use it as race) has been a very difficult riddle to solve with claims and
counter-claims being made by several scholars. Different sources, such as
philology, literature, archaeology and anthropology, have been taken into
consideration by scholars which has led to divergent views on the issue. So,
the issue still remains open to debate and all attempts at arriving at a
consensus have not been all that fruitful.
The problem was brought into focus in the late 16th century when Filippo
Sasetti, a Florentine (Italian), made a comparative study of many ancient
languages. He discovered close affinities between Sanskrit and some of
the principal languages of Europe such as Greek, Latin, Gothic (Teutonic
or Germanic) and Celtic (English), and also Persian. Some important
words of common use show the striking similarities between these
languages. For example, ‘mother’ in English is known as matr in Sanskrit,
mater in Persian, metor in Greek, mater in Latin, and mutter in German.
These similar words could have been used in the families only when their
ancestors must have lived together for a sufficiently long time.
But it was Sir William Jones who in 1786 suggested that these striking
similarities and affinities could not be accidental but rather must have
originated from a mother language unknown to us. The speakers of that
mother language are now called the ‘Indo-Europeans’, and the languages
of their successors the ‘Indo-European languages’.
Max Mueller called these languages ‘Aryan’, but stressed clearly that the
word ‘Aryan’ means language, and not race. However, Penka, another
German scholar, identified language with race, setting off an unending
controversy whether ‘Aryan’ should refer to language alone, or to race
alone, or to both. It is now held by many that the term refers to language
only, though a few still use it in the sense of a race.
Scholars have often made use of ancient literature to trace the original home