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Mother Tongue

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  • Mother Tongue

    A fascinating and quite long [4 pages] article in this week's New Scientist [26 November 2022] discusses new research being conducted into PIE and how the language may have spread and evolved. As NS is behind a paywall I am only quoting parts of the opening section

    Mother. There can scarcely be a more emotive word in the English language. [,...] mother is perhaps most remarkable for its deluge of cousins. From Dutch [moeder] to Czech [matka] to Bengali [ma], dozens of languages have words that share a common root with mother, tying English to a cobweb of tongues that straddles almost every continent.

    Human societies can’t exist without language, and no language family has shaped our world as much as Indo-European. It boasts well over 3 billion speakers, or an estimated 46 per cent of everyone on Earth. From the moment this language family was recognised, scholars have been searching for the answer to a weighty question. Who spoke the IndoEuropean mother tongue – dubbed ProtoIndo-European (PIE) – that splintered into the hundreds of daughters we hear today?

    The quest has thrilled and frustrated experts for centuries, with the evidence sometimes pointing in opposing directions. Yet the field is far from deadlocked. With the power of DNA at their heels, geneticists are making new claims about PIE, a language that may predate civilisation. Meanwhile, linguistic studies now suggest we can trace the roots of Indo-European languages even further back than PIE, to the world that existed shortly after farming took hold in south-west Asia. Not that any of this is straightforward –or without controversy.

    The story of PIE begins in the 18th century, when William Jones made a startling discovery. A judge working for the British administration in Calcutta [now Kolkata], Jones had always been a passionate linguist. After he moved to India, he became enthralled by Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language still used in modern Hinduism. Jones noticed similarities between Sanskrit and other languages – ones spoken very far from Calcutta. As he put it in a lecture in February 1786, no linguist could examine Greek, Latin and Sanskrit together “without believing them to have sprung”[,,,] Soon, scholars were convinced that these languages were indeed related and belonged to what was, in 1813, termed the “Indo-European” language family. [...] by analysing words that share a similar pronunciation and definition across many Indo-European languages – so-called cognates, including mother/moeder/ma and by studying the sound changes known to occur as languages evolve. Without texts to help them – the earliest Indo-Europeans didn’t have writing –this involved speculation. But in PIE words like sénos [old] and móri [sea] we may be hearing the distant cries of “senior” and “maritime”.

    Linguists also advanced a range of hypotheses about where the PIE speakers came from. Among the more popular was the idea that the first Indo-Europeans heralded from the westernmost region of the Eurasian steppe, north of the Black Sea, around 6000 years ago. If, after all, speakers eventually lived everywhere from Europe’s Atlantic coast to the Himalayas, it made sense that they started somewhere in the middle. From there, the descendants of PIE speakers were thought to have headed variously south into the Anatolian peninsula, north and west into Europe and east into southern Asia.

    [...]More recently, research into the PIE speakers has been transformed to an even greater extent by genetics. Iosif Lazaridis, a geneticist at Harvard University, recalls a time as recently as 2014 when his colleagues had fragments of ancient DNA from a mere 10 individuals across the whole of Europe. Now, there are hundreds of samples to investigate, taken from ancient graves as far apart as Croatia and Iran. These developments are already offering up clues for understanding the spread of Indo-European languages. In 2015, for example, Lazaridis and other researchers studied the genetic data of dozens of ancient Europeans who lived between 3000 and 8000 years ago. Their work hinted that the spread of IndoEuropean languages was at least partly due to a massive migration from the Eurasian steppe. [...] It is certainly true that these migrants completely changed the linguistic landscape: Basque is now the only European language that predates the coming of the Yamnaya. But as Lazaridis and his colleagues have continued their genetic investigations, they have developed a more nuanced picture of what this massive migration really looked like. Earlier this year, Lazaridis co-published three major new studies on the ancient people of an area he and his colleagues called the Southern Arc, a swathe of territory spanning from the Balkans to the Middle East.. [...]
    Yet, as Lazaridis is learning, not all his ideas have found such easy acceptance – particularly those concerning the earliest history of IndoEuropean. His latest genetics research finds shortcomings in the suggestion that the PIE speakers lived on the steppe to the north of the Black Sea. Instead, Lazaridis contends that they originated to the east and south of this region. Again, he stakes his claim on DNA. If the steppe thesis were correct, and the IndoEuropeans originated in the north before some spread south onto the Anatolian peninsula, ancient burials on the north and south sides of the Black Sea should show signs of a shared history. But his team found no steppe ancestry in Anatolian burials, suggesting that people from both places heralded from somewhere else. As Lazaridis explains, that “somewhere” is probably the Caucasus, to the east of the Black Sea. “Anatolia doesn’t have this steppe ancestry,” he says, but ancestry from the Caucasus is seen in ancient burials both on the steppe and on the Anatolian peninsula. If Lazaridis is correct, the story of the PIE speakers will need to undergo a significant rewriting. Put simply, it implies that PIE as many have imagined it – a language emerging on the steppe roughly 6000 years ago – is only the second stage in a linguistic journey that may have started centuries earlier in the Caucasus, possibly in what is now Armenia. This means that nomenclature, if nothing else, must change.

    "It ain't necessarily so
    The things that you're liable
    To read in the Bible
    It ain't necessarily so
    ."

    Sportin' Life
    Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

  • #2
    see: Genesis 11:1-9.
    Last edited by Sparko; 11-29-2022, 01:31 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Sparko View Post
      see: Genesis 11:1-9.
      That reply is precisely what I would have expected from you.
      "It ain't necessarily so
      The things that you're liable
      To read in the Bible
      It ain't necessarily so
      ."

      Sportin' Life
      Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

      Comment


      • #4
        George Carlin often commented on language -- most famously his 7 dirty words and the evolution of "soft language" -- and had a great skit on its development that if I can find I'll post here.

        I'm always still in trouble again

        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
        "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
          George Carlin often commented on language -- most famously his 7 dirty words and the evolution of "soft language" -- and had a great skit on its development that if I can find I'll post here.
          I am not entirely sure if it will have any relevance to the thread title and OP but I await your link.
          "It ain't necessarily so
          The things that you're liable
          To read in the Bible
          It ain't necessarily so
          ."

          Sportin' Life
          Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

            That reply is precisely what I would have expected from you.
            Glad to oblige.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Sparko View Post

              Glad to oblige.
              You never disappoint.
              "It ain't necessarily so
              The things that you're liable
              To read in the Bible
              It ain't necessarily so
              ."

              Sportin' Life
              Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                You never disappoint.


                Did you know that the universal language is English? Even space aliens speak English -- just watch any TV show like Star Trek or Stargate. Even YOU speak English!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sparko View Post



                  Did you know that the universal language is English?
                  It is now in many areas of life.
                  "It ain't necessarily so
                  The things that you're liable
                  To read in the Bible
                  It ain't necessarily so
                  ."

                  Sportin' Life
                  Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sparko View Post



                    Did you know that the universal language is English? Even space aliens speak English -- just watch any TV show like Star Trek or Stargate. Even YOU speak English!
                    English is the lingua franca?



                    I thought they said math (and sometimes music) is the universal language.

                    I'm always still in trouble again

                    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                    "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sparko View Post



                      Did you know that the universal language is English? Even space aliens speak English -- just watch any TV show like Star Trek or Stargate. Even YOU speak English!
                      Even Jesus speaks King James English with a British accent!
                      The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                        Even Jesus speaks King James English with a British accent!
                        God spoke English to Joseph Smith. He even spoke it in an antiquated King James English.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ronson View Post

                          God spoke English to Joseph Smith. He even spoke it in an antiquated King James English.
                          I always found it amusing that folks say the King James Bible was written in Elizabethan English. It's Jacobean.

                          I'm always still in trouble again

                          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                          "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ronson View Post

                            God spoke English to Joseph Smith. He even spoke it in an antiquated King James English.
                            Is this before Joe had to take the bar out of the hotel he owned because his wife threatened to beat him up?
                            The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                              English is the lingua franca?



                              I thought they said math (and sometimes music) is the universal language.
                              It's when you sing mathematical equations in French.
                              The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                              Comment

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