Standard Average European (SAE) is a concept introduced by Benjamin Whorf to distinguish Indo-European and especially Western Indo-European languages from languages of other grammatical types. According to Whorf, people whose languages have very different systems of grammar perceive reality in different ways and conceive of it in different forms. He further hypothesized that language wields a profound influence on human thought - this is known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. In Linguistics, the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis ( SWH) (also known as the " Linguistic relativity hypothesis " postulates a systematic relationship
Studies of grammatical systems appear to support the existence of large language groups or sprachbunds. A Sprachbund (ˈʃpraːxbʊnt in German plural Sprachbünde) from the German word for “language union” also known as a linguistic area, convergence The more central members of the SAE sprachbund are Romance, Western Germanic, Baltic and Slavic. The Romance languages (sometimes referred to as Romanic languages, or Neolatin languages) are a branch of the Indo-European language family comprising all The Germanic languages are a group of related languages that constitute a branch of the Indo-European (IE Language family. The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages) a group of closely related Languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages The North Germanic and Eastern European languages tend to be more peripheral members. The North Germanic languages or Scandinavian languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages, a sub-family of the Indo-European languages Most of the many Languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European Language family.
Alexander Gode, who was instrumental in the development of Interlingua, characterized this language as Standard Average European. Alexander Gottfried Friedrich Gode-von-Aesch or simply Alexander Gode ( October 30, 1906 in Bremen - August 10, 1970 Interlingua is an International auxiliary language (IAL developed between 1937 and 1951 by the International Auxiliary Language Association (IALA  The Romance, Germanic, and Slavic control languages of Interlingua are reflective of the language groups most often included in the SAE sprachbund. Piron described the vocabulary of Esperanto as being largely Romance and especially French, with Germanic and Slavic elements. . However, Piron did not describe Esperanto as being Standard Average European.
Standard Average European as a sprachbund
According to Martin Haspelmath (2001), the SAE languages form a sprachbund characterized by the following features:
- definite and indefinite articles (e. Prof Dr Martin Haspelmath (born 1963) is a German linguist working in the field of Linguistic typology. A Sprachbund (ˈʃpraːxbʊnt in German plural Sprachbünde) from the German word for “language union” also known as a linguistic area, convergence g. English the vs. a);
- postnominal relative clauses with inflected, resumptive relative pronouns (e. g. English who vs. whom);
- a periphrastic perfect formed with 'have' plus a passive participle (e. g. English I have said);
- a preponderance of generalizing predicates to encode experiencers, i. e. experiencers appear as surface subjects in nominative case, e. The nominative case is a Grammatical case for a Noun, which generally marks the subject of a Verb, as opposed to its object or other g. English I like music);
- a passive construction formed with a passive participle plus an intransitive copula-like verb (e. g. English I am known);
- a prominence of anticausatives in inchoative-causative pairs, i. e. in the pair The snow melts vs. The flame melts the ice, the intransitive verb is derived from the transitive);
- dative external possessors (e. g. German Die Mutter wusch dem Kind die Haare = The mother washed the child's hair);
- verbal negation with a negative indefinite (e. g. English Nobody listened);
- particle comparatives in comparisons of inequality (e. g. English bigger than an elephant) ;
- equative constructions based on adverbial-relative clause structures (e. g. French grand comme un élephant);
- subject person affixes as strict agreement markers, i. e. the verb is inflected for person and number of the subject, but subject pronouns may not be dropped (only in some languages, such as German and French);
- differentiation between intensifiers and reflexive pronouns (e. g. German intensifier selbst vs. reflexive sich).
Besides these features, which are uncommon outside Europe and thus useful for defining the SAE area, Haspelmath (2001) lists further features characteristic of European languages (but also found elsewhere):
- verb-initial order in yes/no questions;
- comparative inflection of adjectives (e. g. English bigger);
- conjunction A and B;
- syncretism of comitative and instrumental cases (e. The comitative case, also known as the associative case, is a Grammatical case that denotes companionship and is used where English would use "in company with" The instrumental case (also called the eighth case) is a Grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the g. English with my friends vs. with a knife);
- suppletivism in second vs. In Linguistics and Etymology, suppletion is traditionally understood as the use of one word as the inflected form of another word when the two words two;
- no distinction between alienable (e. g. legal property) and inalienable (e. g. body part) possession;
- no distinction between inclusive ("we and you") and exclusive ("we and not you") first-person plural pronouns;
- no productive usage of reduplication;
- topic and focus expressed by intonation and word order;
- word order Subject Verb Object;
- only one gerund, preference for finite subordinate clauses;
- specific "neither-nor" construction;
- phasal adverbs (e. Reduplication, in Linguistics, is a morphological Process by which the root or stem of a Word, or part of it is repeated In Linguistics, the topic (or theme) is the part of the proposition that is being talked about ( predicated) Focus is a concept in linguistic theory that deals with how information in one phrase relates to information that has come before In Linguistic typology, subject-verb-object ( SVO) is a sentence structure where the subject comes first the Verb second and the object In Linguistics, “gerund” is a term used to refer to various non-finite verb forms in various languages As applied to English, g. English already, still, not yet);
- tendency towards replacement of past tense by perfect tense. The past tense is a Verb tense expressing action activity state or being in the past of the current moment (in an Absolute tense system or prior The perfect aspect is variously considered either an aspect or tense which calls a listener's attention to the consequences generated by an action rather than the
There is also a broad agreement in the following parameters (not listed in Haspelmath 2001):
- absence of phonemic opposition velar/uvular;
- only pulmonic consonants;
- at least three degrees of vowel height (minimum inventory i e a o u);
- predominantly suffixing morphology;
- moderately synthetic fusional morphological typology;
- nominative-accusative morphosyntactic alignment. Uvulars are Consonants articulated with the back of the Tongue against or near the uvula, that is further back in the mouth than Velar consonants A pulmonic consonant is a Consonant produced by air pressure from the lungs as opposed to ejective, implosive and Click consonants Most languages For fusion in Word formation, see Compound (linguistics. A fusional language (also called inflecting language) is a In Linguistics, morphosyntactic alignment is the system used to distinguish between the arguments of Transitive verbs and those of Intransitive
The sprachbund defined this way consists of the following languages:
- Germanic languages;
- Romance languages;
- Baltic languages;
- Slavic languages;
- Hungarian. The Germanic languages are a group of related languages that constitute a branch of the Indo-European (IE Language family. The Romance languages (sometimes referred to as Romanic languages, or Neolatin languages) are a branch of the Indo-European language family comprising all The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages) a group of closely related Languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages Albanian (sq ''Gjuha shqipe'' ˈɟuha ˈʃcipɛ is an Indo-European language spoken by nearly 6 million peoplewhile others claim that it derives from Daco - Modern Greek (el Νέα Ελληνικά or el Νεοελληνική lit Hungarian ( magyar nyelv) is a Uralic language (more specifically a Ugric language) unrelated to most other languages in Europe.
The Balkan sprachbund is thus included. The Balkan Sprachbund or linguistic area is the ensemble of Areal features —similarity in grammar syntax vocabulary and phonology—among languages of Not all the languages listed above show all the twelve listed features; the western European languages show more SAE features than the eastern and northern ones, with German, Dutch, French, Occitan and the Northern Italian languages at the core of the sprachbund. The German language (de ''Deutsch'') is a West Germanic language and one of the world's major languages. Dutch ( is a West Germanic language spoken by around 24 million people 22 million of which are from the Netherlands, Belgium and Suriname French ( français,) is a Romance language spoken around the world by 118 million people as a native language and by about 180 to 260 million people Occitan ( IPA BrE: /ˈɒksɪtn/ AmE: /ˈɑksəˌtɑn/ known also as Lenga d'òc or Langue d'oc (native name occitan Italian ( or lingua italiana) is a Romance language spoken by about 63 million people as a First language, primarily in Italy. All SAE languages except Hungarian are Indo-European languages, but not all Indo-European languages are SAE languages: the Celtic, Armenian and Indo-Iranian languages remain outside the SAE sprachbund, as do the non-Indo-European languages of Europe except Hungarian. The term Insular Celtic refers to those Celtic languages which originated in the British Isles, in contrast to the Continental Celtic languages of The Armenian language (hy հայերեն լեզու hajɛɹɛn lɛzu —, conventional short form) is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian The Indo-Iranian language group constitutes the easternmost extant branch of the Indo-European family of languages
The Standard Average European sprachbund is most likely the result of ongoing language contact beginning in the time of the Völkerwanderung and continuing during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance until today. Language contact occurs when speakers of distinct speech varieties interact The Migration Period, also called Barbarian Invasions, or sometimes Völkerwanderung ( German for "wandering of peoples" is the English name The Renaissance (from French Renaissance, meaning "rebirth" Italian: Rinascimento, from re- "again" and nascere Inheritance of the SAE features from Proto-Indo-European can be ruled out because Proto-Indo-European, as currently reconstructed, lacked most of the SAE features.
Haspelmath, Martin. 2001. The European linguistic area: Standard Average European. Handbuch der Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft vol. 20. 2, pp. 1492-1510.
Heine, Bernd and Kuteva, Tania. 2006. The Changing Languages of Europe. Oxford University Press.
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