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Linguistic founder effects and the peopling of the New WorldA study in preneolithic linguistics

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Title: Linguistic founder effects and the peopling of the New WorldA study in preneolithic linguistics


1
New approaches to language andprehistory from
typology, (genetics),and quantitative
linguistics
Søren Wichmann MPI-EVA Leiden University
2
Lecture II More on the increasing importance of
quantification
3
Case study A Using The World Atlas of Language
Structures to make inferences about the peopling
of the Americas(Not included in uploaded
version)
4
Case study B Distinguishing among farmer and
hunter-gatherer language families
5
The language/farming dispersal hypothesis
  • Human prehistory gives us a record of two very
    important, yet at first sight unrelated, examples
    of expansion. These are (a) the expansions of
    agricultural systems from hearth areas such as
    Southwest Asia, China, and Mesoamerica, and (b)
    the expansions of the worlds major language
    families. Some of the latter are of course
    associated with predominantly hunter-gatherer
    populations, but the majority occur in
    agricultural latitudes and their component
    languages are spoken by people who were already
    agriculturalists at the dawn of history. Many of
    these widespread agriculturalist language
    families, such as Austronesian, Indo-European,
    Niger-Congo, Uto-Aztecan, and Afroasiatic, had
    reached their precolonial geographical limits
    (give or take a few hundred kilometers) long
    before the local existence of any written
    records--their spreads belong among prehistoric
    farmers/pastoralists and small-scale social
    formations, rather than among the great conquest
    empires and charismatic world religions of
    history. Could the early dispersals of
    agriculture and the early spreads of certain
    major language families be linked effects of the
    same underlying set of causes? Do these causes
    relate to the demographic growth and rapid
    expansion profiles of early farmers? (Bellwood
    2001 182).

6
The expansion of farming
7
The examples mentioned by Bellwood
8
The policeman steps in. . .
  • Campbell (2003) But not all extended language
    families are associated with agriculture. What
    about Tungusic, Uralic, Eskimo-Aleut,
    Pama-Nyungan, Salishan, Uto-Aztecan, Athabaskan,
    Algonquian, Siouan, Yuman, Chon, Jê? And not all
    small language families are spoken by
    hunter-gatherers. . . .

9
The examples mentioned by Campbell
10
Bellwood gets nervous
  • Bellwoods answer to Campbell (2003 468) The
    immensity and complexity of the human past will
    always allow other hypotheses to exist, as it
    will also allow the existence of situations
    within which the hypothesis manifestly does not
    work. Critics of the hypothesis will always be
    able to rub their hands with glee as yet another
    non-matching situation is hauled out of the
    annals of archaeology or anthropology and paraded
    before an awed audience of non-believers.

11
Can we save the theory?
  • Maybe it is not the size or spread as such which
    is important, but rather its density, measured as
    the number of languages per amount of
    differentiation within the family.

12
Rationale
  • Perhaps the rate of language change will be
    greater in a small community than in a large one.
    In a little band of hunter-gatherers it should be
    easier for individual innovations to perpetuate
    throughout the whole community than in a larger
    clusters of village inhabited by sedentary
    farmers (Nettle 1999).
  • On the other hand, over time the population
    expansion will be greater among farmers (Golson
    1982), causing a slow spread of the population
    over an increasingly large area. This, in turn,
    will lead to dialect differences and eventually
    the emergence of new languages.

13
Testing the hypothesis
  • Lets mensure the density and see if the
    correlation works better. As a measure of number
    of languages, N, we simply use Ethnologue. As a
    measure of differenciation we use
    glottochronological age, mc, since this
    translates directly into lexical differentiation.
  • D N/mc
  • (For practical reasons we calibrate D to a scale
    from 1 to 100)

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The theory is now improved
  • Using language family sizes (N)
  • 70 ? N? 100 agriculture present
  • 1 ? N ? 70 no prediction possible
  • N ? 1 agriculture absent
  • A prediction can be made for 7 out of 36
    families (19). If we allow for one exception
    (Nilo-Saharan) it works in 35 of all cases.
  • Using densities (D)
  • 47 ? D ? 100 agriculture present
  • 7 lt D lt 47 no prediction possible
  • 0 ? D ? 7 agriculture absent
  • A prediction can be made (without exceptions)
    for 16 out of 36 families (44).

21
It can even be extended somewhat
  • The correlation narrows down to density in
    relation not necessarily to agriculture per se,
    but rather sedentism.
  • Na-Dene and Algic data supports this. These are
    just below the cut-off value D 47 that
    predicts the presence of agriculture.
  • Driver (1969 88) fishing was more productive
    per acre than hunting or wild plant gathering. It
    was second only to agriculture in this respect.
    The relatively sedentary way of life on the
    Northwest Coast was made possible by the
    abundance of food available within a small
    territory.

22
Not only have we saved Bellwood, we have also
supported the initial hypotheses
  • (1) The rate of language change will be greater
    in a small community than in a large one (Nettle
    1999).
  • (2) Over time the population expansion will be
    greater among farmers (Golson 1982).

23
- Fin - Tomorrow phylogenetic
algorithms and software and they can be used in
historical linguistics
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