The prehistoric origin and spread of the Indo-Iranian languages: A linguistic test of hypotheses rooted in genetics and archaeology


This project aims to contribute to understanding the prehistoric origin of the Indo-Iranian languages and their dispersal to Asia.
The Indo-Iranian languages include Hindi, Persian and many other languages of South and Western Asia. As a sub-group of the Indo-European language family, the Indo-Iranian branch derives from Proto-Indo-European, believed to have been spoken north-east of the Black Sea around 3500-3000 BCE.
The traditional view is that early Indo-Iranian speakers migrated east from the Proto-Indo-European homeland to Asia, settling south of the Urals and forming what archaeologists call the Sintashta culture. However, recent studies on ancient DNA have shown that the population of Sintashta traces their genetic ancestry to Central Europe, suggesting that early Indo-Iranian speakers migrated through Europe instead of directly eastwards. The spread of DNA, however, does not necessarily entail the spread of languages.
The main goal of this project is therefore to study the linguistic evidence for the migration path of early Indo-Iranian speakers, to determine whether the alternative hypothesis is superior to the traditional scenario. To do this, I will investigate whether Indo-Iranian languages have inherited agricultural vocabulary that is likely to have been adopted in Europe. Additionally, I will explore whether Indo-Iranian formed a sub-group with one of the European branches of the Indo-European language family.
The results are expected to shed new light on the origin of Indo-Iranian languages. Moreover, it will contribute to fine-tuning the methodology of cross-testing linguistic, archaeological and genetic evidence to achieve a better understanding of prehistory.





Dr. G.J. Kroonen

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL)


A.I Palmér


01/09/2019 tot 31/08/2023