Indo-Europeanization - day one
Elite recruitment and the beginnings of language politics
Language politics, or the instrumentalization of language by those with political power, has a long history. The lives of human beings and their activities inevitably unfold within a web of power relations, and their means of communication must be viewed in the same context. Although the agendas of language politics have been widely studied, little is known about the origins of the relationship between language and politics. Recent research has produced insights into the initial emergence of power relations in human society. These point to a close link between the emergence of power relations and the spread of Indo-European languages.
The first example of political power being exercised and clearly manifesting itself in society in the European context has been identified in the coastal region in the northwest of the Black Sea, at Varna, an old trade center that attracted Indo-European pastoralists from the steppes of southern Russia. As a rule, the culture of the élite becomes dominant and its language is more prestigious than that of the local population, eventually resulting in assimilation and language shift among the latter. Around 4500 B.C.E., the takeover which occurred there had a profound and lasting effect on the future development of language, culture and society in the region. These changes subsequently spread throughout southeastern Europe and beyond.
Harald Haarmann now presents the first systematic study of the initial phase of Indo-Europeanization (the process of spread and proliferation of Indo-European languages and cultures) that was set in motion by the Varna event.