Eastern Europe, Southwest Asia, Central Asia, South Asia Linguistic classification: Indo-European
Proto-language: Proto-Indo-Iranian Subdivisions: ISO 639-5: iir
The Indo-Iranian language group constitutes the easternmost extant branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It consists of three language groups: the Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Nuristani. The Indo-Iranian languages occasionally go by the term "Aryan languages." The speakers of the Proto-Indo-Iranian language, the hypothetical Proto-Indo-Iranians, are usually associated with the late 3rd millennium BC Andronovo and Sintashta-Petrovka cultures of Central Asia. Their expansion is believed to have been connected with the invention of the chariot.
The contemporary Indo-Iranian languages form the largest sub-branch of Indo-European, with more than one billion speakers in total, stretching from Europe (Romani) and the Caucasus (Ossetian) eastward to Xinjiang (Sarikoli) and Assam (Assamese) and south to Sri Lanka (Sinhalese). SIL in a 2005 estimate counts a total of 308 varieties, the largest in terms of native speakers being Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu, ca. 190-330 million), Bengali (ca. 190 million), Punjabi (ca. 88 million), Marathi (ca. 70 million), Persian (ca. 70 million), Pashto (ca. 50 million), Gujarati (ca. 46 million), Bhojpuri (ca. 35 million), Awadhi (ca. 35 million), Maithili (ca. 35 million), Oriya (ca. 32 million), Marwari (ca. 31 million), Sindhi (ca. 21 million), Rajasthani (ca. 20 million), Chhattisgarhi (ca. 17 million), Assamese (ca. 17 million), Kurdish (ca. 16 million), Sinhalese (ca. 16 million), and Rangpuri (ca. 15 million).
Indo-Iranian languages were once spoken across a still wider area. The Scythians were described by Roman writer Strabo as inhabiting the lands to the north of the Black Sea in present-day Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. The river-names Don, Dnieper, Danube etc. are possibly of Indo-Iranian origin. The so-called Migration Period saw Indo-Iranian languages disappear from Eastern Europe with the arrival of the Turkic-speaking Pechenegs and others by the eighth century AD.
The oldest attested Indo-Iranian languages are Vedic Sanskrit (ancient Indian), Avestan and Old Persian (two ancient Iranian languages). But there are written instances of a fourth language in Northern Mesopotamia (see Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni) which is considered to be Indo-Aryan. It is attested in documents from the ancient empire of Mitanni and the Hittites of Anatolia.
- Vedic Sanskrit
- Central Zone
- Eastern Zone (Magadhan Prakrit languages)
- Northern Zone (Pahari languages)
- Northwestern Zone
- Western Zone
- Southern Zone
- Gathic (Old Avestan) (extinct 2nd millennium BC - the only remaining record is the Gathas of Zarathushtra)
- Eastern Iranian
- Western Iranian
- Southwestern ("Persid")
- Chakrabarti,Byomkes (1994). A comparative study of Santali and Bengali. Calcutta: K.P. Bagchi & Co. ISBN 8170741289
- Premiumorange.com, abstract of the study of Minoan language and its link with Indo-Iranian (Hubert La Marle)
- Indo-Iranian Languages and Peoples, edited by Nicholas Sims-Williams. Published 2002 for the British Academy by Oxford University Press
- Swadesh lists of Indo-Iranian basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh-list appendix)
Indic (Indo-Aryan) Old · Middle Old Middle Modern CentralOthers EasternOthers Northern North
Southern WesternOthers Iranian Old · Middle OldWesternEastern MiddleWesternEastern Modern WesternSouth (Persid)North EasternOthers Other Indo-Iranian languages Dardic NuristaniOthersItalics indicate extinct languages.
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