Study: Turkey the Birthplace of Hindi, English
[An Nahar] Could the word for mother prove that Turkey was the birthplace of hundreds of languages as diverse as Hindi, Russian, Dutch, Albanian, Italian and English?
Ummm... Prob'ly not...
Researchers using a complex computer model originally designed to map epidemics have traced the evolution of the Indo-European language family to find an answer in a study published in the journal Science.
Proto-Indo-European isn't the same thing as Hindi or English, anymore than you're the same as your great-grandaddy 71 times removed...
Similarities between hundreds of languages spoken from Iceland to India have led to hot debates over where they originated and what their spread and evolution can tell us about early humans.
"Hot debate" in the linguistics field means a paper every three or four years examining the use of the ablative...
The dominant theory is that the languages now spoken by some three billion people came from Bronze Age nomads who used horses and the wheel to spread east and west from the steppes north of the Caspian sea near what is now Ukraine around 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. Others argue that it was agriculture -- not the horse -- that helped spread the language. They trace the origins to Turkey around 8,000 to 9,500 years ago.
Neolithic agriculture dates to the Catal Hüyük culture which, last I looked, dates to around 9000 B.C., give or take a few weeks. I think I read somewhere that there were earlier cultures in the Zagros mountains (present-day Iran) that were even older. Lots of people picked picked up on the seeds and goat-breeding idea, and a mere thousand years later the Natufians had stone ovens to bake bread and were building the first wall of Jericho. The horse, on the other hand, doesn't make an appearance until between 1750 and 1500 B.C., in company with the chariots. Prior to that people used onagers and donkeys and maybe even zebras. With the chariot and the horsie also appear typical Indo-European cultural traits, like a male-dominated pantheon. The Hittites showed up in Anatolia around 1750 B.C., driving chariots.
This latest study used a massive database of common words -- or cognates -- both modern and ancient to trace the roots all the way back to Turkey.
I think I read somewhere that the Kurds show up in the area about the same time as the Kassites in Babylon, though they're not related.
"This is one of the key cases put forward for agriculture being an important force in shaping global linguistic diversity," said lead author Quentin Atkinson, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
Except that lots of people were agricultural prior to the arrival of the Indo-Europeans. However, no Indo-Europeans, or even proto-Indo-Europeans, seem to appear in literature until the Hittite Old Kingdom shows up, knocking over Babylon and carrying off the statue of Marduk. I think the Luwians showed up about the same time, but since their language was closely related to Hittite nobody really talks about them much except for the fact that one of their major cities was Wilusa, which, as any linguist can tell you, is just about identical with Ilium, which is another name for Troy, where Helen lived for awhile.
The results build on archeological and genetic research which has suggested that early human migration helped spur the spread of agriculture, Atkinson said.
Personally, not being an expert in the field, I lean more toward the idea of a central Asian origin, from which the Indo-Europeans expanded in waves, along with their horses or maybe it was sheaves of millet or barley or buckwheat or something. One of the linguistic curiosities of the Hittite and Luwian languages was their use of the dual case, as opposed to later languages like Latin and English, which refer to either one or many without dwelling too much on pairs. The Slavic languages, including Russian and Old Church Slavonic, also retain vestiges of the dual, as did ancient Greek and Scottish (though I don't think Irish) Gaelic and Gothic and Sanskit. And the older the IE language under study the more likely it is to put the verb at the end of the sentence. Tocharian, which was spoken around where the Turkestan mummies were found, had both the duel and the end of sentence verb.
"It wasn't just that all the hunter gathers were in Europe and looked over the fence and saw their neighbors were cultivating and started doing it themselves. There was a real movement of people," he said.
Based on the use of the dual, I'd guess that one of the earliest waves of Indo-European migration involved the Celts and the Hittites, followed shortly by the early Greeks. That's also when the Mitanni showed up. The Aryans either shoved the Elamites and Turanians and Kassites and such out of the way or imposed their language and culture on them. Another bunch, the Vedic speakers, displaced the Harappan culture and spread into India, absorbing as they went. The Mitanni (Hanigalbat, to the Assyrians, who were tough guys back in those days) worshipped Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya and a few others who were perfectly recognizable to the Sanskrit speakers. The Mitanni were famous for their use of horses and chariots, the Hittites seem to have established their ascendancy by the same means, and both the early Iranians and the Vedics were big on them. Prior to the arrival of the Indo-Europeans on the scene there doesn't seem to have been much if any discussion of the horse or the chariot, and depictions from the Sumerian cultures show onagers and bullocks pulling clumsy-looking 4-wheeled carts.
"The languages suggest this is a movement of culture as well -- the hunter gathers weren't just picking up a plough, they were also adopting culture and the language."
It's probably a lot more likely that worshippers of Indra and Varuna and Mitra arrived waving spears from their chariots and scared the sedentary locals into adopting their culture and language. I don't think anyone's ever documented hordes of farmers descending upon an area. That's more the characteristic of a nomadic people. When the Comanches, for instance, discovered the horse they abandoned their farmland in Kansas and adopted a mobile lifestyle, swarming west and south and displacing Kickapoos and Coahuiltecans and people like that.
Using methods originally designed by epidemiologists to trace the language makes sense because the similarities between the evolution of living creatures and living languages has long been understood, Atkinson said. "Darwin talks about it in the Origins of the Species and The Descent of Man, 'these curious parallels,' he calls them."
Because of its association with "Aryans," I think, as well as the Cold War, the subject of the Indo-European migrations hasn't been systematically studied -- and most of what has been written is in Russian. I don't even subscribe to journals anymore, so what I think is probably way out of date, but I don't think the ancestors of Suppiluliumas were selling obsidian at Lake Van while the Sumerians were building prototypical hanging gardens. Given the evidence of Caucasian mummies (some with red hair, no less) in Turkestan, I'd expect they were busy ditching their onagers in favor of horses somewhere around the Pamirs. The usual argument against that is that "the fact that they were blond or red-headed doesn't mean that they were Indo-Europeans," since any dolt can learn to speak a language if he works at it. My answer to that is that if the guy you're talking to has red hair and freckles he's a lot more likely to be named O'Reilly or MacIntosh than Vladimir or Wong.
Biologists tracing the roots of a global pandemic will take samples in multiple locations, sequence the DNA and map how the virus has evolved through time by looking at how its genes have been modified. "Once they've got the family tree... they can trace back along the branches of the tree all the way back to the origin," Atkinson said in a telephone interview. "What we did was apply the same kind of approach to languages."
Except that languages don't have DNA. They have cognates and inflection and that sort of thing. They can't be viewed in a vacuum, but have to be looked at in the context of whatever history is available. Homer's Greek refers to "undying glory" as kléos aphthiton and Sanskrit describes it as as śravo akşitam. Aphthiton/akshitam is even less of a stretch for cognates than is Wilusa for Ilium. Since horses do have DNA, I'll betcha it'd be a neat research project to trace it and see where the ancestors of the modern "Arabian" came from.
The team built a database of cognates such as mother, which is moeder in Dutch,
... a modern language related to German...
madre in Spanish,
... a modern Romance language. It was mater in Latin...
mat in Russian,
I believe it's the same in Old Church Slavonic...
mitera in Greek and mam in Hindi.
People have been doing such things since about the time somebody noticed that "mater" and "pater" aren't all that different from "mother" and "father." When building such cognate tables it's best to look at the older languages and their grammars. Grammar changes more slowly than does vocabulary, hence the vestigial (and in some cases not so vestigial) dual case.
They then set about building a family tree for the languages which would capture them in space and time and account for the gains or losses of cognates.
Wow. That's never been done before, has it?
"This is a major breakthrough," archeologist Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom said in an accompanying article in Science.
Colin seemingly isn't a linguist...
Not everyone was convinced.
Really?I am just so surprised.
"There is so much about this paper that is arbitrary," Victor Mair, a Chinese language expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told Science.
I believe the word for "mother" in Cantonese is "ma." The word for "father" isn't "pa," but don't let a good cognate go to waste. Add Chinese to the Indo-European group.
The Atkinson model relies on logical leaps about the rates of language change and how languages diffuse, Mair said, while the steppe hypothesis "is based heavily on archeological data such as burial patterns, which are directly tied to datable materials."
In Homeric Greek the epithet of the Trojans was "breakers of horses." Nestor was "the Gerenian charioteer," though I've no idea where Gerenia was, if anywhere. Patroclus was "the horseman." Hector, Agamemnon, Atreus, Diomedes were also "breakers of horses." None of this doting on the horse shows up in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was originally composed about a thousand years before Homer lived. Hymns #152 and #153 of the Rig Vedas are devoted to the horse (with appearances by Indra, Mitra, and Varuna, among others), specifically concerned with the horse sacrifice.
Meanwhile, the goddess Demeter was "fair-haired," but not Swedish. Menelaus was "red-haired," "fair-haired," or "flaming-haired," though he didn't answer to "Mick."
| And that, my dears, is as neat a demonstration as can be why it is dangerous for amateurs to run about thinking for themselves, when there are perfectly good professionals available to do their thinking for them.|
Posted by: Fred