Family Tree of Languages Has Roots in Anatolia
Posted: 24 August 2012 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Just throwing the link to this NYT article out there for discussion.

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Posted: 24 August 2012 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I was just about to post that ...

“The new entrant to the debate is an evolutionary biologist, Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand”

For some reason this is all over the news, but near as I can tell, his work has not advanced much since his 2003 paper on the same topic:

https://researchspace.auckland.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/2292/10655/nature02029.pdf?sequence=3
Language-tree divergence times
support the Anatolian theory
of Indo-European origin
Russell D. Gray & Quentin D. Atkinson

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Posted: 24 August 2012 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yeah, I don’t buy it now any more than I did then.

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Posted: 24 August 2012 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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OP Tipping - 24 August 2012 06:48 AM

For some reason this is all over the news,..

As an aside, I started to think it was “all over the news” before reminding myself that, filter bubbles being what they are, it only appears that way to me.

I wish I could read the Science article that all the other articles are quoting, but it appears to be behind a paywall.

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Posted: 24 August 2012 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Like pretty much everything about PIE, both origin theories are highly speculative. I don’t think we can say much for certain about PIE, other than it existed and the basic construct of the historical relationship between modern languages is roughly accurate.

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Posted: 03 September 2012 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’ve had a chance to read the original Science article.  I have to say that, apart from the limitation that the linguistic analysis is based just on vocabulary and not on grammar or other features, it looks like pretty strong work.  The results seem to be pretty robust over a variety of plausible assumptions about diffusion patterns, selection effects, and so on.

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Posted: 03 September 2012 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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There’s some interesting discussion at my LH post (including a visit from one of the authors).  A comment I found particularly enlightening:

I decided to check the cognacy database from the Bouckaert et al Science paper; in the online supplement they describe how they extracted these cognate lists from the earlier publications, corrected massive errors, and weeded out the borrowings. I hoped to find at least some evidence for or against antiquity of the “Steppe-words”.

But the resulting database leaves a very depressing impression. It doesn’t have any fauna words apart from two species, dog and louse (and its treatment of dog/bitch/hound or louse/nit variability is pitiful IMVHO, with a decision on what cognacy grouping to assign a language following very capriciously from the choice of just one of the related words). So some Slavic languages go with “pes” male dog, and others with “sobaka” female dog (despite having both forms). Not even to mention that “sobaka” must be a Turkic borrowing ... and that so many cultures have tabooed the dogs that it could have caused runaway euphemization.

No “steppe concepts” in the list, but at least one “marine concept”, Sea/Ocean, which must have been heavily borrowed or calqued by all the landlocked languages. And indeed the database has Turkic and Arabic borrowings (like Ossetian dengiz or Dari bahr) as well as Greek (like Farsi oqyanus). But many attested cognates meaning something lesser than a sea go missing (like Latvian maria / Prussian mary “sea bay”, English marsh, and perhaps even Sanskrir maryada which stands for a limit or a boundary but also for seashores and riverbanks).

Of course with its 200-odd meanings, even picked haphazardly and with capriciously omitted cognates and unrecognized borrowings, the sheer volume of the database might have mitigated some of its problems. Still we are taught “GIGO”, if you know the acronym. So it’s kind of depressing to watch.

Posted by: Dmitry Pruss at August 30, 2012 04:47 PM

(Edited to put quote in quote box.)

[ Edited: 03 September 2012 12:41 PM by languagehat ]
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Posted: 03 September 2012 04:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Hmmm… Not sure I get that. What would be a good example of what that contributor calls a “steppe-word”? I would think that any basic words that might be used on the Steppe might also be used on the shore (though the converse doesn’t apply).

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