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NZ study cracks origin of English language

Auckland University researchers have stunned academics worldwide by tracing the origins of the English language to Turkish farmers. Using a novel approach to develop an Indo-European language tree, the researchers say they have evidence that the roots of the English language go back about 9000 years to Turkey.
Associate Professor Russell Gray AND Quentin Atkinson
published their research in the British journal Nature. Their findings on the long-debated origins of the language have quickly spread. The origin of the Indo-European language family has been the most intensively studied problem of historical linguistics, but numerous genetic studies have produced inconclusive results.
For almost two centuries linguists and archaeologists debated two theories on the origins of the language family, whose members ranged from Greek and Hindi to German and English. It was thought the language was spread either by rampaging Kurgan horsemen who swept down into Europe and the Near East from the steppes of Russia 6000 years ago, or by farmers from Anatolia (modern Turkey) who had tilled their way westwards several millenniums earlier.
Professor Gray, an evolutionary biologist in the university's psychology department, said yesterday that his results showed only the latter theory could be correct. He had used methods derived from evolutionary biology to study the problem for the past five years. He accepted his approach to build an evolutionary tree of the Indo-European languages was controversial and subject to criticism. But Professor Gray said he thought it was a valid technique that had clearly shown the origins of the English language went back further than had been thought, excluding the Kurgan horsemen theory. It appeared that Indo-European languages had expanded with the spread of agriculture from Anatolia 7800 to 9800 years ago.
Professor Gray and Mr Atkinson had analysed thousands of words from 87 languages to find out when the various branches of the Indo-European family tree started diverging. "We looked at words from different languages that were clearly related and grouped them in sets." Professor Gray said a simple example was that five was cinq in French and cinque in Italian.
"We built matrices of all our information, gleaned from the internet and every obscure etymological dictionary we could find." The researchers then used sophisticated computer programs to do the analysis and build language trees.
The length of the resulting branches and their various offshoots showed when each language diverged from its predecessors and developed a separate identity.
Professor Gray said Hittite (an extinct Anatolian language) was the first major language group to branch from the Indo-European trunk.
Over subsequent millenniums the same trunk sprouted Tocharian, Armenian, Greek, Albanian, Iranian, Indic, Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, French/Iberian, Italic and Celtic language groups.
A Marsden Fund grant from the Government and a James Cook Fellowship from the Royal Society of New Zealand helped to pay for the research, which included the equivalent of three solid years of computer time.

Aurignacian ethno-linguistic geography of Europe revealed by personal ornaments
Journal of Archaeological Science (Article in Press) Marian Vanhaeren et al.
Our knowledge of the migration routes of the first anatomically modern populations colonising the European territory at the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic, of their degree of biological, linguistic, and cultural diversity, and of the nature of their contacts with local Neanderthals, is still vague. Ethnographic studies indicate that of the different components of the material culture that survive in the archaeological record, personal ornaments are among those that best reflect the ethno-linguistic diversity of human groups. The ethnic dimension of beadwork is conveyed through the use of distinct bead types as well as by particular combinations and arrangements on the body of bead types shared with one or more neighbouring groups. One would expect these variants to leave detectable traces in the archaeological record. To explore the potential of this approach, we recorded the occurrence of 157 bead types at 98 European Aurignacian sites. Seriation, correspondence, and GIS analyses of this database identify a definite cline sweeping counter-clockwise from the Northern Plains to the Eastern Alps via Western and Southern Europe through fourteen geographically cohesive sets of sites. The sets most distant from each other include Aurignacian sites from the Rhne valley, Italy, Greece and Austria on the one hand, and sites from Northern Europe, on the other. These two macro-sets do not share any bead types. Both are characterised by particular bead types and share personal ornaments with the intermediate macro-set, composed of sites from Western France, Spain, and Southern France. We argue that this pattern, which is not explained by chronological differences between sites or by differences in raw material availability, reflects the ethnolinguistic diversity of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic populations of Europe.

Linguistics Calendar Starting January 1st, 1814


Evolution's Profligacy From: Scientist Howard Bloom

Charles Darwin borrowed this snippet from Max Mueller:
"A struggle for life is constantly going on amongst the words and gramatical forms in each language. The better, the shorter, the easier forms are constantly gaining the upper hand, and they owe their success to their own inherent virtue."
This was very reminiscent of the language in which Peter Richerson has been describing cultural evolution. It makes the assumption that, as in physics, forms will tend to seek the state which takes the least energy to maintain. The problem is, in English this isn't true see "Jargon ".

When Do People Learn Languages?

People who are interested in the origin of English may also be interested in reading and learning about those CRAZY american english words that come from those lovely Irish People aka Irish American Vernacular English and the lovely African American Vernacular English speaking people.




Learn about Tonal language speakers. - There are 2 kinds of languages, one that uses pitch and the other doesn't. If your are a tonal language speaker how do you use a computer to type pitch? Linguist Jeff Allen suggests: Tones in Ijo...

December 22 1845: The voice synthesiser Euphonium, is demonstrated to the public in Philadelphia.
Using reeds, bellows and chambers to simulate the anatomy of the human speech organs, it is said to have been able to produce 16 syllables.