Of Beasts and Men – The Animals of the Proto-Indo-Europeans

Of Beasts and Men – The Animals of the Proto‑Indo‑Europeans is a research project with the goal to reconstruct and analyse the animal-related lexicon of the Proto-Indo-European language in order to find out what animals (wild and domesticated) were known to the speakers of PIE,  which word-formation patterns were involved in the naming of the animals, and what the etymology of these animal names can tell us about the structure of the prehistorical PIE society and/or their view of the world.

These goals will be attained by comparing the animal names attested in the Indo-European daughter languages for cognates (i.e. words that go back to the same PIE source), by analyzing their derivational structure using a modern methodology of morphosemantic breakdown, and by interpreting the semantic constituents and concepts of the animal names in view of their derivational meaning.

The important benefits that will be gained by this research project are a better understanding of the fauna, and thus the environment, surrounding the speakers of PIE, knowledge about the most archaic PIE nominal word-formation processes, and precious cultural insights into the every-day lives and into the minds of our linguistic ancestors.

The project’s results are expected to be an important contribution to our understanding of the prehistory of Europe and its speakers, and valuable for specialists of PIE word formation, historical linguists in general, scholars of archaeology, genetics, prehistory, and even the broad public.