Letter: The first word

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Sir: In his claim that Lithuanian is the oldest of the living European languages, R A J Greenhill (letters, 26 October) mentions its Indo-European origin. Although the Indo-European family of languages was introduced to Europe by peoples moving in, it is undisputed that they displaced languages that already existed on this continent.

The true contender for the oldest living European language is Basque, which pre-dates any European language, Indo-European or otherwise. It is very much a living language, spoken by well over a million people in Spain and southern France. Euskara, as the Basques call their tongue, is said to be a descendant of ancient Iberian, the language spoken in Spain before the coming of the Indo-Europeans. There are some philologists who believe that the language dates right back to the origins of man himself.

Yours faithfully, GEORGE BEAL Surbiton, Surrey