[oor-hahy-maht; Ger. oor-hahy-maht]
Urheimat (German: ur- original, ancient; Heimat home, homeland) is a linguistic term denoting the original homeland of the speakers of a proto-language.

Since many peoples tend to wander and spread, there is no single Urheimat; the Indo-European Urheimat, for example, is different from the Germanic or Romance Urheimats. If the proto-language was spoken in historical times, the location of the Urheimat is typically undisputed; the Roman Empire is clearly the Urheimat of the Romance languages. If the proto-language is unattested, however, its existence, and by consequence the existence and exact location of its Urheimat, may always be of a hypothetical nature.

Indo-European homeland

After this manner, scholars have tried to identify the homeland of the Proto-Indo-European language, to which the term Urheimat is most frequently applied. Possibly relevant geographical indicators are common words for "beech" and "salmon" (while there is no common word for 'lion', for example—the fact so many European words for "lion" are similar-looking cognates is due to more recent borrowings). Many hypotheses for an Urheimat have been proposed, and said: “One does not ask ‘where is the Indo-European homeland?’ but rather ‘where do they put it now?’ ” states that current discussion of the Indo-European homeland problem is largely confined to four basic models, with variations; these are, in chronological order:

Other, less widely accepted models include the Armenian hypothesis (suggested by Soviet scholars in the 1980s), the Paleolithic Continuity Theory (suggested by Italian "paleolinguist" Mario Alinei in the 1990s), and the Out of India theory (historically suggested by Friedrich Schlegel).

Indo-Iranian homeland

The Proto-Indo-Iranians are widely identified with the bearers of the Andronovo horizon of the late 3rd and early 2nd millennia BC.

Balto-Slavic homeland

The Balto-Slavic homeland largely corresponds to the historical distribution of Baltic and Slavic, Proto-Baltic likely emerging in the eastern parts of the Corded Ware horizon.

The Slavic homeland likely corresponds to the distribution of the oldest recognisably Slavic hydronyms, found in northern and western Ukraine and southern Belarus.

Balkans dialects

The history of the Daco-Thracian/Thraco-Illyrian dialects of the Balkans is obscure. The Phrygian, Macedonian and Greek proto-languages likely also originate in the Balkans. Proto-Armenian may also be Balkans (Greco-Phrygian) derived, or at least strongly influenced by a Phrygian substrate. The Phrygian influence on (pre-)Proto-Armenian would date to circa the 7th century BC, in the context of the declining kingdom of Urartu.

Centum dialects

Celtic homeland

The Proto-Celtic homeland is usually located in the Early Iron Age Hallstatt culture of northern Austria. There is a broad consensus that the center of the La Tène culture lay on the northwest edges of the Hallstatt culture. Pre La Tène (6th to 5th century BC) Celtic expansions reached Great Britain (Insular Celtic) and Gaul. La Tène groups expanded in the 4th century BC to Hispania, the Po Valley, the Balkans, and even as far as Galatia in Asia Minor, in the course of several major migrations.

Germanic homeland

Pre-Germanic cultures were the bearers of the Nordic Bronze Age. Proto-Germanic proper likely developed in the Jastorf culture of the Pre-Roman Iron Age.

Italic homeland

Candidates for the first introduction of Proto-Italic speakers to Italy are the Terramare culture (1500 BC) or the Villanovan culture (1100 BC), although the latter is now usually identified with the non-Italic (indeed, non-Indo-European) Etruscan civilisation. Both are derived from or strongly influenced by the Urnfield culture and its predecessor, the Tumulus culture of Central Europe (1600 BC), so that the latter is a likely candidate for the homeland of an Italo-Celtic proto-language or dialect continuum.

Afro-Asiatic homeland

The more limited area part of the Afro-Asiatic Sprachraum has limited the potential areas where the that family's Urheimat could be. Generally speaking, two proposals have been developed: that Afro-Asiatic arose in the Semitic Urheimat (the Middle East/Southwest Asia), or in northeast Africa (generally, either between Darfur and Tibesti or in Ethiopia and the other countries of the Horn of Africa). The African hypothesis is considered to be rather more likely at the present time.

Austronesian homeland

The homeland of the Austronesian languages is Taiwan. On this island the deepest divisions in Austronesian are found, among the families of the native Formosan languages. According to , the Formosan languages form nine of the ten primary branches of the Austronesian language family. Comrie (2001:28) noted this when he wrote:
... the internal diversity among the... Formosan languages... is greater than that in all the rest of Austronesian put together, so there is a major genetic split within Austronesian between Formosan and the rest... Indeed, the genetic diversity within Formosan is so great that it may well consist of several primary branches of the overall Austronesian family.

Archaeological evidence (e.g., ) suggests that speakers of pre-Proto-Austronesian spread from the South Chinese mainland to Taiwan at some time around 8,000 years ago. Evidence from historical linguistics suggests that it is from this island that seafaring peoples migrated, perhaps in distinct waves separated by millennia, to the entire region encompassed by the Austronesian languages . It is believed that this migration began around 6,000 years ago . However, evidence from historical linguistics cannot bridge the gap between those two periods.

Dravidian homeland

This geographical and chronological horizon of the distribution of the Dravidian languages can correspond with an identification of Proto-Dravidian with the unknown language of the Indus Valley civilization, and the individual groups of Dravidian speakers would have been scattered after its collapse in the early 2nd millennium BC, a possibility that receives some support from human genetics: the frequency of Haplogroup L (Y-DNA) in Dravidian upper and middle castes suggests that it may have been (perhaps besides J2) the original Y-haplogroup of the creators of this civilization (Sengupta et al. 2006). Various substratic influence on Vedic Sanskrit ascribed to Dravidian lends further support to this Proto-Dravidian as the IVC language. Asko Parpola has suggested that Meluhha may be the Sumerian rendition of the a native Proto-Dravidian name for the Indus Valley Civilization.

However this is disputed and the Indus valley script is yet to be conclusively deciphered.

Harvard Indologist Michael Witzel is critical of an IVC Dravidian homeland. In the essay "Substrate Languages in Old Indo-Aryan", Witzel says "As we can no longer reckon with Dravidian influence on the early RV, this means that the language of the pre-Rigvedic Indus civilization, at least in the Panjab, was of (Para-) Austro-Asiatic nature."

Finno-Ugric homeland

The Finno-Ugric homeland cannot be located with certainty. A likely locus is the Comb Ceramic Culture of c. 4200 BC–c. 2000 BC. This is suggested by the high intralinguistic family diversity around the middle Volga River where three highly distinct branches of the Uralic family, Mordvinic, Mari, and Permic are located. Also reconstructed plant and animal names (including spruce, Siberian pine, Siberian Fir, Siberian larch, brittle willow, elm, and hedgehog) are consistent with this localization.

See also


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