LINGUIST List 29.3487

Tue Sep 11 2018

Confs: Transeurasian; Historical Linguistics/Gerrmany

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Date: 10-Sep-2018
From: Alexander Savelyev <>
Subject: Interdisciplinary Conference on the Prehistory of Transeurasian Millets and Beans, Languages and Genes
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Interdisciplinary Conference on the Prehistory of Transeurasian Millets and Beans, Languages and Genes

Date: 08-Jan-2019 - 11-Jan-2019
Location: Jena, Thuringia, Germany
Contact: Martine Robbeets
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Language Family(ies): Altaic; Japonic; Korean; Mongolic; Tungus; Turkic

Meeting Description:

The question about the origin and dispersal of the Transeurasian languages is one of the most disputed issues in linguistic history. In our conference, we will address this question from an interdisciplinary perspective. Our key objective is to effectively synthesize linguistic, archaeological and genetic evidence in a single approach. To this end, we hope to bring together experts in linguistics, archaeology and genetics and motivate them in leaving the comfort zone of their own discipline to actively collaborate with scholars from other disciplines. In order to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration, we would like to try out a “tandem” format for our conference. We intend to invite ca. 5 geneticists, 5 linguists and 5 archaeologists on the condition that they can extend the invitation to at least one co-presenter from outside their own discipline for a joint presentation on a common research question.

The term “Transeurasian” refers to a group of geographically adjacent languages that include up to five existing language families: Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Koreanic and Japonic.

For linguists, the question of whether these five families descend from a single common ancestor has been the topic of a longstanding debate. If Transeurasian is indeed a valid genealogical grouping, new questions arise with regard to the location of the original homeland, the timedepth, the motivation of the break-up, the routes of dispersal and the areal contacts of the Transeurasian languages. The individual families under discussion are likely to have their earliest recoverable origins in the region of Southern Manchuria around the first millennium BC. For linguists who do not wish to support Transeurasian affiliation, it is a challenge to explain why Southern Manchuria had such a high family density ratio in prehistory and why the separation dates of the individual families are rather late in comparison with other language families in East Asia.

Archaeologists have shown that the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of Southern Manchuria were different from the farming populations of the Yellow River region and the nomadic cultures of the Eurasian steppes. Although archaeologists can locate the centers of agriculture in time and space, many questions remain, such as the exact routes of agricultural dispersal, the timing of the dispersals, the role of agriculture in subsistence, the nature of non-agricultural traits and artifacts transmitted along with agriculture, the reason why agriculture was spread to and adopted in new regions and the evidence for interregional interaction.

Studies on the genetic history of ethnic groups speaking Transeurasian languages have often focused on a subset of Transeurasian families or on one specific language family. In contrast, there has been little interest in addressing the broader question of whether there is a shared genetic substratum common to all Transeurasian-speaking populations and delimiting them from non-Transeurasian populations. However, recent studies show that there is a common Ancient North East Asian lineage shared between Transeurasian populations, which is best represented by contemporary Tungusic speaking groups and displays increasing east-west admixture for Mongolic and Turkic speaking populations from the Bronze age onwards. Given the current state of research, genetics of Transeurasian prehistory would benefit from more paleogenomic research of northeast China, Mongolia and Korea.

Linguistics, archaeology and genetics can each uncover but a fraction of the full story. The ultimate goal of our conference is to converge our partial perspectives into a more holistic understanding of what really happened in Transeurasian prehistory.

Page Updated: 11-Sep-2018