New research published in Science identifies Anatolia, which comprises modern-day Turkey, as the place where Indo-European languages originated. This contrasts with the so-called ‘Steppe hypothesis’, which maintains that these languages originated in the Russian steppes.
The researchers, led by Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland, traced the common origin of more than 200 words. Their results suggest that languages such as English, French or Italian come from a common ancestor which originated in Anatolia about 8,000 to 9,500 years ago.
‘Archeologists and linguists have had different favorite theories on the language origins,’ said Michael Dunn, co-author of the study. ‘But now, new research like ours provides linguistic support for the Anatolian hypothesis.’
Instead of using the usual geographical models, the researchers used the Bayesian Phylogeography approach, which includes techniques taken from evolutionary biology. This way they were able to model the expansion of the Indo-European languages and test the Steppe and Anatolian hypotheses, as described in the paper.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Remco Bouckaert, Philippe Lemey, Michael Dunn, Simon J. Greenhill, Alexander V. Alekseyenko, Alexei J. Drummond, Russell D. Gray, Marc A. Suchard, & Quentin D. Atkinson (2012). Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1219669
Indo-European Language and Culture
Benjamin W. Fortson IV