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Old European (alteuropäisch) is the term used by Hans Krahe (1964) for the language of the oldest reconstructed stratum of European hydronymy (river names) in Central and Western Europe.[note 1] The character of these river names is pre-Germanic and pre-Celtic and dated by Krahe to the 2nd millennium BC.
Old European river names are found in the Baltic and southern Scandinavia, in Central Europe, France, the British Isles, and the Iberian and Italian peninsulas. This area is associated with the spread of the later "Western" Indo-European dialects, the Celtic, Italic, Germanic, Baltic and Illyrian branches. Notably exempt are the Balkans and Greece, as well as the Eastern European parts associated with Slavic settlement.
Krahe locates the geographical nucleus of this area as stretching from the Baltic across Western Poland and Germany to the Swiss plateau and the upper Danube north of the Alps, while he considers the Old European river names of southern France, Italy and Spain to be later imports, replacing "Aegean-Pelasgian" and Iberian substrates (p. 81), corresponding to Italic, Celtic and Illyrian "invasions" from about 1300 BC.
German linguist Theo Vennemann has suggested that the language of the old European hydronyms was agglutinative and Pre-Indo-European, however this stands in contrast to the more generally accepted view that the hydronyms are of Indo-European origin and Theo Vennemann's theory has been criticised as being seriously flawed.
Spanish philologist Francisco Villar Liébana argued in 1990 for the Old European preserved in river names and confined to this hydronymic substratum in the Iberian Peninsula as yet another Indo-European layer with no immediate relationship to Lusitanian. However, the idea of 'Old European' was criticized by Untermann in 1999 and De Hoz in 2001.
See maps to right for examples of Old European hydronymy.
- Theo Vennemann, Patrizia Noel Aziz Hanna, Europa Vasconica, Europa Semitica, Published by Walter de Gruyter, 2003, ISBN 3-11-017054-X [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK], 9783110170542.
- Kitson, P.R. (November 1996). "British and European River Names". Transactions of the Philological Society 94 (2): 73–118. doi:10.1111/j.1467-968X.1996.tb01178.x.
- Wodtko, Dagmar S (2010). Celtic from the West Chapter 11: The Problem of Lusitanian. Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK. p. 338. ISBN 978-1-84217-410-4 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Tyrsenian languages
- Rigvedic rivers
- Urnfield culture
- Beaker culture
- Germanic substrate hypothesis
- Hans Krahe, Unsere ältesten Flussnamen, Wiesbaden (1964).