A more recent, revised and updated version of this paper has been published (2019)

Consequences of the Indo-European demic diffusion model

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There is a long-held assumption, since the kurgan hypothesis was laid out[Gimbutas 1963], that Corded Ware herders had helped spread Indo-European languages into Europe and Asia. This assumption, continued into modern times[Beekes 2011], is not fully explained by recent archaeological research[Anthony 2007][Anthony 2013][Harrison and Heyd 2007][Heyd 2012], and recent findings in ancient human genetics question it on the grounds of a different path for human migration from the steppes.

To reject this old tenet has wide-ranging consequences:

  • The natural trend of Indo-Europeanists to date Indo-European proto-languages all separated at the same time, and usually farther back in time than is warranted by the linguistic evidence[Kortlandt 1990] is challenged, offering a more naturally stepped separation. There is no need to place all known Indo-European branches simultaneously separated in a massive expansion into Corded Ware, Middle Dnieper, Bell Beaker, and Fatyanovo/Abashevo/Sintashta cultures[Anthony 2007][Anthony 2013].
  • Some Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian similarities can be thought of as stemming from a common Corded Ware language substrate, with potential implications for the still prevalent three-dorsal series theory – which seems to be a resilient tradition from the early days of the centum–satem division of Indo-European, and has long been contested with sound linguistic arguments[Lehmann 1952]. The association of this language substrate with Proto-Uralic offers an elegant explanation for these developments, and is supported by linguistic, archaeological, and now also ancient genetic data.
  • A shared linguistic unity of Italic, Celtic, Germanic, and probably Balto-Slavic, is likely to have existed, probably slightly earlier than Proto-Indo-Iranian, and both later than a potential Paleo-Balkan community.
  • Pre-Germanic is more likely to have been imported into southern Scandinavia by peoples of mainly R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106 lineages (maybe already mixed with I1-M253 lineages), marking the transition to the Nordic Bronze Age. The precise pre-North-West-Indo-European linguistic landscape of Scandinavia is unknown, but the previous arrival and likely expansion of peoples of R1a1a1b-Z645 lineages might have brought with them (Uralic) languages of east Europe, which had probably in turn replaced earlier Neolithic languages[Kroonen 2012].
  • An Italo-Celtic community is compatible with this expansion model, as is their close contact with a Pre-Germanic community, in a period of intense economic exchanges during the Bronze Age.


  • [Anthony 2007] ^ 1 2 Anthony, D. 2007. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
  • [Anthony 2013] ^ 1 2 Anthony, D. W. 2013. Two IE phylogenies, three PIE migrations, and four kinds of steppe pastoralism. Journal of Language Relationship (9):1-21.
  • [Beekes 2011] ^ Beekes, Robert S.P. 2011. Comparative Indo-European Linguistics. An introduction. 2nd ed. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • [Gimbutas 1963] ^ Gimbutas, Marija. 1963. The Indo-Europeans: Archeological Problems. American Anthropologist 65 (4):815-836.
  • [Harrison and Heyd 2007] ^ Harrison, Richard, and Volker Heyd. 2007. The Transformation of Europe in the Third Millennium BC: the example of ‘Le Petit-Chasseur I + III’ (Sion, Valais, Switzerland). Praehistorische Zeitschrift 82 (2).
  • [Heyd 2012] ^ Heyd, Volker. 2012. Yamnaya gropus and tumuli west of the Black Sea. Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée. Série recherches archéologiques 58 (1):535-555.
  • [Kortlandt 1990] ^ Kortlandt, Frederik. 1990. The spread of the Indo-Europeans. Journal of Indo-European Studies 18 (2):131-140.
  • [Kroonen 2012] ^ Kroonen, Guus. 2012. Non-Indo-European root nouns in Germanic: Evidence in support of the Agricultural Substrate Hypothesis. In A Linguistic Map of Prehistoric Northern Europe, edited by R. Grünthal and P. Kallio. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seura.
  • [Lehmann 1952] ^ Lehmann, W. P. 1952. Proto-Indo-European Phonology. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.