Finnish is related only to Estonian, Hungarian and some minority languages whose speakers are scattered across the north of Russia. But, Kalevi Wiik argues, Finno-Ugrian languages may originally have been spoken by the whole of northern Europe

There are currently three different major families of languages in Europe: the Indo-Europeans, the Finno-Ugrians and the Basques. The numbers of speakers are highly disproportionate: there are around 700 million speakers of Indo-European languages (about 97 per cent of Europeans), about 22 million Finno-Ugrians (including the Hungarians, Finns and Estonians, 3 per cent of the European total), and about 1.7 million Basques (0.2 per cent).
     Relations between the families of languages have long been changing in the sense that the proportion of speakers of Indo-European languages has been growing at the expense of speakers of the Finno-Ugrian and Basque languages. The same development has affected the areas in which they are spoken: Indo-European areas have grown while Finno-Ugrian and Basque areas have shrunk. The Indo-European languages have forced the Finno-Ugrian and Basque languages into ever more peripheral areas, the Finno-Ugrian languages toward the Arctic Ocean and Basque toward the Pyrenees.
     Over the millennia, in other words, the areas in which the Finno-Ugrian and Basque languages are spoken have shrunk, with areas favourable to farming been transferred into the hands of speakers of Indo-European languages. The change has probably always taken place (at least largely) in the same way as it does today: speakers of the Finno-Ugrian and Basque languages have gradually changed to Indo-European languages; in the process, the border between the Finno-Ugrian languages and the Indo-European languages has, step by step, moved northwards, while that between the Basque languages and the Indo-European languages has shifted closer and closer to the Pyrenees. This shifting of linguistic borders has not been the result of the moving of populations, or migration. Rather, the history of populations in northern and western Europe has been immobile, based more on cultural and linguistic diffusion than on demic diffusion.
     The initial shifts in the borders between the Finno-Ugrian and Indo-European and the Basque and Indo-European languages was caused by the spread of agriculture and animal husbandry. Agriculture and animal husbandry were so much more effective as a means of subsistence than hunting, fishing and gathering that the hunter-fisher-gatherers willingly changed their system of livelihood to agricultural and animal husbandry, at the same time switching from their own languages to the Indo-European tongue of the farmers.
     I shall present my understanding of the development of the peoples and languages of northern Europe in the millennia following the Ice Age with the help of four maps.

Map 1 depicts the climax of the Ice Age and the period that followed, between 23,000 and 8,000 BC. During this glacial and postglacial period, the periglacial zone contained plentiful biomass or food, since it was able to support large numbers of large herd animals, including mammoths, bison, bears, elk and wild horses. Because of their easy sub-sistence, the peoples of the periglacial zone were the most successful in Europe. As often happens with successful populations, the population of the periglacial zone grew, its living areas expanded and began to overlap. The most important result of this period was that integration occurred within the periglacial zone. This concerned all levels, cultures, genetics and languages. Previously relatively small and separate cultures, genetic groups and language areas became more homogeneous, and their areas coalesced into a more or less uniform periglacial zone. Essential from the point of view of language was that, as a result of integration, the periglacial zone developed into a linguistic zone in which neighbouring populations were able to communicate with each other irrespective of how different their languages had originally been: a chain of languages or dialects developed that may be called Uralic. It is possible that a corresponding growth and unification also occurred in western Europe. There, the result was the area of the Basque languages.
     There was, however, no corres-ponding unification of populations and languages in the central and southern zones of Europe: the peoples of this area represented, in the Ice Age, less successful small-game hunters. This area remained variegated in the old way, with smaller cultural, genetic and linguistic areas than in the periglacial zone.
     Accordingly, in the year 8,000 BC, Europe had at least three large linguistic areas: the comparatively unified area of Uralic languages (U), the western area of Basque languages (B) and, in the centre and south of the continent, an area of many unknown small languages (X).
     It should be said that the genetically unusual Sami population of northern Norway (who, during the Ice Age, lived considerably further to the south on the North Sea continent), belonged, according to my hypothesis, to the periglacial zone whose languages, at least partially, unified. The unusual genetic quality of these Sami is based on the fact that they had for a long time (perhaps from about 10,000 to 3,000BC) been isolated in western and northern Norway from other northern Europeans, and a series of genetic mutations took place in them.

By 5,500 BC, agriculture and animal husbandry and, in their wake, the Indo-European languages, had spread from the direction of Greece into the entire central and southern part of Europe (see map 2). By now, in other words, the speakers of the small languages of central and southern Europe had adopted agriculture and animal husbandry and the Indo-European language. They spoke a number of Indo-European dialects con-taining substrata from older small languages; in other words, the Indo-European dialects were spoken with different accents in different parts of central and southern Europe, and the differences in contemporary Indo-European languages (for example Greek and Albanian) are largely based on these. For example, the Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Celtic and Romance languages did not yet exist at this stage; their future areas were still occupied by the Uralic and Basque languages.
     Europe was thus now divided into three in a new way (although the borders were to a large extent the same as in map 1). The peoples of the northern area were hunter-fisher-gatherers who spoke Finno-Ugrian languages and represented a genetically homogeneous human type. They were formerly successful people who were now (with, among other things, the extinction of many herd animals) among the continent's least successful. The population were descendants of the people who had lived in the area in the Ice Age. The peoples of the western area were small-game hunters who spoke Basque languages and perhaps formed, genetically, their own group. The subsistence of the people of this area was not as good as that of the farmer-herdsmen. The peoples of central and southern Europe were farmer-herdsmen who spoke Indo-European languages and also represented a genetic group of their own and had developed as a result of the mixing of peoples from the south-east with local populations. Sub-sistence in the area had previously consisted of small-game hunting, but it had been supplanted (partly as a result of the arrival of new populations, partly as a cultural change) by another subsistence system, farming and animal husbandry. The people of the area had become the fortunates of their continent, whose way of life and Indo-European language were eagerly imitated in the northern and western parts of Europe.
     The border between the farmer-herdsmen and the hunter-fisher-gatherers was significant in many ways. It was a border between completely different systems of subsistence, for the farmers were food producers who were able to regulate their food supply, while the hunters were food appropriators who were more at the mercy of nature. It was a linguistic border which divided the speakers of Indo-European languages of central and southern Europe from the Uralic-speakers of the north and the Basque-speakers of the west. And, finally, it was a border that delineated abrupt differences in population density, for the density among food producers was between 100 and 150 times denser than among food appropriators.

Map 3 depicts the period between 5,500 and 3,000BC, when farming and animal husbandry and the Indo-European languages have to some extent spread among the hunter-fisher-gatherers of northern Europe. A new intermediate zone has developed between the former central and northern zones. This is formed by areas whose inhabitants have adopted farming and animal husbandry and the Indo-European language. There are three such areas, G, B and S, or the areas of the original Germanic, Baltic and Slavic languages. A corresponding area also developed between western and central/southern Europe: here, the Indo-European languages and the Basque languages became intermixed, and the results included the original Celtic and Iberian languages (from which the Romance languages later developed). The map does not show separately the Indo-European languages which developed in central and southern Europe in the period before 5,500BC.

Map 4 shows the areas of the seven contemporary language groups. These are the Finno-Ugrian, Basque, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Celtic and Romance. Of these, four (Germanic, Baltic, Slavic and Romance) have spread farther than the areas in which they originated, while three (Finno-Ugric, Basque and Celtic) have shrunk. Of the Germanic languages, one, English, has spread to many continents (including North America and Australia); of the Romance languages, Spanish and Portuguese have spread to South America, and French to Africa, among other places.
     From the point of view of northern Europe, the routes along which the Germanic, Baltic and Slavic languages have spread northwards are of some importance; they are the channels of Scandinavia, the Baltic countries and Russia. The following features are typical of the contemporary Indo-European languages of the three channels: the main dialect boundaries are horizontal, so that the languages are often divided into northern and southern dialects. The more northern the dialect, the stronger the Finno-Ugrian substrate. Old Indo-European place-names survive in comparatively large numbers in all the route-areas (although southern Scandinavia, Denmark and northern Germany have not been very much studied in this respect). Thus the area of Finno-Ugrian place-names extends, in Russia, from at least the area of the ancient Merians to the area to the south of Moscow, and possibly into the Ukraine. In the Baltic route-area, Finno-Ugrian place-names extend into central Lithuania and possibly Poland.
     The Hungarians are a peculiar people in that they live in central Europe but speak a Finno-Ugrian language. Their peculiarity is based on the fact that they are the only speakers of a Finno-Ugrian language who participated in the great migration of the first millennium. The original home of the Hungarians is in the central Urals (and thus in the broad Uralic-speaking peri-glacial zone) and the Hungarians moved from here via the Black Sea to present-day Hungary; their year of arrival is believed to have been AD 896.

In the foregoing, I have attempted to describe the birth and development of the European peoples and their languages as briefly and graphically as possible. The whole story can, in fact, be condensed into one sentence:
     Once upon a time there was a northern Europe of successful big-game hunters which unified into a zone of Uralic languages; there followed a central and southern Europe of successful farmers which first unified into an area of Indo-European languages and then began to spread into northern Europe, thus giving rise to an important 'intermediate zone' (the areas of the original Germanic, Baltic and Slavic languages).
     My approach can be considered new in that I do not explain the birth of peoples and languages by claiming that, at some time in past millennia, they migrated from the east to their present-day locations. I do not, in other words, follow the old principle of ex oriente lux or the Biblical idea of the divine direction of a promised people to a promised land. I have attempted to give a much more immobile and, in my opinion, simpler and more natural, explanation for the birth of the northern European peoples and languages: the peoples of northern Europe, whether they speak Indo-European, Finno-Ugrian or Basque languages, are to a large extent descendants of peoples who have lived there 'since the beginning of time' (at least the Ice Age or soon after). The foundations of my explanation are subsistence systems (parti-cularly the big-game hunting which guaranteed survival in the Ice Age, and agriculture and animal husbandry after 5,500 BC) and the changes from Finno-Ugrian to Indo-European languages in the area of northern Indo-European languages (in the intermediate zone of northern and central Europe). My hypothesis also explains why the present-day populations of northern Europe are genetically relatively homo-geneous, although languages of two different families are spoken in the region.
     New in my approach, in particular, is that I do not see influences between the languages of northern Europe as uni-directional, or Indo-European-centred and ask only how Indo-European languages have influenced Finno-Ugrian ones. I also ask how and when Finno-Ugrian languages have influenced Indo-European ones. My most decisive claim is that the Germanic, Baltic and Slavic languages were born under the influence of the Finno-Ugrian languages in the context of a shift in language from Finno-Ugrian to Indo-European.

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