Aryan, or Indo-European, Languages form collectively the largest and most highly developed division of the inflecting order of speech, of which the other chief divisions are the Semitic and the Hamitic. Their range is far more extensive than that of the Aryan peoples themselves, for they are spoken by many millions of the American aborigines, by all the African negroes in the New World, by many Russified Ugrian Finns, and by the natives in various parts of the British colonies. All descend directly, but in various divergent lines, from a primitive Aryan tongue long extinct past recovery, and all attempts at the restoration of which have proved abortive. The divergent lines, eight in number, represent each a separate branch of the primitive stock, and the divergence began at such a remote epoch that the mother tongues of each of these branches have also been long extinct past recovery. Thus we have eight distinct linguistic groups (Indic and Iranic in Asia, Thraco-Hellenic, Italic Keltic, Slavonic, Lithuanic, and Teutonic in Europe), the earliest forms of which are already so profoundly differentiated from each other that their common relationship alone can be demonstrated, the order of their divergence from the parent stem, or from some now lost intermediate stems, remaining more or less conjectural. Each group comprises two or more subdivisions, which again throw off numerous branches, the whole forming an extremely complex system.
The profound disintegration is far greater than in the Semitic family, is mainly due to the spread of Aryan speech amongst non-Aryan peoples, by whom its phonetic system and grammatical structure were diversely modified. Apart from these potent outward influences, all the Aryan tongues have throughout their historic life betrayed an inner tendency to break up the highly developed inflectional forms of the early languages, such as Sanskrit, Zend, Greek, and Latin, and thus continue their natural evolution in the direction from synthesis towards analysis. Thus the Romance or Neo-Latin gradually rejected all case-endings and passive verbal forms, and the Latin amabor, for instance, is expressed by three words in Italian and French: io saro amato; je serai aime. It would require four in English (I shall be loved), and in this respect English is the most highly developed - that is, the most analytical of all Aryan languages, having retained scarcely a dozen of the many hundred inflections characteristic of primitive Aryan speech. At the opposite pole stands the Lithuanian, which is the most synthetic - that is, retains more of the original inflectional system than any other living Aryan language. On this fact was built Latham's theory that the primeval home of the Aryan peoples may have been situated somewhere about the S.E. shores of the Baltic Sea.