Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin
Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

1.3 Family resemblances

Let us now take a closer look at the languages themselves.

Neither language is unusual from a strictly linguistic point of view. It is easier to trace connections between them and other languages than to identify any unique characteristics. You can appreciate this by thinking in terms of a ‘family tree’ of languages, with younger languages inheriting characteristics from older ones. This so-called ‘genetic’ approach to language classification gathered momentum in the late eighteenth century, especially after the demonstration in 1786 that Greek and Latin shared roots with Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. The excitement generated by this discovery is neatly captured in the following contemporary account:

The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of the verbs and in the forms of the grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer [i.e. linguist] could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists.

Sir William Jones, 1786 address to the Royal Asiatic Society in Kolkata
A275_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371