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Birthplace of Indoeuropean Languages Found

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  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:14PM (#41214925) Journal

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

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:16PM (#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

    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:24PM (#41215029) Homepage

      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.

      • by 0-9a-zA-Z_.+!*'()123 (266827) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:42PM (#41215179) Homepage Journal

        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."

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        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.

      • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:47PM (#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.

        • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Monday September 03, 2012 @06:27PM (#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).
          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:45PM (#41218061) Journal

            Dr. Timothy Ball or whomever disagrees, they're just denialists!

            Ball is not a denier, he's a shill [sourcewatch.org], he's not just wrong, he's paid to lie.
            Meat from the link:
            - "Dr. Ball was a former professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg between 1988 to 1996. The University of Winnipeg never had a climatology department.".
            - Statement of Defence by the Calgary Herald [in Ball vs Johnson] - “The Plantiff (Dr. Ball) is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist.”

            So he's not a trained climatologist but can point to Tasmania on a map, and the people who publish his propaganda claim under oath that he is a FF shill. At least the Herald had the decency to be honest about cash for comment (when under the threat of legal punishment), after all, cash for comment has been a pillar of the MSM's business model since day one.

            Influential people deny AGW for the same reasons influential people denied, pea-soup fog, acid rain and the health effects of smoking and astbestos. It's an existential threat to their economic and political power. The problem with denying reality is that sooner or later it is forced upon you. Coal fired generators are replaced every 30-40 years, but what would the entire coal industry be worth in 10yrs time if every time a generator was scheduled to be replaced, it was replaced with something that didn't burn coal? The economy would not collapse, the coal industry would, people would simply shift their investments to the clean energy market and leave the Luddites in the coal industry where they belong, in the past. The coal industry are fighting a hearts and minds campaign against climate science, they are fighting for their corporate lives and reality is starting to overwhelm them, it would be a mistake to expect them to be intellectually reasonable and reinvest their riches.

          • 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...blah,blah,climategate,blah.

            PS: That's Ball's straw-man argument, not yours. And I make that claim as a skeptic who has applied self-skepticism to his claim before posting it.

          • Be sure and visit Glacier National Park in the next few years. By the end of the decade it will be Historical Glacier Site National Park.

          • by skine (1524819)

            That's some nice trolling, Lou.

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

          I much appreciate you giving me the credit, however I'm afraid I must claim culpability for the title as well as the summary.

          I did spend extra effort making sure the summary was correct, so I thank you for noticing, but it didn't occur to me to do the same for the title. Oh well, next time I'll improve.

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:47PM (#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.

    • by 517714 (762276)
      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.
      • I guess I don't have strong evidence to the contrary, but I'm deeply skeptical of the claim that most people who are Jews, Christians, Muslims, and members of similar sects literally believe in the tower of Babel story, or their equivalent stories.

        In my experience, literalists are very rare, especially if you exclude the people who claim the bible is literally true but go to great contortions to explain away discrepancies between reality and the story. I know there are places where literalists are more com

    • It is curious that the spread started just at the time that the Black Sea Flood occurred about 8000 years ago. I suspect that the two are directly connected. I do wonder about some of the links given on the graph though. For example Sardinian is much closer to Italian in reality than Ladino is and yet Ladino is listed as a close relative and Sardinian a much more distant one.
      • by shilly (142940)

        I know that's the Italian name for it, but it's better to use the term Ladin instead, to avoid confusion with Judeo-Spanish (Ladino)

  • by wonkavader (605434) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:26PM (#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.

    • by BitterOak (537666)
      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.
      • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:46PM (#41215205) Homepage

        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.

        • If the Altaic family of languages no longer exists then where is Korean? Sometimes Koreans get a look about their noses that is rather Turkish and my wife can tell Koreans at a glance by the grace with which they walk - I don't see it myself but she has demonstrated her ability to me time and time again so I have to believe her. The Altaic origins of Korean always fit nicely with my preconceptions and I find myself uncomfortable with the idea of two isolates (Japanese and Korean) living side by side with no
          • by siride (974284)

            Languages don't always follow population groups. Even if the Koreans have similar genetic background to the Turkic peoples, it doesn't mean the languages are related.

      • 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.

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:54PM (#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.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      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.

    • I don't see how it's that bizarre. For some reason (my personal theory: weather cycles affecting food supply and hence population) there have been numerous waves of hairy-arsed horse-riding nomads bounding off the steppes from time to time. There's Alans, Avars, Tartars, Scythians, Huns, Sarmatians, Magyars. Occasionally the invasion would come from a different direction - Galatians, Romans, Australians.

      The Ottomans were just the last wave that managed to hold onto the region, at least till now.

      Where do

  • Timeline is off (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:44PM (#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... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:50PM (#41215235) Homepage

      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.

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

        Is there anyplace where that isn't true?

      • by fm6 (162816)

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

        • 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.

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

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

      • by reub2000 (705806)

        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... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday September 03, 2012 @07:16PM (#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.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      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... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday September 03, 2012 @04:35PM (#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.

        • 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".

        • . 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).

          • 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 dial

            • 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.

              They mentioned that in the paper. I shall reproduce the salient part here, for your perusal:

              As the earliest representatives of the main Indo-European lineages, our 20 ancient languages might provide more reliable location information. Conversely, the position of the ancient languages in the tree, particularly the three Anatolian varieties, might have unduly biased our results in favor of an Anatolian origin. We investigated both possibilities by repeating the above analyses separately on only the ancient languages and only the contemporary languages (which ex-cludes Anatolian). Consistent with the analysis of the full data set, both analyses still supported an Anatolian origin.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:55PM (#41215287) Journal
    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.

    • 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).

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

        • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Monday September 03, 2012 @03:49PM (#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.

          • by Muros (1167213)

            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 mas

        • 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.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        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

        • 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.

          • by dkleinsc (563838)

            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

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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]
  • when I see the fossil record.
  • 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 multip
  • Now ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by 32771 (906153) on Monday September 03, 2012 @04:00PM (#41215731) Journal

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

    • by IrquiM (471313)
      That's not hard - just listen to them!
    • Re:Now ... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday September 03, 2012 @04:35PM (#41216009) Homepage

      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 ... (Score:4, Informative)

        by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday September 03, 2012 @05:01PM (#41216209) Homepage

        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.

        • by dkleinsc (563838)

          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.

  • 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 met
  • by ixvo (2657555) on Monday September 03, 2012 @04:58PM (#41216185) Journal
    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!!!.
  • 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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