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Scholars were concerned chiefly with establishing language families and reconstructing prehistoric proto-languages, using the comparative method and internal reconstruction.
The focus was initially on the well-known Indo-European languages, many of which had long written histories; the scholars also studied the Uralic languages, another European language family for which less early written material exists.
, the study of ancient texts and documents dating back to antiquity.
At first, historical linguistics was comparative linguistics.
In the case of Middle Egyptian literary texts, the major strategy for dating consists in studying phenomena of written innovation and obsolescence in relevant registers in order to define upper and lower temporal bounds for a composition to be dated.
In a complementary approach, not indexed on linguistic change, distinctive linguistic repertoires and phenomena of linguistic re-composition are directly targeted.
Beyond dating, the book is more broadly a study of the language of Middle Egyptian literature, of differences internal to this tradition, and of how it productively relates to other written discourses on linguistic levels as much as on semantic ones.Some scholars have undertaken studies attempting to establish super-families, linking, for example, Indo-European, Uralic, and other families into Nostratic. The information necessary to establish relatedness becomes less available as the time depth is increased.