LINGUIST List 6.951

Sat Jul 8 1995

Disc: Genes and Indo-European

Editor for this issue: Anthony M. Aristar <>


  1. , Gene flow and Indo-Europeans

Message 1: Gene flow and Indo-Europeans

Date: Sat, 08 Jul 1995 07:36:17 Gene flow and Indo-Europeans
From: <>
Subject: Gene flow and Indo-Europeans

H. M. Hubey has made readers of this list aware of an interesting article
which appeared in the June 24, 1995, issue of Science News concerning
evidence from DNA data indicating a gene flow from Anatolia into Europe
beginning around 9,000 years BP. Hubey also points out that there is genetic
evidence that nomads from the central Eurasian Yamna culture spread westward
into Europe approximately 5,500 years ago.

While it is indeed reasonable to link the first migration with the spread of
agriculture, it does not follow that those who migrated spoke any form of
Indo-European ("Pre-", "Proto-", or dialects thereof). Nor does it follow
that "[i]t is possible that both expansions were responsible for the spread
of different subfamilies of Indo-European languages..."

We know from cuneiform records that by 3,000 BCE Anatolia was populated (at
least in part, if not in full) by people speaking Caucasian languages. In
eastern Anatolia, Hurrian and the later attested and closely-related Urartean
were spoken. These languages have been convincingly shown by Sergej
Starostin and Igor Diakonoff to be related to Northeast Caucasian. In
central Anatolia, Hattic was spoken -- this was later replaced by Hittite, an
Indo-European language. Diakonoff maintains that Hattic was also a Caucasian
language. Finally, Diakonoff has claimed that the language spoken by the
Gutians (Qutians) was a Caucasian language.

Moreover, there are no unambiguous references to Indo-European people or
languages in written records from the ancient Near East until just before
2,000 BCE, and the first references are to Hittites. It is generally agreed
by specialists (for example, Gamkrelidze, Mellaart, Puhvel, Steiner, among
others) that the Hittites were invaders who imposed themselves upon
populations speaking Caucasian languages (in particular, Hattic).

Thus, there is much stronger evidence that prior to about 2,000 BCE, Anatolia
was populated by speakers of Caucasian languages than by speakers of
Indo-European languages. Thus, it follows logically that if one were to
attempt to correlate gene flow at about 9,000 BP from Anatolia to Europe with
language spread that one would tend to think more about very early forms of
Caucasian rather than Indo-European.

Allan R. Bomhard
Boston, Massachusetts
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