LINGUIST List 14.3291

Sat Nov 29 2003

Media: Nature: Lang-Tree Divergence Times Support...

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. jlawler, Glottochronology lives!

Message 1: Glottochronology lives!

Date: 29 Nov 2003 16:27:37 -0000
From: jlawler <>
Subject: Glottochronology lives!

Another article taking the 'genetic/evolution' metaphor of language
change literally has been published, this time in Nature. There is a
press release at

Below are the bibliographic details and abstract, from

-John Lawler Michigan Linguistics Dept
 "Alas, there is almost no foolishness that will not be undertaken
 as A Matter of Principle." -- Arnold Zwicky

- ----------------------- cut here -------------------------

Nature 426:435-439 (27 November 2003)

Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of
Indo-European origin


Department of Psychology,
University of Auckland,
Private Bag 92019,
Auckland 1020, New Zealand

(Correspondence and requests for materials should
 be addressed to R.G. <>)


Languages, like genes, provide vital clues about human history. The origin
of the Indo-European language family is "the most intensively studied, yet
still most recalcitrant, problem of historical linguistics". Numerous
genetic studies of Indo-European origins have also produced inconclusive
results. Here we analyse linguistic data using computational methods
derived from evolutionary biology. We test two theories of Indo-European
origin: the 'Kurgan expansion' and the 'Anatolian farming' hypotheses. The
Kurgan theory centres on possible archaeological evidence for an expansion
into Europe and the Near East by Kurgan horsemen beginning in the sixth
millennium BP. In contrast, the Anatolian theory claims that Indo-European
languages expanded with the spread of agriculture from Anatolia around
8,000-9,500 years BP. In striking agreement with the Anatolian hypothesis,
our analysis of a matrix of 87 languages with 2,449 lexical items produced
an estimated age range for the initial Indo-European divergence of between
7,800 and 9,800 years BP. These results were robust to changes in coding
procedures, calibration points, rooting of the trees and priors in the
bayesian analysis.

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