Skip to comments.Mother of all Indo-European languages was born in Turkey
Posted on 11/26/2003 5:35:02 PM PST by a_Turk
PARIS (AFP) - The vast group of languages that dominates Europe and much of Central and South Asia originated around 8,000 years ago among farmers in what is now Anatolia, Turkey.
So say a pair of New Zealand academics who have remarkably retraced the family tree of so-called Indo-European languages -- a linguistic classification that covers scores of tongues ranging from Faroese to Hindi by way of English, French, German, Gujarati, Nepalese and Russian.
Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson, psychologists at the University of Auckland, built their language tree on the same principles as the theory of genetic evolution.
According to this idea, words, like genes, survive according to their fitness.
Imported words take root in a language in response to evolutionary pressures or if they answer a need, and words can also fall out of use, rather like "silent" DNA that appears to be a relic in the genome and serves no known purpose.
The languages that are spoken and written today are the result of historical layering, of addition and deletion, that can be carefully scraped away to trace their previous sources, Gray and Atkinson suggest in the British weekly scientific journal Nature.
The similarity is phylogeny -- the reconstruction of the evolutionary history of organisms.
In theory, an evolutionary biologist one can work all the way back to LUCA: the "last universal common ancestor," presumed to be a bacterium, which evolved into all life as we know it today.
Using a parallel method, Gray and Atkinson turned back the clock on 87 languages, using sophisticated software to trace the path taken by 2,449 "cognates" -- fundamental words in each language that are presumed to derive from a common ancestor.
Their study produces an estimated age-range for the very first Indo-European language of between 7,800 and 9,800 years ago, among rural communities who lived in modern-day Anatolia and for whom there is already an impressive array of archaeological evidence.
Successful pioneers in agriculture, these people migrated westwards and eastwards and the languages evolved accordingly, becoming the tongues that today are so diverse that they would seem to share no common link.
"The pattern and timing of expansion... is consistent with the Anatolian farming theory," Gray and Atkinson suggest.
"Radiocarbon analysis of the earliest Neolithic sites across Europe suggests that agriculture arrived in Greece at some time during the ninth millennium BP (before the present day) and had received as far as Scotland by 5,500 BP."
About 6,000 years ago, the western branch of linguistic migration began to fork into smaller branches, according to their calculations.
The branches progressively became the Celtic languages (2,900 years ago), Romance languages (1,700 years ago) and, 1,750 years ago, the Germanic languages of northern Europe, including rudimentary English.
As for the eastern branch, the biggest fork occurred about 4,600 years ago.
It split into two groups, one of which became the languages of Central Asia today while the other eventually evolved into the major languages of the latter-day sub-continent.
The rival to the Anatolian theory is the notion that roving tribes of Kurgan horsemen expanded into Europe and the Middle East from the steppes of Asia around 6,000 years ago, sowing the linguistic seed for what would become all Indo-European languages today.
As for the eastern branch, the biggest fork occurred about 4,600 years ago.This is when Ebonics separated from internet geek-speak.
Yeah, everybody knows thats when they were Ottomans.
Glad that Mother got out!!1 ;-)
The curious thing is that the Black Sea wasn't there 8 to 9 thousand BP. The Mediteranean didn't break through into the Black Sea Basin till around 7 thousand BP.
A lot of people are beginning to gues that the true source of the Indo European peoples was under the present Black Sea.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this ping list.
We Honkies are everywhere...
Udder way 'round. Sanskrit is a very old Eastern Indo-European Language. There are two main branches of Indo-European, the Eastern or "Satem" languages and the Western or "Centum" (pronounced "Kentum") branch. Satem and centum are Avestan (old Iranian) and Latin for one-hundred. In the Eastern branch, the first sound in this word was invariably a sibilant (e.g., "s", "sh" ,etc), in the Western branch a fricative ( "h", "k"...).
Sanskrit, which can be translated as "holy" or "sacred", is a very old member of the Indic family. It stands in relation to modern Indic languages somewhat in the same status as Latin to modern Romance languages. It is fairly far evolved from Indo-European. It is interesting because it still preserves the full grammatic structure and inflections of the older language. One feature is particulary intriguing, the "number" of a noun can be singular, dual or plural. In other words the form of the word for man can be "man", "two (or both) men" or "(more than two) men". There are lots of things that occur so often in pairs that perhaps this is natural: hands, eyes, arms, twins.... English to this day has a unique dual designation, "both". "Both eyes" or "both arms" are different than "two eyes" or "two arms".
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