania and ends in Thessaloniki, Greece, also running through Bulgaria. The road is 1,050 km long.The road follows the route Oradea – Beiuş – Deva – Petroşani – Târgu Jiu – …   Wikipedia

  • European emission standards — Simplified chart showing the progression of European emission standards for Diesel cars …   Wikipedia

  • Standard illuminant — A standard illuminant is a profile or spectrum of visible light which is published in order to allow images or colors recorded under different lighting to be compared.CIE illuminantsThe International Commission on Illumination (usually… …   Wikipedia

  • European city bike — Contemporary styled European city bike with a step through frame …   Wikipedia

  • standard of living —    Although there is no single agreed measure for comparing living standards across different countries, there can be no doubt that in absolute terms the standard of living of the average Spaniard has improved beyond recognition in the past… …   Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture

  • European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation — The goal for EUROCONTROL is to develop, coordinate and plan for implementation of pan European air traffic management strategies and their associated action plans in an effort involving national authorities, air navigation service providers,… …   Wikipedia

  • Standard of living in the United States — The standard of living in the United States is one of the top 20 in the world by the standards economists use as measures of standards of living. Per capita income is high but also less evenly distributed than in most other developed countries;… …   Wikipedia

  • European Shorthair — Infobox Catbreed name = European shorthair country = Sweden acfstd = shorthair.htm fifestd = prf stn.htmlThe European shorthair is a breed of short haired cat… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.