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Almost by accident I have stumbled across a grand scheme to revive Proto-Indo-European, a.k.a. PIE, as a common language for the European Union.

http://dnghu.org and then http://indo-european.eu are two good starting point websites.

No, I'm not making this up.

Nor am I seriously advocating this revival. I am merely fascinated by the Don Quixote flavor to the attempt. Indo-Europea linguistics are a hobby of mine, as regular readers of this space know, but it had never crossed my mind that it might have practical applications. In fact, I was just remarking to [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de at WFC that I love PIE studies because they are so meaningless. Well, meaningless no more! This is definitely several steps up from those groups that speak Quenya or Klingon in rigor though probably much less fun.

The advocates point out that back in the 1800s no one would have believed that Hebrew could be revived as the speech of a living nation, but with Israel we're talking about a much smaller, highly motivated, and reasonably uniform population compared to the vast and heavily populated reaches of Europe, including Western, Middle, and Slavic-speaking nations, all the way from Ireland to Siberia, really.

And of course, PIE is a reconstructed language. It's likely that scholars have gotten it mostly right, but there are no guarantees that any given word or bit of grammar ever existed. What's more, it's extremely complicated, with more cases, voices, tenses, and inflections than Greek, Sanskrit, or Latin. (Which some here are probably thinking were bad enough.)

Its advocates know this, but they certainly have a point when they say that the EU needs a common language. There are a lot of people, particularly students with the time to worry about such issues, who resent the fact that the common language that's emerging by default is English with strong overtones of American English at that. Still, I'd say that the parallel campaign to just go back to idiomatic Latin has more chance to succeed -- and alas, it doesn't have much.

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Katharine B Kerr

April 2017

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