Before Latin: Proto-Indo-European and its Daughters
with Joshua Katz
Offered in partnership with The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
Friday, March 6, 2015

Everyone knows that Latin developed into the so-called Romance languages — French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. — but where did Latin itself come from? This class will bring together linguistics, history, and good old-fashioned grammar by introducing Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of not just Latin but also English, Greek, Farsi, Welsh, Czech, Albanian, and dozens of other languages, now thoroughly distinct, that are used across the globe, from India to Ireland and from Novosibirsk to New York City. How do we know anything about this “mother tongue,” which was spoken about 5,500 years ago, before the advent of writing, probably somewhere north on the Black Sea on the Pontic-Caspian steppe? And how does knowing about such things help us understand Latin?

A Manhattan native, Joshua Katz is Professor of Classics at Princeton University, where he been on the faculty since 1998. A linguist by training, a classicist by profession, and a comparative philologist at heart, he is broadly interested and published in the languages, literatures, and cultures of the ancient world. He has won many honors for his scholarship, including a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work in the classroom has been recognized with Princeton’s two main teaching prizes and gained him a listing in The Best 300 Professors (Random House, 2012).