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EVIDENCE THE BEAKER PEOPLES SPOKE INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES
 
by Marc Verhaegen
Marc.Verhaegen@village.uunet.be
 
 
Linguistic evidence supports Marija Gimbutas's hypothesis that Proto-Indo-European (PIE) was spoken on the Ukrainian steppes, confirms the long-held hypothesis that Indo-European languages were brought to Europe with the Beaker cultures about 3000 BC (Beekes 1990), and contradicts Colin Renfrew's hypothesis (1987) that they came to Europe with the first farmers 6000 or 5000 BC.

The Dutch words touw and tooi have the same etymology  (just as Dutch gouw and Gooi (Gooi is derived from the declined case), which both mean 'district'; or as Dutch ooi, English ewe and Latin oui-, which mean 'a female sheep'). But their meaning is quite different: touw (German Tau) means 'a cord', and tooi means 'ornament'. They are related to the weak verbs tooien 'to decorate', voltooien 'to complete', Gothic taujan 'to complete, to make', and Runic Scandinavian ek ... horna tawido on the Gallehus gold horn of Jutland, made in AD 400 'I decorated/made [this] horn' or in Dutch ik tooide [deze] hoorn (De Vries 1979; Todd 1994). Weak verbs in Germanic were frequently derived from nouns by -i/j-,  or -ian/jan in the infinitive (PIE denominativa were already produced with the suffix -ei/i-, see Beekes 1990; and De Vries 1982). Proto-Germanic *taujan thus meant 'to use a cord' and more specifically 'to finish by decorating with a cord'. Later, when the link with a cord got lost, the meaning was generalized and became 'to decorate' or 'to complete' as in Gothic taujan and Dutch (vol)tooien (whence tooi).

This evidence suggests that cords were used for decoration by the Indo-European speaking population. The first archaeological evidence in Europe for ornamentation using cords was found in the Pontic steppes, where horses were domesticated about 4000 BC (Sherrat 1994a). At Dereivka on the Dnepr, for example, pots (beakers) were finished with cord impressions. It was from the Kurgan or the Pit Grave culture in this region that about 3000 BC the Corded Ware culture spread over the North European Plain, to southern Scandinavia and to the Baltic region and Russia (Sherrat 1994a & b). About 2500 BC, the Bell-beaker culture, a variant of the Corded Ware beakers in the Rhine delta, spread over most of western Europe as far as Scotland, Portugal and Sicily  (Sherrat 1994b). Possibly the Balto-Slavic and Germanic languages derive from the Corded Ware culture and the Celto-Italic languages from the Bell-beaker culture.
 

 
 
 
Literature:
Beekes, R. S. P. 1990. Vergelijkende Taalwetenschap. Utrecht, Netherlands: Spectrum (Tr. Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, Amsterdam: Benjamins).
Cunliffe, B., ed. 1994. The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Renfrew, Colin 1987. Archaeology and Language. New York: Cambridge UP.
Sherrat, A. 1994a. The Transformation of Early Agrarian Europe: The Later Neolithic and Copper Ages 4500-2500 BC. In Cunliffe, ed., pp. 167-201.
------. 1994b. The Emergence of Elites: Earlier Bronze Age Europe, 2500-1300 BC. In Cunliffe, ed., pp. 244-276.
Todd, M. 1994. Barbarian Europe, AD 300-700. In Cunliffe, ed., pp.
447-482.
Vries, J. W. de. 1979. Etymologisch Woordenboek. Utrecht, The Netherlands: Spectrum.
------. 1982. Elementair Gotisch. Muiderberg, The Netherlands: Coutinho.