The Cultural Lexicon of Indo-European in Europe: Quantifying Stability and Change

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


In this paper, we have investigated, by means of quantitative and statistical methods, stability and change in cultural vocabulary of Indo-European in Europe, with a focus on agriculture. For this purpose we have created a culture vocabulary list with lexical head words, organized into subcategories based on their role and function in a cultural system, the purpose of which is to give a representative selection of culture vocabulary terms for a specific system and a certain geographic area. Thereupon, we have collected data from a number of Indo-European languages of Europe, removed languages with too little data, omitted post-colonial borrowings, organized the lexemes into cognate sets and divided lexemes according to whether they are inherited (reconstructed or derived from Proto-Indo-European roots), loaned, or have an uncertain origin. For each term we have kept track of number of cognates, number of lexemes in languages, as well as number of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European roots. The data sets were analyzed by the R statistical tool, basically by means of principal component analysis biplots, but also by calculating standardized residuals for each of the terms and the subgroups. The results demonstrated that there is, from a geographical perspective, relatively little convergence effect on cultural vocabulary. Further, we could see a clear tendency in which manufactured objects (implements, produce) as well as the activities accompanying them (activities) were inherited to a larger extent, whereas objects belonging to the environment (game), as well as the cultural environment (domestic animals, produce) was much more uncertain. The category of predator was most loaned in our set, which could, to a certain extent, be due to the inclusion of partly non-European species. We were also able to identify a stable core vocabulary, consisting mainly of implements, some produce and domestic animal terms, which were rich in cognates and leaning towards being inherited.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTalking Neolithic
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the workshop on Indo-European origins held at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, December 2-3, 2013
EditorsGuus Kroonen, James P. Mallory, Bernard Comrie
Place of PublicationWashington
PublisherJournal of Indo-European Studies, Monograph Series
ISBN (Print)978-0-9983669-2-0 , 978-0-9845353-4-7
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
EventTalking Neolithic: The Indo-European Homeland Problem versus the Origin(s) of the First European Farmers (Workshop) - Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Duration: 2013 Dec 22013 Dec 3

Publication series

NameJournal of Indo-European studies, Monograph Series
ISSN (Print)0895-7258


WorkshopTalking Neolithic: The Indo-European Homeland Problem versus the Origin(s) of the First European Farmers (Workshop)
Internet address