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Birthplace of Indoeuropean Languages Found

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the start-of-it-all dept.

Communications 195

phantomfive writes "Language geeks might be interested in a recent study that suggests Turkey as the birthplace of the Indo-European language family. The Indo-European family is the largest, and includes languages as diverse as English, Russian, and Hindi. The New York Times made a pretty graph showing the spread."

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First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41214901)

Where was the first post, 'tho?

Re:First (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41215247)

Where was the first post, 'tho?

I think it came out of someone's ...

So it's Turkey (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41214911)

that's guilty of ruining my college experience because of the foreign language requirement.(Since that's where it really started.)

Re:So it's Turkey (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41214999)

Turkey used to be civilised, before it became a Muzzie hell hole

Re:So it's Turkey (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41215899)

Turks hate Arabs because they think they're not Arabs - they think they're better than the Arabs.

Arabs hate the Turks because they think they're not Arabs and, though they'd never admit it, the Arabs think the Turks are better than them.

They both hate the Iranians.

Re:So it's Turkey (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216437)

Turks are not Arabs. Persians ( Iranians) are not Arabs. Some Arabs dream of re-establishing the Islamic Caliphate in emulation of the Ottoman (Turk) empire. Some Iranians dream of re-establishing the Persian empire, return to their days of glory when Persia ruled the Mediterranean. Turks? They know better.

Re:So it's Turkey (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41215953)

That would be, if memory serves, 1453.

I doubt it was particularly civilized then. Heck, most civilized countries weren't civilized at that point in time.

Maybe back when it was called Cappuccino, or Galaxia (where Saint Paul used to send episodes to).

Re:So it's Turkey (0)

chilvence (1210312) | about 2 years ago | (#41215141)

Whiner.

I am multilingual. (5, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#41214925)

Ahh, the second-most important language family on the planet, after the C/C++/C#/Java family.

Re:I am multilingual. (1)

517714 (762276) | about 2 years ago | (#41216613)

You may read and write those languages, but I bet you don't speak them.

Re:I am multilingual. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41217011)

Ahh, the second-most important language family on the planet, after the C/C++/C#/Java family.

Wouldn't the syntax to all of those be derived from ALGOL?

The three root languages are (AFAICT): ALGOL, FORTRAN, and LISP.

I think "found" should be in quotes (5, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41214957)

As the article acknowledges "The majority view in historical linguistics is that the homeland of Indo-European is located in the Pontic steppes (present day Ukraine)" ... and "The minority view links the origins of Indo-European with the spread of farming from Anatolia 8,000 to 9,500 years ago. The minority view is decisively supported by the present analysis in this week's Science."

While being very plausible I think it is to early to say found for certain yet - this is a theory that sounds plausible and nothing more

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (5, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#41215029)

Agreed, as a linguist working with early Indo-European languages, I'm appalled to see this recent Anatolian study being credulously passed around by laymen who are completely unaware of the longstanding debates in the field. It's like Slashdot posting an article on string theory saying that the mystery of the universe is now solved, without even mentioning that this is an alternative theory that most physicists do not hold to.

I'd encourage everyone interested in the issue to read David W. Anthony's The Horse, the Wheel and Language [amazon.com] (Princeton University Press). It represents the mainstream on the origin of the Indo-European language family and is written in a fairly friendly tone, accessible to anyone with some basic undergraduate knowledge of history and archaeology.

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (4, Informative)

0-9a-zA-Z_.+!*'()123 (266827) | about 2 years ago | (#41215179)

It says on the nice graph:

"A competing hypothesis places the point of origin in the steppes of modern-day Ukraine and Russia, north of the Black Sea."

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#41215201)

Or just download the college lectures from Teaching Company which discuss the history of English and Indo-european. I listened to them while driving to work (and at work)..... good stuff.

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (4, Insightful)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 2 years ago | (#41215213)

It should be understood that any scientific report is to be regarded with suspicion - that is the scientific method. A new report is interesting, and the further it strays from widely held understanding, the more interesting it is. And the more doubt should be granted.

The Times graph clearly indicates at least one competing idea, and the Science report describes the current mainstream view as well as marking this very clearly as a minority view.

At least phantomfive had the courtesy to use the word "suggests", and then samzenpus spooged it all up with the definitive "found".

I would encourage anyone interested to actually read the fucking article.

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41215619)

No-no-no-no. At Slashdot, RTFM stands for Read The Fine Manual.

So read that fucking fine article

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (3, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 2 years ago | (#41216935)

Except climate science... there is complete consensus there and the debate is over and closed forever, and even if a career, credentialed climate scientist like Dr. Timothy Ball or whomever disagrees, they're just denialists!

Even though I personally think that there is a real warming trend, I think it's disgusting how many people have made that a dogmatic if not wholly political ideology that doesn't even resemble the open, questioning spirit of real science. If you look at the leaked emails from the Climate Research Unit, they openly discuss and advocate subverting the peer review process to bar any theory which doesn't conform to their opinions on no other grounds than that disagreement and deliberately irrespective of a scientific reason that would normally bar publishing (methodological questions or whatever).

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41215071)

Rubbish to Ukraine being the homeland of PIE. All you have to do is look at a map. Which one is closer to historical trade routes and the path of human migration? Which one had a bigger impact on history (hint: not the Ukraine)?

Of course, the majority view in linguistics being something silly is nothing new. While nearly every other psychology-related field is long past over-reacting to behaviorism's decline, we're stuck in the Chomsky era.

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#41215145)

Rubbish to Ukraine being the homeland of PIE. All you have to do is look at a map. Which one is closer to historical trade routes and the path of human migration?

If you knew anything about this subject, you would be aware that from the Eastern European steppes, there is extensive evidence for population expansion in several directions in the middle of the first millennium BCE. And those various populations settled in other early homelands that then carried them further.

Of course, the majority view in linguistics being something silly is nothing new. While nearly every other psychology-related field is long past over-reacting to behaviorism's decline, we're stuck in the Chomsky era.

Linguistics is a big field. Chomsky's work (the popularity which is mainly limited to North America, by the way) has nothing to do with historical linguistics and archaeology.

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (5, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41215209)

"The minority view links the origins of Indo-European with the spread of farming from Anatolia 8,000 to 9,500 years ago. The minority view is decisively supported by the present analysis in this week's Science."

The "minority view" was posed by Colin Renfew, and rejected by *everyone* who knew anything about the topic. It just doesn't fit anything we know about the topic. IIRC, even he has abandoned it.

Re:I think "found" should be in quotes (1)

517714 (762276) | about 2 years ago | (#41216885)

The article misstates the "majority view." The majority view (shared by devout Jews, Christians and Muslims, who vastly outnumber linguists) is that the homeland of all languages is the plain of Shinar, where the Tower of Babel was built. Of course, those same people soundly reject Darwin's theory of evolution, so perhaps the weight of the majority's opinion is not necessarily a great indicator of the truth.

These Findings Consistent with Genealogy (0)

Jizzbug (101250) | about 2 years ago | (#41214965)

The native annals of several Phoencian/Scythian nations (e.g., the United Kingdom) describes the invention of language occurring along the southern shores of the Black Sea.

Re:These Findings Consistent with Genealogy (2)

Randle_Revar (229304) | about 2 years ago | (#41215353)

> Phoenician
> Scythian
> UK

Suuure. And we never landed on the moon, and the world is controlled by the Illuminati, who are really trans-dimensional lizard people.

Re:These Findings Consistent with Genealogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41217477)

The Queen of England & I are descended from Feniusa-Fearsa, the namesake of the Phoenicians. His second son was Niul, the linguist, contemporary to the Hebrew Peleg. Niul and his son Gaedhal and the next 4 generations down to Ogamhan (contemporary to Abraham & namesake of Ogham script) are said to have invented language, the Phoenician language, the world's first phonetic script.

The native chronologies of Ireland or Hungary or other countries descended from these peoples corroborate much in the historical findings.

Re:These Findings Consistent with Genealogy (2)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 2 years ago | (#41216335)

Phoenicia was roughly where Lebanon is now, and Scythia is more like Ukraine/Kazakhstan. How do you get the United Kingdom?

Re:These Findings Consistent with Genealogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41217341)

Read your native annals, or the Queen's genealogy... Between 3,000 & 4,000 years ago, the genealogical characters are migratory Phoenicians & Scythians.

I'm not saying its aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41214993)

But it could be aliens.

Re:I'm not saying its aliens (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41215009)

But it could be aliens.

That would explain why they speak English in all the films

Re:I'm not saying its aliens (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216087)

But it could be aliens.

That would explain why they speak English in all the films

I was amused (or annoyed) to see the bobot in Prometheus studying the IE languages in preparation for meeting the aliens who created us. But that was about 30th down on the ridiculosity list.

Superficially Bizarre (3, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | about 2 years ago | (#41215053)

Bizarre, because the now dominiant language of Turkey, Turkish, isn't Indo-European. So it spread everywhere, but was pushed out of it's own back yard.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (2)

BitterOak (537666) | about 2 years ago | (#41215175)

I know. I always thought Turkish was considered an Altaic language, rather than Indo-European. Is Turkish a language common to both language families then? If so, that would be very interesting, as the Altaic languages include Japanese and Korean which I thought had no relation at all to Indo-European languages at all.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#41215205)

Turkish is a Turkic language. The Turkic languages do not have demonstrable common ancestry with the Indo-European language.

The idea of an "Altaic" language family has fallen out of fashion, especially since the 1990s when some major Altaic linguists announced they no longer believed in their own theory. It's essentially limited to a handful of Russians now, whose methods are viewed as at best optimistic and at worst as outright crackpottery.

Mainstream linguistics now prefers to view the Tungusic, Turkic and Mongolic families are isolates, the similarities between them due to longstanding contact. Even during the heyday of the Altaic theory, the idea that Korean and Japonic were part of such a family was a minority view.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41215295)

I know. I always thought Turkish was considered an Altaic language, rather than Indo-European. Is Turkish a language common to both language families then? If so, that would be very interesting, as the Altaic languages include Japanese and Korean which I thought had no relation at all to Indo-European languages at all.

Turkish is intrusive in Anatolia, during the historical era.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (4, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41215273)

Bizarre, because the now dominiant language of Turkey, Turkish, isn't Indo-European. So it spread everywhere, but was pushed out of it's own back yard.

Happens a lot. The Romans spread Latin all around the Mediterranean and western Europe, erasing a lot of other languages in the process. English and Spanish have almost erased the hundreds of languages formerly spoken in the Americas. You can probably think of more examples.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (1)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about 2 years ago | (#41215415)

You missed the point that the language was pushed out it's own back yard. English is still spoken in England and Spanish is still spoken in Spain. I don't know enough about Italy to know if Latin was "pushed out" or just evolved into Italian.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41216061)

English pushed Cherokee out of its back yard. Spanish pushed Mayan out of its.

Tell me again who's missing something.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216325)

You are missing the point. The analogy would fit your example if Cherokee spread elsewhere and then was replaced where it originated. Someone else just asserted the same if English were no longer spoken in England, it would be analogous to the Turkish example.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216807)

You are missing the point. The analogy would fit your example if Cherokee spread elsewhere and then was replaced where it originated. Someone else just asserted the same if English were no longer spoken in England, it would be analogous to the Turkish example.

I think at present Cherokee is mostly spoken in Oklahoma rather than it's earliest known domain. Though apparently some is still spoken there, so it's not a perfect example.

Apparently Nahuatl's back yard is somewhere in the southwest USA, though now only spoken (AFAIK) in central Mexico. Greek's back yard is apparently somewhat north of Greece. The Celtic languages almost certainly originated in mainland Europe, but are now only spoken on the "Celtic Fringe" of the British Isles (modulo Breton, which was reintroduced to the mainland from the isles during the late Roman era or early dark ages). For a time, Gothic was spoken in Italy and the Crimea, but not in the Gothic homeland.

There's nothing that anchors a language to place. The people who speak it can move, or give up their language, or get exterminated.

And of course, the actual early IE languages spoken in Anatolia (~Turkey) aren't spoken anywhere now.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216591)

English pushed Cherokee out of its back yard. Spanish pushed Mayan out of its.

So which language families did Cherokee and Mayan spread to the rest of the world before being (nearly) lost in their respective homelands?

Re:Superficially Bizarre (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216125)

I'm assuming you're not joking.

English pushed out the native Celtic languages on the British Isles. At one stage, French almost eradicated English. English survived but took critical damage from French. Nobody knows what languages were spoken in England before the Indo-Europeans (Celts) arrived.

Spanish is a descendant of Latin and pushed out whatever languages were spoken in Castilia before. Spain, of course, has several other living languages, most notably Basque, which almost certainly predates the Indo-European languages (Latin et co.).

Latin of course pushed out many other Italic (Indo-European) languages, but also Etruscan.

As another example, Finnish (Uralic) pushed out Sami (also Uralic) in Finland. Nobody knows what was spoken in Finland before the Sami arrived.

Finland was inhabited before the Ice Age, but whatever language was spoken was pushed out by the ice sheet.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41217495)

Finland was inhabited before the Ice Age,

That's a though one to prove. Ice sheets have the tendency of roll and pulverize the evidence. Any such settlement must be very much over 24000-18000 years old as that time the sheet was at its maximum, and likely done by the Neanderthals. I was taught that about 8000 BC is the time of the first settlements.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (4, Interesting)

r1348 (2567295) | about 2 years ago | (#41216147)

Latin was never pushed out of Italy, it rather split in many regional neo-Latin (or Romance) languages according to the political turmoils that followed the end of the Roman Empire, with various degrees of influence from the languages of the invading forces (mostly Germanic and Slavic), to later gradually reunite, from the Renaissance onwards, into one single language. Italy reunited as a political entity only in 1860, so more than 1500 years after the fall of the Roman Empire, so by that time the divergence between the various regional languages was often beyond the limit of mutual comprehension. It was the birth of a new Italian literature, active repression of local languages during the Fascism, and ultimately the television that brought about what is now known as Italian.
However in many regions the dialects remain the most spoken language, even thought standard Italian is well understood everywhere.
My maternal grandparents automatically switch to Venetian while talking, while my paternal grandparents are native Friulan speakers.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (1)

Muros (1167213) | about 2 years ago | (#41216631)

You missed the point that the language was pushed out it's own back yard. English is still spoken in England and Spanish is still spoken in Spain. I don't know enough about Italy to know if Latin was "pushed out" or just evolved into Italian.

The study is dealing with an 8000 year time frame. People in England 2000 years ago didn't even speak a Germanic language, never mind about modern English.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (1)

reub2000 (705806) | about 2 years ago | (#41216689)

For a while after the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire, wasn't Italy taken over by Germanic Rulers? What languages did they speak?

Also, isn't there a sizable greek-speaking minority within turkey? I'm not sure this example fits.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (2)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41215479)

Not an unusual thing. I lived in the San Francisco Bay area for 30 years without meeting a single native speaker of Tamyen, Chochenyo, or Miwok.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216177)

But none of those languages, or their descendants, have become widespread elsewhere. Not a good comparison. It isn't about languages being pushed out of their homeland... it is about dominant and widespread languages that have pushed some many languages out of their homelands, in turn, being pushed out its own homeland.

It would be similar to English being so widespread, but the British now speak Chinese, or something similar to Spanish and Spain.

Re:Superficially Bizarre (2)

ballpoint (192660) | about 2 years ago | (#41216713)

the British now speak Chinese, or something similar to Spanish and Spain.

You're confusing the British with Kalifornians.
The former still speak something similar to English, albeit with an Hindi, Urdu, Bengali or Polish accent. :P

Re:Superficially Bizarre (2)

Muros (1167213) | about 2 years ago | (#41216723)

But that is exaclty what happens all the time. Look at the Celtic language family. Celtic existed across Germany, France and Spain before arriving in the western isles of Europe. It must have done; all theories, both this one and competing ones, say the language family originated in easter Europe, and we know celtic culture existed in Germany, France and Spain. Therefore, the origin of the language family is somewhere other than where the languages are now (sometimes) spoken.

Timeline is off (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41215133)

Noah came to a landing on a mountain in Turkey; then the languages spread out from there. So the 8k years is slightly off.

Nice change... (4, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41215193)

...from the frequent 'discovery' of Atlantis. Finding the birthplace of the IE languages has gone out of style.

On the basis of dialect geography I would put it in the Balkans or lower Danube. There's a curious fact about languages, namely that there's a bigger pile-up of dialects in the homeland than on the frontiers. E.g., compare the variety of Midland dialects in the UK vs. the (relative) homogeneity in the USA, Canada, or Oz.

So given what we know about the locations of the various IE languages, and what we know about migrations, Danube/Balkans makes a lot of sense. Illyrian, Thracian, Greek, Macedonian, Albanian, Dacian, Paionian, all right there. Two families of Italic languages thought to be intrusive from that region, whether across the water or around by land. Armenian thought to have migrated from that region. Anatolian languages easily placed by short migration across the Bosporus, Celtic by a migration up the Danube.

The big problem is Indo-Iranian, but it's a big problem for *any* homeland hypothesis: it stretched from Iran and India, around the eastern side of the Caspian Sea, and across the steppes to eastern Europe. These people were mobile. But easier to explain, IMO, by anchoring everything where we have the known pile-up of dialects and let Indo-Iranian, Tocharian, and Celtic be the expansive frontiers. Fits what we know about how languages spread perfectly.

Re:Nice change... (3, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#41215235)

On the basis of dialect geography I would put it in the Balkans or lower Danube.

Substrate toponymy makes it clear that the Indo-European languages are not native to that area. You seem to have some knowledge of the Indo-European family, so it's strange to me that you could overlook this.

Re:Nice change... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41215327)

Substrate toponymy makes it clear that the Indo-European languages are not native to that area.

Is there anyplace where that isn't true?

Re:Nice change... (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41215561)

Yes, but can you say "substrate toponymy" five times real fast?

Re:Nice change... (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 2 years ago | (#41215923)

Yes, but can you say "substrate toponymy" five times real fast?

Sure, so long as I don't have to say it in Indo-European.

Re:Nice change... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216095)

Yes, but can you say "substrate toponymy" five times real fast?

I can't say it *once* real fast.

Re:Nice change... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216197)

Nice one, but not too hard. My favourite is the phrase "orthogonally diagonalisable" used in algebra.

Re:Nice change... (1)

reub2000 (705806) | about 2 years ago | (#41216773)

I just googled "substrate toponymy" and this post was the third result. The rest of the results made little sense. Can you explain what you mean there?

Re:Nice change... (0)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#41216821)

The first two results are academic papers that should make it quite clear what the term means. Saarikivi's paper contains an extensive bibliography on the subject. If they make "little sense" to you, there's nothing more I can do.

Re:Nice change... (4, Informative)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41217333)

I just googled "substrate toponymy" and this post was the third result. The rest of the results made little sense. Can you explain what you mean there?

It means place names (rivers, mountains, etc.) left over from an earlier language in the area (substrate). E.g., in the USA very many place names are of Native American or Spanish origin rather than English, hinting strongly that people who spoke a different language lived here before the English speakers came along.

Re:Nice change... (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41215551)

Atlantis is a geologically absurd myth (or maybe a flying city [hulu.com] ), whereas linguists do agree that proto-Indo-European existed at some point. And the various efforts to pin down its origin seem to be pretty scientific, even if they do produce conflicting results.

Re:Nice change... (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216013)

And the various efforts to pin down its origin seem to be pretty scientific

Except for the venerable old tradition of discovering that - surprise! - it arose in the researcher's own country.

I haven't seen the Science article, but you can read the abstract at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6097/957 [sciencemag.org]

They apparently built a phlyogenetic tree, which isn't too terribly different from mainstream views (which vary considerably to begin with). They also used what they call "phylogeographic" techniques, which apparently is something like what is done to trace the origin and dispersion of haplotypes.

Sounds like a good approach in principle, but from what the map at the NYT article implies about the origin and spread of the Indo-Iranian sub-family, is almost certainly wrong. AFAIK the only hint that any IE language was ever spoken west of Iran and south of the Black Sea is the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Aryan_superstrate_in_Mitanni [wikipedia.org] , which is thought to be an intrusion of IE words into upper-class terminology, not an actual language spoken in the area. (Though, as indicated by the Wikipedia article, there's an oddity in that the vocabulary seems to be more closely related to the Indic than to the geographically much nearer Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian.)

Of course, like FTL neutrinos and solar-driven variations in radioactive decay rates, if this "almost certainly wrong" analysis turns out to be correct, it will make things interesting for the field.

Re:Nice change... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216113)

AFAIK the only hint that any IE language was ever spoken west of Iran and south of the Black Sea

Uhm... I forgot that little Hittite thingy. Should have said "any Indo-Iranian language".

Re:Nice change... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#41216411)

. I haven't seen the Science article, but you can read the abstract at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6097/957 [sciencemag.org] [sciencemag.org] They apparently built a phlyogenetic tree, which isn't too terribly different from mainstream views (which vary considerably to begin with). They also used what they call "phylogeographic" techniques, which apparently is something like what is done to trace the origin and dispersion of haplotypes.

I have the paper article here, and it seems the used some basic vocabulary terms to act as a kind of "DNA" to identify each language. Then they tracked changes to the "DNA" over time (gain and loss of cognates), apparently like you would do if you were tracing a virus outbreak. That had all been done before, but I think here is the new thing they did (I'll quote it from the paper):

We combined phylogenetic inference with a relaxed random walk model of continuous spatial diffusion along the branches of an unknown, yet estimable, phylogeny and the most probably geographic ranges at the root and internal nodes. This phylogeographic approach treats language location as a continuous vector (longitude and latitude) that evolves through time along the branches of a tree and seeks to infer ancestral locations at internal nodes on the tree while simultaneously accounting for uncertainty in the tree).

Re:Nice change... (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216621)

Thanks.

It may (or may not) be worth observing that if your tree gives the Anatolian fork at the root - an almost universally accepted idea - then the method described in the paragraph you quoted would, ISTM, tend to stick the geographical origin in Anatolia.

Frankly, I find the "wave" model much more compelling than the "tree" model. Languages are never 'atomic' in the way that a tree applies. You can't trace all the modern English dialects/sociolects back to some ideal "One True English". There were dialects in England before the colonial expansion, dialects of Middle English before Modern English arose, dialects of Anglo Saxon, dialects (and distinct languages) in the West Germanic family that gave birth to Anglo Saxon.

No reason to suppose that the Proto-Indo-European language was any different. Linguistic innovations can spread across dialects, and thus "infect" various descendent languages. But not every innovation has the same spread. IMO languages are more like the tangled fork-and-merge of some river deltas than the clean trees that are so popular for reconstructions.

Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (3, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41215287)

When the last ice age ended and the sea levels rose, it was a gradual process that happened over decades. So it was just seen as a natural thing in most communities. For example the Tamil language is spoken in peninsular India. It has literature mentioning towns (South Madurai, Kaviri Poom Pattinam) that were taken by sea, river (Pah-truli) taken by the sea etc. They believe the first grammar book in Tamil composed by Sage Agastiyar has been swallowed by the sea and the present grammar book was composed by his student Thol Kappiar. Nothing dramatic, simple narration. The sea used to be over there, now it is over here.

But the folk memory of the flooding of the ending of the ice age recorded in Indo-European languages is very dramatic. It is sudden. It is by an angry God displeased by the sinfulness of mankind, and only one person was spared. It is the story of First Avatar of Vishnu in Hindu scriptures. Lord Vishnu takes the avatar of a fish and saves one man, Manu, from the impending global flood that kills all. The well known Noah's story is common to Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Mesapotamian flood legend is similar too.

The conjecture is that, during the ice age, the Mediterranean sea was lower, and the straits of Bhosporus was actually an isthmus connecting Asia Minor with Europe. As the sea levels rose, the Med over-topped the isthmus and flooded into the Black Sea, which was a fresh water lake at that time. The southern and the eastern shores of the lake had gradual slope and was populated by agricultural settlements. As the lake level started rising relentlessly the few who took to the boats survived. Those who could not bear to leave their beloved agricultural fields and homes were left stranded and were drowned. The folk memory of the survivors morphed into the Noah's and other flood legends.

I wonder how the flood and the rising of the sea levels is remembered in the northern branches of the Indo-European family.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41215355)

But the folk memory of the flooding of the ending of the ice age recorded in Indo-European languages is very dramatic. It is sudden. It is by an angry God displeased by the sinfulness of mankind, and only one person was spared.

That particular story comes from Semitic-speaking cultures, and was introduced into the IE-speaking cultures by contact (for the early Greek story), or by religious conversion (for everyone else).

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41215535)

The Hindu and the mesapotamian flood legends are older than the Old Testament. They must all have a common ancestor.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41215563)

It could have been numerous floods taking out various civilisations down the years, I mean when an ice age warms up, flooding happens, and civilisations do tend to congregate in coastal areas.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (4, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 2 years ago | (#41215651)

The Hindu and the mesapotamian flood legends are older than the Old Testament. They must all have a common ancestor.

Why? It seems perfectly plausible to me that different flood legends might trace back to different actual floods.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (1)

Muros (1167213) | about 2 years ago | (#41216983)

The Hindu and the mesapotamian flood legends are older than the Old Testament. They must all have a common ancestor.

Why? It seems perfectly plausible to me that different flood legends might trace back to different actual floods.

Indeed, and there are many known examples of floodings. There are known sites of cities around Europe, and indeed other parts of the world, that have become flooded by the sea for various reasons at different times, like rising global seas levels, delta marshland where people built slowly sinking, isostatic rebound, earthquakes, etc. The dodder bank was once an island in the North Sea that just eventually washed away thousands of years ago, because it was basically a big pile of mud and gravel, likely a massive glacial alluvial deposit. Stories of sudden flooding around the world (and they are not all from the levant or semitic sources) can be treated as plausible, because we know that it is likely there were sudden releases of massive amounts of water into the ocean, for example the English Channel is thought to have been gouged out by rushing waters from a massive glacial meltwater lake covering much of the North Sea. Multiple disparate events can plausibly have given rise to flood myths around the world, especially given that as a species we tend to have our population centres concentrated along coastlines.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216055)

The Hindu and the mesapotamian flood legends are older than the Old Testament

Yes, the Noah story is certainly derived from an older Mesopotamian tradition. It may have come from Sumerian rather than Semitic tradition, contrary to what I posted earlier.

They must all have a common ancestor.

Possibly, but not necessarily.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41215847)

The Noah flood story probably has basis in a real event, but was first written down not in a Semitic language at all, but Sumerian:

There was a flash flood on the Euphrates in about 3000 BCE that overflowed the levees the residents of Shuruppak had built to deal with that problem, and it completely wrecked much of the city (which was a fairly major trading hub). The local leader had the quick wits to put his family and anything else useful he could find onto some trading barges that happened to be there that day, and managed to ride out the storm, but in the process got swept clear down the river through the Persian Gulf to land somewhere near present-day Dubai.

Now, add the usual human tendency for exaggeration, and it's not surprising that this story could easily turn into "The whole world was drowned!". Among other things, for this guy, his whole world had in fact drowned, and everything he really knew was lost. But the version written in Hebrew came quite a bit after the original happenings.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216191)

The Noah flood story probably has basis in a real event, but was first written down not in a Semitic language at all, but Sumerian:

Why assume that a myth has a basis in fact?

You could just as easily say that the story started when a kid saw a bird on a piece of driftwood in a pond. Such speculations are utterly beyond the realm of evidence.

Thor was a Norse carpenter who didn't have enough sense to come in out of the rain. Adam was a Babylonian gardener who got fired for picking his boss's fruit without permission. Cthulhu was an octopus.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41216525)

Why assume that a myth has a basis in fact?

It doesn't take much assumption to relate the facts I just laid out to the myth of Noah:
1. There's archaeological evidence of a real flood at about that time.
2. There's clay tablets in Ur and other Sumerian sites with the same basic story that seems more closely matching plausible fact.
3. There's loads of evidence that Genesis was written during the Babylonian captivity, which means the Hebrew writers were around people who were thoroughly familiar with the story.
Combine that with the common human traits of making up supernatural explanations, and just plain telling fish stories (the flood probably lasted 1-2 days, was written down by Sumerians as lasting 7 days, and only became 40 days a couple millenia later), and you end up with the Noah flood.

A similar pattern happened to the Trojan War: There really was a war that happened about 1250 BCE, where the Myceneans attacked Troy and burned it to the ground (according to evidence from both Troy and written down back in Mycenae). The most likely reason for this was that Mycenae had some trade going on in the Black Sea and were upset about the Trojans extracting a fee when the goods went by their city. There might have even been people named Agamemnon and Priam, but in any event by the time the oral tradition got to Homer centuries later there were several divine interventions and guys fighting over beautiful women rather than fighting over cash.

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41215567)

Seems like the northern experience would be more along the lines of the exposing of land formerly covered by glaciers, no?

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (3, Interesting)

craton_crusher (2671045) | about 2 years ago | (#41215709)

In fact, the Turkey hypothesis for the language origin is not inconsistent with the Ukrainian one, if the two populations on either side of the sea were cut off from each other as a result of the flood. Thus, it may be that the real "birthplace" of the Indo-european languages is now underwater.

This theory is well supported by the geologic record, as detailed in "Noah's Flood" by William Ryan and Walter Pitman. Also here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_hypothesis [wikipedia.org]

Re:Flood legends in Indo-European scriptures. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216497)

The Germanic language group makes its first major appearance in written history with a flood legend: the Cymbrian flood, mentioned by Strabo as an excuse for the Cymbrian invasion into the Mediterranean. Northwestern Europe is prone to floods, and it is hard to tell which flood ancestral memories are about.

I'll believe it (1)

Frequency Domain (601421) | about 2 years ago | (#41215369)

when I see the fossil record.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

craton_crusher (2671045) | about 2 years ago | (#41215753)

:) The fossil record is available, and well studied (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_hypothesis). The evidence suggests that the language actually arose as a result of trade among the inventors of agriculture along the once-freshwater Black Sea, which had been cut off from the ocean, and flooded when the rising Mediterranean overtopped the Bosporus strait. The deluge forced everyone to flee in different directions in a very short period of time, which might be why it's so hard to pinpoint the exact "birthplace" of the language.

Re:I'll believe it (2)

Frequency Domain (601421) | about 2 years ago | (#41216085)

That's a plausible explanation for why a bunch of people may have scattered, but where are all the fossilized phonemes?

Unlikely they are right (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about 2 years ago | (#41215461)

This still seems to hold to the archaic view that Europeans migrated from the middle east to Europe were as it's now believed the earlier migration was from the north. That would also support the Eurasian origin of those languages. It also explains pesky issues like similar words in Russian dialects which the up from Turkey route fails to explain. Much like the migrations themselves the languages more than likely had multiple sources. It's a little like looking for Adam and Eve when we interbred with multiple branches of the family tree. Modern humans are hybrids as are our languages.

great thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41215617)

The great thing about the "birthplace of the Indoeuropean languages" is that there are so many of them.

Who pays (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41215637)

For quite some wile we see these studies which depict turkey as the ancient cradle of everything. The Turkish state sponsors this kind of research.

The idea is to depict Turkey as a European power which it is not anymore, thanks to the Holy League at the Gates of Vienna and humilating defeats as 9/11 1687.

Now ... (3, Funny)

32771 (906153) | about 2 years ago | (#41215731)

If those scientists could prove that Finno-Ugric languages don't have extra-terrestrial origin I would be glad.

Re:Now ... (1)

IrquiM (471313) | about 2 years ago | (#41215927)

That's not hard - just listen to them!

Re:Now ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41215941)

Good point. Hungarian sounds much like the invaders' language in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks to me.

Re:Now ... (3, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41216009)

It's really not that complicated, and doesn't require space aliens: There was a culture speaking Finno-Ugric languages that started in the Volga River valley and got as far as Finland to the north, Turkey to the south, and much of Russia in between. However, they were dominated in many places by Indo-European speakers, which is why the Indo-European Slavic and Baltic languages split the Finno-Ugric speaking area into smaller pieces. However, one of the reasons Russian and Ukrainian sound different from, say, German, is that they would have picked up some words and concepts from the Finno-Ugric speakers who were in the area (official term for this is "language substrate").

And yes, they're structured completely differently from Indo-European languages, which is why they're part of a different language family. Expecting any similarity at all makes about as much sense as expecting similarities between English and Chinese (other than words specifically borrowed from the other language).

Re:Now ... (3, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#41216209)

Turkey to the south

No Finno-Ugrian language spread as far as Turkey.

However, one of the reasons Russian and Ukrainian sound different from, say, German

The vast, vast number of differences between those languages and German date from the developments that Proto-Slavonic and Early Common Slavonic underwent on one hand, and Proto-Germanic on the other. The Slavic language family encountered the Finno-Ugrian languages rather late (after 800 CE), and by that date their peculiarities had been in place for centuries. There are a handful of features of Russian that can be attributed to contact with a Finno-Ugrian substrate, but it's hardly those that set Russian apart from German.

Re:Now ... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41216553)

Thanks for the correction - I've just read a bit about this stuff (mostly J.P. Mallory, which is really hard slog), not actually studied it for decades like an actual scholar.

This will be debated... (1)

Asuyuka (1937696) | about 2 years ago | (#41215885)

...Until we get a time machine to check ourselves. Interesting, yes. But I am still for the Steppes theory. Pacifism would be nice, but it is not likely, judging by the high amount of warrior-hero myths found in IE cultures.

These methods had problems in biology. (2)

DonaldGary (2451128) | about 2 years ago | (#41216165)

Disclaimer: I have only a casual understanding of the science I am presenting. Someone with a real understanding may want to comment. The authors are using the statistical methods used to analyze DNA in phylogeny to study the "tree of life". In biology, these statistical methods are founded on a very plausible scientific model which offered a variety of consistency checks. Nevertheless, the uncritical use of these methods lead to a lot of mistakes. My understanding is that the limitations of these methods are now more or less understood in phylogeny. However, the application of the same methods to a much more complex problem of language evolution cannot be straight forward. Two obvious things make the situation in biology simpler. First, once two species separate, their gene pools no longer interact. Thus, if two animals share the same gene, it is reasonably safe to say that they also share a common ancestor. Second, there are redundant codes in DNA. That is, there are cases where changing a DNA base pair doesn't change the protein that is being encoded. Variations in these redundant codes are thought to be more or less benign, i.e. they do not significantly influence the survival of the individuals involved. Furthermore, it is plausible that these variations accumulate at a more or less constant rate throughout the genome. Thus, there are lot's of opportunities for consistency checks. My understanding is that these checks frequently turned up problems.

Pretty pretty BS graph (3, Interesting)

ixvo (2657555) | about 2 years ago | (#41216185)

The graph [nytimes.com] may be pretty, but when it comes to science, any undergrad student could have done the same, and easily better. I've been studying languages for almost my whole life, and the timeline at the bottom of the graph is so off, that they should have just left it away - according to them, old dialects like Breton are younger than French (which of course isn't, French replaced those dialects), and the oldest modern language is English, whereas Polish and other Slavic languages appeared much later (... rright.) It's actually the opposite. Old, early examples of Polish, Russian, Italian, from between the 9th and 12th century are still intelligible, modern French really appeared in the 16th century and is maybe the European language which has had the fewest changes since then (compared to German and English, the difference is striking)...

Are there no other slashdotters in linguistics? Or is everybody giving up on /. already? There always used to be many bad articles posted, but now it jsut seems that everything is getting past the filters now, no matter how much it goes against the most basic knowledge!!!.

Re:Pretty pretty BS graph (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41217081)

according to them, old dialects like Breton are younger than French (which of course isn't, French replaced those dialects)

Breton was brought to France by Celtic migrants from Britain in the early medieval period.

To quote J.P. Mallory: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216333)

"This quest for the origins of the Indo-Europeans has all the fascination of an electric light in the open air on a summer night: it tends to attract every species of scholar or would-be savant who can take pen to hand. ... It is no easy task to get one's bearings in a problem where most of the proposed solutions show a remarkable ability to be dismembered and securely entombed in one generation only to rise again to haunt later scholars. One does not ask 'where is the Indo-European homeland?' but rather 'where do they put it _now_?'"

So Babel was in Anatolia? (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about 2 years ago | (#41216343)

According to the biblical account, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar, where they resolved to build a city with a tower "with its top in the heavens...lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the Earth". God came down to see what they did and said: "They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do." So God said, "Come, let us go down and confound their speech." And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel "because God there confounded the language of all the Earth" (Genesis 11:5–8).

Re:So Babel was in Anatolia? (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 2 years ago | (#41217277)

The Biblical account is some 4000 years, at least, after events, and was redacted several times. It's not a source, though it is of interest when its contents align with other evidence, in the same way that other ancient texts align with evidence. This tells more about the text than the pre-history (and for PIE we are talking pre-history, and a different language family)

Re:So Babel was in Anatolia? (0)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about 2 years ago | (#41217569)

Silly... you say the Biblical account is "some 4000 years, at least, after events." The Earth is 6000 years old and Jesus wrote the bible 2012 years ago. So you are saying the events happened before God even created the Earth? Get your math right...

Slashdot is really behind the curve lately (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41216349)

This isn't new, even in the slightest.

Further, those that hold that PIE was in the Pontic Steppes, (David W. Anthony, et. al) believe that Anatolian has some involvement with PIE, as a direct or indirect parent, anyhow.

Go read his book, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, if you are interested in this subject matter.

The Blurb Mis-states the research (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 2 years ago | (#41217255)

There have been two competing ideas on PIE for some time: Anatolia, and the Caspian sea steppes. Both could be correct.
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