Monday, December 21, 2015

The Linguistic Roots of Europe (Mailhammer, Venemen, Nierfeld, Olsen, 2015)

Here's a short preview of an interesting compendium.  The first two articles can be previewed for free:

Link to the book [here]

Archaeologist Marc Vander Linden's article, "An Impossible Dialog", looks at the interface between archaeology and linguistics within the scope of the Indo-European question.  He juxtaposes two radical views, the archaeology-centric position of Colin Renfrew and a more linguistic-centric position of Marija Gimbutas.   Both theories have flaws and he shows why, in Renfew's case, the dismissive approach to linguistics was a major liability for his Anatolian theory.

Vander Linden suggests comparative philology is the bridge between the two as he sees embedding relicts of an older cultural system, sometimes archaeologically visible.  I'd add that comparative mythology could be bolted on to this as well.  I think there is mountain of physical material to reconstruct Bell Beaker religion and that can tell us more about their origins, social structures, world view, etc.

Robert Mailhammer examines linguistic diversity of Europe before the emergence of Indo-Euorpean, specifically he looks at the old European hydronymy, plausibly pre-European.  

Mailhammer is concerned with two questions in which he models after Australian languages. 
1)  Linguistic diversity in pre-IE Europe to which is sees a more uniform linguistic landscape
2)  Nature of those pre-IE languages in which Basque may provide a loose proxy.

Some discussion is given to Proto-Uralic in the Eastern European Sub-Neolithic.  (Previously, I've commented on a genetic/cultural shift ultimately stemming from the Baikal region [here].  Also, Proto-Uralic's closest genetic relative may be from the Yukaghir language; so it also makes sense that the Pit-Comb ware of the Karelia folks would be similar to that of this same location.)  Petri Kallio continues in the next chapter with the earliest languages in Northeastern Euorpe, making it clear that Uralic pre-dates any IE language.  Unfortunately, that's the preview. Hopefully we'll see more soon.

The Linguistic Roots of Euorpe (2015) Museum Tusculanum Press

LMU-Symposium im Jahr der Geisteswissenschaften am 03. Dezember 2007 [here]


  1. They fall down badly when they argue based on modern DNA that there were no massive population shifts in Europe during the Neolithic or Bronze Age (2.3). It's hard to take them seriously after that.

    1. Yeah, I kind of cringed through the DNA 'evidence'; as a matter of intellectual honesty, it goes against the argument they are trying to make for building bridges between sciences. In this case the DNA was sent them on a wild chase.

      But in fairness to linguists like Mailhammer, in 2007 the DNA experts were talking about the ridiculous seven daughters of Gretchen or Olga or whatever. "Ice Age Refugio, and so on" I know academics like to build off of other peer-reviewed work, especially those outside of their specialty, but a lot of that early DNA stuff was junk.