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Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction [Paperback]

by Benjamin W. Fortson IV
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 17, 2009 1405188960 978-1405188968 2
This revised and expanded edition provides a comprehensive overview of comparative Indo-European linguistics and the branches of the Indo-European language family, covering both linguistic and cultural material. Now offering even greater coverage than the first edition, it is the definitive introduction to the field.
  • Updated, corrected, and expanded edition, containing new illustrations of selected texts and inscriptions, and text samples with translations and etymological commentary
  • Extensively covers individual histories of both ancient and modern languages of the Indo-European family
  • Provides an overview of Proto-Indo-European culture, society, and language
  • Designed for use in courses, with exercises and suggestions for further reading included in each chapter
  • Includes maps, a glossary, a bibliography, and comprehensive word and subject indexes

Frequently Bought Together

Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction + Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics) + The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, Third Edition
Price for all three: $100.00

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for the Previous Edition:

"Superb … [Fortson's] short general discussions of the histories and ecologies of the individual languages are the best I have ever read." (Recensiones - Salesianum, 2008)

"I would like to conclude by stressing that this is an excellent textbook. I have taught from it, and the students in my class not only learned a great deal from it, they also seemed to enjoy the book almost as much as I did." (Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

"Finally, there is a reliable, engaging and accessible presentation of the communis opinio. And there are even exercises! … Fortson has produced an excellent book that fulfills its goals admirably. I hope it will inspire a renaissance of Indo-European linguistics in English speaking countries." (Journal of the American Oriental Society)


"Ben Fortson's book is the best existing introduction to Indo-European linguistics: up-to-date and comprehensive, accessible without being oversimplified. Students and interested laypersons will find it indispensable."
Don Ringe, University of Pennsylvania

"Fortson’s Introduction continues to be the textbook of choice for introductory Indo-European. In its presentation of both fact and theory, it is a marvel of accuracy, completeness, and sound judgment."
Brent Vine, UCLA

"The perfect book for an introductory Indo-European course, lively and engaging throughout, yet detailed, accurate, and authoritative. The hands-on exercises at the end of each chapter are a unique and valuable feature."
Jay Jasanoff, Harvard University

"This is an excellent introduction to Proto-Indo-European and its study. Both the chapters on various aspects of PIE grammar and those describing the various Indo-European branches are masterly précis of their subjects. As a Tocharianist I’m pleased to see that all branches of Indo-European are given the same thoughtful, substantial treatment. Both novices and the experienced Indo-Europeanists will read this book with profit; more than one of the latter group will wish he had written himself."
Douglas Q. Adams, University of Idaho

Product Details

  • Paperback: 568 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (August 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405188960
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405188968
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I wish I'd had in 1974 July 2, 2006
This is the book I wish I'd had when I took Introduction to Indoeuropean many years ago. It covers not only the traditional topic of the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European but PIE culture, homeland, and migrations. The most valuable part is the survey of the subgroups of IE. It gives much more extensive coverage than is usual to "minor" subgroups such as Tocharian, Albanian, and Armenian, and does not ignore the lesser known languages within subgroups, such as the Anatolian languages other than Hittite and the minor Italic languages.

By providing information about the entire subgroup, not just its earliest attested languages, it avoids the overemphasis on reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European of so many books on this topic and thereby provides more of a sense of the history of the many and widespread languages of this important language family. Even for linguists, historical linguistics is not only about reconstruction of protolanguages: it is also about how particular languages have changed over time and how language change works in general. Non-linguists are also likely to be interested in questions like: "How did the Slavic languages get to be the way they are?". Books that focus exclusively on reconstruction and earliest attestations do a poor job of responding to such questions.

The view of Indo-European presented is modern, with good coverage of laryngeal theory, but appropriately conservative for an introductory book in not digressing excessively on marginal aspects of the field, such as possible remoter connections of Indo-European and reconstruction strongly influenced by typology.

It is a virtue of this book that all data is provided in romanization as this makes it accessible to people who are not already committed students of Indo-European.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book That is What It Says It Is! October 24, 2005
Fortson has intended this book to be an introduction for the undergraduates, and it exactly is that, and a bit more (in my experience with undergrads, not all of them are very comfotable with learning about complicated linguistic theories).

The book's first part has sections on the history of IE studies and discusses matters of Morphology, Phonology, Nouns, Verbs, and Syntax in seperate chapters which are well written, but sometimes uneven. The second half of the book runs through each major IE linguistic subgroup, sometimes paying attention to some groups more than others.

For those previous reviewers who seem to find the book ineffcient, I have to repeat that this book has no claim of replacing Szemerenyi or Meier-Brugger, which are more advance handbooks for already well-versed IE experts. Also, for someone who asked "do we want to admit people to the field who have no Greek", my answer would be, why not? Who said Greek and Latin should be the prerequisites to IE? Why not admit someone who is familiar with Sanskrit or OCS or Avestan to the field, and then make them learn Greek? It is quite common for people with good Greek or Latin who come in and then embark upon learning Sanskrit and the rest, so why not the other way around? I disagree with the statement on the transliteratio of Greek being annoying. You would expect him to transliterate Hittite and Sanskrit and OCS and the rest, so why not Greek?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Introduction for the Curious June 27, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book comes in two parts, an overview of Proto-Indo-European (including cultural as well as linguistic considerations), and a survey of each branch of the family. The first part serves its purpose fairly well as an introduction, although I'm not sure how much sense the discussion of (say) the verbal system makes without experience in at least one old IE language. Still, the discussions of IE grammar are relatively clear and accessible. If you want a more elegant view of this material, I recommend James Clackson's Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics), which covers much the same material in a crystal clear style, and navigates the controversies of reconstruction a bit more masterfully (unsurprising, since Clackson's book is explicitly designed to cover the controversial aspects of the field for a relative beginner). I highly recommend using these two books together (especially since Clackson has no survey of the branches as Fortson does).

The second half is where Fortson really shines. Each chapter covers one particular branch, and they can easily be read independently of each other in any order. If some reviewers aren't interested in all the branches, or in some of the more recent languages which Fortson discusses, then they can just skip those sections; Fortson makes it easy. Each chapter contains sections on history and culture, outlines the main characteristics of each branch, and then discusses the grammatical features each sub-family within the branch.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a useful introduction to Indo-European linguistics, and it provides the barest of introductions to the cutural aspects. These are hardly on the same level: the linguistic introduction is solid and well-developed, while the cutural aspects are barely outlined and largely undeveloped.

The book provides a reasonably comprehensive but introductory survey to each of the Indo-European language branches, as well as brief surveys within the branches. Each of these surveys looks at phonological, morphological, and syntactic changes.

This book is designed to take an absolute beginner from no knowledge in comparative linguistics to a point of having a good foundation of the comparative and historical linguistics of the Indo-European language family. While I am not entirely sure this book hits the mark there (it starts out assuming no knowledge but moves forward EXTREMELY FAST), it certainly is close.

I would recommend this work subject to the caveat that the promise of an introduction to Indo-European cultural studies is entirely unfulfilled.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle version has trouble with IPA symbols
The Kindle version of this book has difficulty displaying IPA symbols. They are always displayed in Times New Roman and at the smallest possible font size. Read more
Published 1 month ago by C.A.J.
5.0 out of 5 stars The best single handbook for Indo-European comparative philology
Much improved in its second edition, this is now the best introduction and companion to Indo-European comparative linguistics going, and the one to get if you only want to own ONE... Read more
Published on June 9, 2011 by Simon Esposito
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book About Indo-European
There is simply not another book currently available that is a more comprehensive or better introduction to Indo-European linguistics. Read more
Published on October 2, 2010 by Allan R. Bomhard
1.0 out of 5 stars The very foundation of Indo European linguistics has evaporated
"Therefore, something must be wrong with the Germanic Consonant Shift. That wrong thing cannot possibly be sought at the Germanic end because the phonetic equation (Lat `pater'=... Read more
Published on February 10, 2009 by Mayuresh Kelkar
4.0 out of 5 stars Indo-European language & culture
I have been studying both linguistics and languages for years. I am particularly interested in historical linguistics. Read more
Published on January 9, 2007 by Thomas Stadtmiller
4.0 out of 5 stars Very much an introduction
A reasonable overview for the absolute beginner, though not one that inspires confidence that the author is fully conversant with the field. Read more
Published on April 9, 2005 by reader
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel introduction, but needs accompaniment by others
Introductory handbooks to comparative Indo-European linguistics, expecting their readers to chase monographs and have some prior knowledge of comparative method and a couple of... Read more
Published on February 20, 2005 by Christopher Culver
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Indo-European Book by far (i.e, today 4/1/05)
This is a super-duper book and not only for first-timers to the subject matter but also for the seasonal and avid Indo-European scholars.

What does this book do? Read more
Published on January 4, 2005 by P. Mills
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