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Thread: Hurro-Urartian as a sister to Indo-European

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    Hurro-Urartian as a sister to Indo-European

    Hurro-Urartian (HU) is a now extinct language family that was spoken in the Bronze Age/Iron Age Near East that consisted of two distinct languages: Hurrian and Urartian. Some compelling evidence has linked a third language, Kassite, to the HU family, but this relationship is uncertain.

    Officially, the HU family is unrelated to any other linguistic families, although there have been attempts to link it to other, primarily Caucasus-based, linguistic families. An oft-cited, and oft-misunderstood, theory asserts that the speakers of Proto-Hurro-Urartian (i.e. the theoretical, unattested common ancestor to both Hurrian and Urartian) were in close contact with speakers of early languages/dialects of Northeast Caucasian.

    The late French linguist Emmanuel Laroche, who specialized in both Indo-European and Hurrian languages, proposed that there was a genetic relationship between HU and Proto-Indo-European (PIE). More recently, French linguist Arnaud Fournet and American linguist Allan R. Bomhard have continued Laroche's work, comparing HU and PIE vocabularies, morphologies, and syntaxes to one another.

    In a paper from last week, Fournet has taken this research one step further and suggests that Hurro-Urartian is a branch of the IE language family that broke off from IE prior to Anatolian (Hittite, Luwian, etc) separating from the main dialect of IE. In other words, Fournet argues that HU descends from a very early dialect of IE, and is a sister language group to PIE, in much the same way David Reich and others suggest occurred with Anatolian languages like Hittite.

    Many researchers have speculated that Proto-Hurro-Urartian was spoken by the Kura-Araxes people (a Bronze Age civilization that spread out from the South Caucasus to cover much of the Near East from the Mediterranean to the Caspian). If this was the case, then HU developed in a similar geographic region to where Pre-Proto-Indo-European was spoken, which could support Laroche's/Fournet's/Bomhard's theory. This could also explain the theorized links to various Caucasus language families.

    I think it's an interesting idea, but what I don't understand is why these similarities couldn't be explained by mutual influence from Indo-European languages--for example Hurrian and Urartian coming into contact with Hittite, Luwian, Indo-Iranian, Armenian, Phrygian, and Mushki languages. But Fournet asserts that "most Hurrian words with probable or established meanings are derived from PIE" or comparable to PIE, so it seems like he's suggesting these words have to be native Hurrian and not loans.
    Last edited by tyuiopman; 15-08-19 at 18:10. Reason: formatting

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