Recent Focused Series »

Indo-European Origins
Siberia
Northern California
The Caucasus
Imaginary Geography
Home » Historical Geography, Indo-European Origins, Linguistic Geography

Response to Quentin D. Atkinson

Submitted by on September 27, 2012 – 6:34 pm 24 Comments |  
We would like to thank Quentin D. Atkinson for taking the time to respond to our critique of the Science article by Bouckaert et al., of which he is one of the authors. While he appears to restate their team’s position rather than address specific criticisms that we had voiced, we feel that we should address those issues that Atkinson brings up in defense of their methodology.

According to Atkinson, “the inferences based on linguistic palaeontology [i.e. the approach we advocate in our critique] have thus far failed to satisfy … three requirements”. First, Atkinson correctly points out that “in order to reconstruct a term to Proto-Indo-European, the common ancestor of all Indo-European languages, it must be present in those languages that are first to branch off from the base of the tree. It is not enough to point to similar terms in some sub-groups of the family. Thus, in the case of Indo-European, if a word is not present in the Anatolian languages at the base of the tree, there is no reason to think it was present in Proto-Indo-European”. This applies in particular to the words denoting vehicular meanings such as the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *kwekwlos ‘wheel’, *rot-eh another term for ‘wheel’, *aks ‘axle’, *hihs- ‘thill’ (the harness pole), and *wegheti, a verb meaning ‘to convey or go in a vehicle’. The point Atkinson makes is well justified: if cognates are found only in a subset of the family’s branches, they can lead to a reconstruction of the form only in the common ancestral language. For example, if only Romance and Celtic languages share a certain cognate set, only the most recent common ancestor—Proto-Italo-Celtic—can be said to have the form from which these cognates derive; no conclusions can be drawn about the earlier ancestral languages such as PIE.

While in general Atkinson’s point is valid, two issues arise in using vehicular terminology as a counterargument to the early dating of PIE, as proposed by Bouckaert et al. First, as has been pointed out by one of our readers, anthropologist German Dziebel, it is possible that Hittite, a language in the Anatolian branch which was the first to split off the Indo-European tree, had a word deriving from the PIE *kwekwlos ‘wheel’. This word was hurki- ‘wheel’, possibly from *HuHr-ki. The regular correspondence between Hittite H and PIE *k is attested in other words, such as hastai ‘bone’, related to the Russian (Slavic) kosti ‘bones’, and the Hittite ishahru ‘tear’, derived from the PIE *(d)akru-. If this is correct, then the Anatolian branch had a derivative of the PIE *kwekwlos ‘wheel’, and we have met the first requirement identified by Atkinson.

However, even if we do not find a form in Hittite that would have descended from the PIE *kwekwlos ‘wheel’, an argument against the early dates proposed by Bouckaert et al. still stands. The issue here concerns the next branch to split off the Indo-European family, Tocharian. Tocharian indisputably has the five wheel-related roots mentioned above (see Anthony, p. 64). Therefore, these roots can be reconstructed at least as far back as the ancestral language of all Indo-European languages including Tocharian but not Anatolian. Let’s call this language PIE-minus-Anatolian. (Some linguists have suggested that this language was PIE, arguing that the Anatolian languages are distinct enough to be related to the rest at a higher “taxonomic” level, which would place Indo-European as a sub-set of “Indo-Hittite”; cf. the chart on the left.) According to Bouckaert et al., the separation of the Tocharian branch from the rest of the IE family—that is, the time when PIE-minus-Anatolian was spoken—occurred around 4800 BCE (or 6,800 years ago), a good millennium and a half before solid evidence for wheeled vehicles appears in the archeological record. The same argument I made for PIE can therefore be made for PIE-minus-Anatolian: why would its speakers have words for wheeled vehicles if they would not have such vehicles for another 1,500 years? If, however, PIE is dated around 4000 BCE (or 6,000 years ago)—and PIE-minus-Anatolian even later—the existence of vehicular vocabulary in these languages is not at all surprising.

Atkinson’s second rebuttal is that the common vehicular vocabulary could be a result of borrowing, either from one Indo-European language, which presumably would have created these words, or from an unrelated language, most likely in the Semitic family. This borrowing must have happened around 3000-4000 BCE (or 5,000-6,000 years ago), Atkinson claims. It is reasonable to assume that speakers of Indo-European language(s) would have borrowed words for wheeled vehicles together with the wheel technology itself. Yet, here again Tocharian presents an insurmountable obstacle. According to the original Bouckaert et al. article, by the date of this putative borrowing Tocharian speakers have already moved far away from the Indo-European-speaking core, as well as from the Semitic-speaking areas (see a frame of their animated map for 3300 BCE on the left). According to Don Ringe, once proto-Tocharians left the Indo-European homeland, there was no contact, linguistic or otherwise, between them and the other Indo-European peoples. Assuming this to be true, how could Tocharian speakers have borrowed vehicular words from either from other Indo-Europeans or from Semitic speakers?

The third “test” that proponents of linguistic paleontology must pass, according to Atkinson, is disproving the possibility of a common meaning shift. In the case of Indo-European, the problem here is that “upon the development of wheeled transport, words derived from the PIE term *kwel- (meaning ‘to turn, rotate’) may have been independently co-opted to describe the wheel *kwekwlo-”. As I had addressed this issue in my original post on the wheel problem, I will not go into great detail here. However, I believe that the burden of proof is not on the proponents of linguistic paleontology in this case, but on those who deny it. It is perfectly possible, even likely, that the words for wheeled vehicles and their parts derive from a verb that denotes rotation, turning around, or some other type of circular motion (as in the case of *kwekwlo- ‘wheel’), or from names of body parts, such as ‘neck’, ‘shoulder’, ‘navel’ and so on. However, this brings us back to the conundrum concerning the timing of any such meaning shift. If it happened in the PIE itself, prior to its split into daughter branches, and if Bouckaert et al.’s dates are correct, we are left wondering why PIE speakers would have changed the meanings of these words to signify things that they were not familiar with yet. Alternatively, if the meaning shift happened at a later time, in the various Indo-European branches independently of each other, we are left wondering why speakers of these distinct, and in some cases isolated, languages shifted the meaning of the same words in exactly the same way. According to David Anthony, PIE had several verbs denoting circular motion—why then did speakers of various branches independently zero in on *kwel- ‘to turn’? Similarly, a number of words for rotating body parts, such as ‘neck’, ‘elbow’, even ‘knee’, could have become the source for words meaning ‘wheel’, yet that did not happen. Also, if we are to take the word meaning ‘navel’ as the source of the word for ‘nob (of a wheel)’, why would different languages have independently converged on this particular body part? After all, human bodies do not rotate around navels, under normal circumstances. While it is true that the navel can be conceptualized as the core point around which the whole body (metaphorically) spins, so can the heart, the liver, the stomach, even the eye. The burden is thus upon the proponents of the early-PIE-split theory to explain away those difficulties. Atkinson, however, provided no substantive counterarguments or rebuttal to our critique. We hope he might do so in the near future.

 

Sources:

Anthony, David W. (2007) The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press.

 

Previous Post
«
Next Post
»

Subscribe For Updates

It would be a pleasure to have you back on GeoCurrents in the future. You can sign up for email updates or follow our RSS Feed, Facebook, or Twitter for notifications of each new post:
        

Commenting Guidelines: GeoCurrents is a forum for the respectful exchange of ideas, and loaded political commentary can detract from that. We ask that you as a reader keep this in mind when sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

    “This word was hurki- ‘wheel’, possibly from *HuHr-ki. The regular correspondence between Hittite H and PIE *k is attested in other words, such as hastai ‘bone’, related to the Russian (Slavic) kosti ‘bones’, and the Hittite ishahru ‘tear’, derived from the PIE *(d)akru-”

    This was probably the most speculative of my thoughts on the matter. And although I question whether our knowledge of IE historical phonology is sufficiently complete (cases of correspondences between Hittite H and IE velars do exist defying the regular correspondence of Hitt h ~ IE 0) to make judgements directly relevant to the earliest splits in PIE, standard IE theory, as I pointed out in my other comment, keeps Hitt hurki- separate from IE *kwekwlo-.

    Hitt hurki- seems to be related to Toch A warkant, B yerkwanto ‘wheel’ (< *Hwerg-), with some reservations from Ringe, which lead to the conclusion that in Hittite and Tocharian there was a parallel development from the same underlying root. This further means that hurki- and warkant/yerkwanto may not be a Tocharian-Hittite exclusive isogloss. In Tocharian warkant/yerkwanto 'wheel' seems to have replaced the original *kwekwlo- as the latter is attested in Toch A kukal and B kokale with a derived meaning 'wagon'. This suggests that Hittite may have lost it altogether. Since it shares an exclusive vehicular isogloss with Indic (Hissa 'thill', isa 'pole, shaft'), the loss of a reflex of *kwekwlo- is very possible.

    I have further thoughts on your piece, Asya, I just have to think it through a bit more.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you and looking forward to your additional comments, German!

  • Jaska

    Well written! There are enough evidence from linguistic paleontology with very strict criteria also without the wheel:
    http://www.mv.helsinki.fi/home/jphakkin/Problems_of_phylogenetics.pdf

    (The main point are the many weaknesses of the phylogenetic lexicostatistic method.)

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for your comment and the link to your paper, which I’m reading with great interest. You make some really good points in that paper, some of which I’ve made too, others that I meant to include in my critique but which for various reasons haven’t been included, and some that I have not thought of. And may I add that your paper is very well written too!

    • Trond Engen

      Very interesting, and especially for the updated Uralics. Thank you! But — and take this in the best possible way — I do notice that the new Uralic results are to a large part your own. Would you mind saying something about how mainstream they are and what controversies there may still be?

      • Trond Engen

        Now I’ve been to your professional homepage. Since I don’t read Finnish, I’m stuck with your English writings, but that gave me some good Wiik-bashing. Well done!

      • Jaska

        Hi!
        If you mean the later date for the Uralic (Kallio, Häkkinen) and Finnic and Saami expansion (Aikio, Saarikivi), that is widely accepted in at least Finnish Fenno-Ugrist circles (other countries will follow). Many other scholars have not yet published about the topic, but those who have, have agreed (Juha Janhunen, Asko Parpola).

        About the new Uralic family tree: I have seen acceptance for it, too (Kallio, Janhunen, Parpola). No counter-arguments so far…

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

          @ Jaska
          Thanks for the link to the paper. Interesting. So, Samoyedic is not the earliest branch of Uralic anymore… In my global study of kinship terminologies (http://www.amazon.com/Genius-Kinship-Phenomenon-Diversity-Terminologies/dp/1934043656), I argued that Saami, rather than Samoyedic, preserve the most conservative kin terminological system from which all other Uralic systems are derived. I suppose your new tree of Uralic supports this interpretation at least when it comes to displacing Samoyedic from the ancestral node. Is there anything suggesting an early divergence of Finnish and Saami from the rest of Uralic?

          You classify the Hittite divergence, just like Samoyedic divergence, as examples of false divergence because it transpires only in lexicon but not in phonetics. Question: Hittite would qualify as having phonetic divergence, too, due to the attested laryngeal, no?

          I know you believe loanwords from Early Indo-European into Uralic support the Kurgan homeland for Indo-Europeans. What’s your take on the Uralic homeland?

          What’s your take on the Uralic-Yukhagir link? Is it genetic or contact induced?

          • Jaska

            On the
            phonological basis Finnic, Saami and Mordvin seem to have formed the West
            Uralic dialect, but so far it is difficult to date the split accurately.
            Probably both West Uralic and East Uralic (> Hungarian, Mansi, Khanty,
            Samoyed) split before the mid-second millennium BC. We have Palaeo-Germanic
            loanwords which show areal but not yet phonological differentiation between
            Finnic and Saami, so these branches must have reached Gulf of Finland region (both
            northern and southern side were influenced by Scandinavian Bronze Culture,
            which suits as the carrier of Palaeo-Germanic loanwords) before the first
            millennium BC.

            I dare not
            claim that Anatolian would certainly be similar to Samoyed, showing false
            divergence, but it is still a possibility. Laryngeals are a retention, not
            innovation, so they cannot prove that Anatolian was the first branch to split
            off – laryngeals seem to have preserved also to quite late times in
            Balto-Slavic, according to Frederik Kortlandt. Alwin Kloekhorst has presented
            seven features which look like innovations in Indo-European minus Anatolian,
            and I consider them quite convincing. So I would say that Anatolian may well be
            the first branch to split off, but it probably wasn’t much earlier – at least I
            haven’t seen any proposed common Indo-European sound changes after the split
            off of Anatolian. So the early split seen in the lexical level seems to be
            “exaggerated” divergence.

            I have
            recently considered all the arguments and located the Proto-Uralic homeland to
            Lower Kama, following Petri Kallio. Unfortunately that article is so far only
            in Finnish:

            http://www.sgr.fi/susa/92/hakkinen.pdf

            You may try
            Google translator, although it is not always comprehensible… Some
            argumentation can be found in a fresh English article:

            http://www.sgr.fi/sust/sust264/sust264_hakkinenj.pdf

            There I
            also stratify the Uralic loanwords in Yukaghir; the languages are too different
            compared to the similarity of these words, so they must be loanwords. It sounds
            impossible that languages could have developed so different directions without going
            through any major sound changes.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            Thank you for all the information. I will be writing a post on http://www.anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org about a couple of your recent papers in the next little while. I have a good sense of your overall argument and it makes sense. One thing I want to mention right away is that Saami kin terminological system could serve as a plausible prototype not just for the rest of Uralic, but also for Altaic. This is consistent with your (and Janhunen, among others) belief that Uralic and Altaic families share a unique structural pattern that couldn’t have been evolved independently but rather signals early prolonged contact between these protolanguages. But I wonder if considering the extreme northern location of Saami (and the strong potential behind Uralo-Eskimo link per Seefloth and others), the homeland of pre-proto-Uralic may have been in a circumpolar area rather than in South Siberia. Altaic completely abandoned that geographic zone and migrated to South Siberia, while Uralic maintained it’s northern presence but shifted it somewhat westward.

            On the IE end of things, once you agree that Anatolian is the most divergent, one of Atkinson’s arguments kicks in, namely that you can’t reconstruct a word for proto-IE if Anatolian, being the most divergent branch, doesn’t have a reflex of it. Kloekhorst I think argued the same thing. This kills *kwekwlo- as a PIE term for ‘wheel’ (unless Hitt hurki is somehow related to it). But the overall agreement in wheeled transport vocabulary between Hittite and IE is strong (hissa ‘thill’ is very telling) аnd it would be strange to have such a key word as ‘wheel’ not be part of the inherited PIE wheeled transport vocabulary, so something’s gotta give and I don’t know what. My solution to this is that Kurganic languages are unattested and if they were they probably would have been more divergent than Hittite because of the sheer antiquity of Sredny Stog etc. compared to the earliest attestations of Hittite. Hence, the divergence of Hittite could still be “false” but for a different reason than Samoyedic.

            I also assume, considering your support for Kloekhorst, that you are partial to the Indo-Uralic hypothesis. Is that accurate?

          • Jaska

            “But I wonder if considering the
            extreme northern location of Saami (and the strong potential behind
            Uralo-Eskimo link per Seefloth and others), the homeland of pre-proto-Uralic
            may have been in a circumpolar area rather than in South Siberia. Altaic
            completely abandoned that geographic zone and migrated to South Siberia, while
            Uralic maintained it’s northern presence but shifted it somewhat westward.”

            We have
            evidence in placenames that Saami only spread to Lapland within the last 2000
            years from the Ladoga area, so its northern location is not original. And
            because Saami did not split off first but only from the West Uralic dialect
            together with Finnic and Mordvin, its origin must be yet further to the southeast. All the earliest locations of Uralic and Altaic are more southern,
            northern expansions being later. And there are even some agricultural words in
            Proto-Uralic. Ural-Eskimo hypothesis does not seem very credible to me, at
            least as reconstructed by Fortesque (in general about the distant affinities,
            see below).

            “My solution to this is that
            Kurganic languages are unattested and if they were they probably would have
            been more divergent than Hittite because of the sheer antiquity of Sredny Stog etc. compared to the earliest attestations of Hittite. Hence, the divergence of
            Hittite could still be “false” but for a different reason than
            Samoyedic.”

            Good point!
            Still, there are other possibilities: Bill Darden has argued that
            Proto-Indo-Hittite split after the invention of animal traction and secondary
            products but before the inventing of the wheel; only Nuclear Indo-European
            would have split after the wheel.

            http://slavic.uchicago.edu/archived/papers/darden-anatolia.pdf

            “I also assume, considering your
            support for Kloekhorst, that you are partial to the Indo-Uralic hypothesis. Is
            that accurate?”

            No, I don’t
            believe in any distant relatedness hypotheses so far… The data and
            argumentation so far is too scanty and produces contradicting results. Imaginary
            example: there are words IE *gol- ~ U *kuli ~ North Caucasian *p’r- with
            identical meanings. One scholar reconstructs Proto-Indo-Uralic *guli, another
            reconstructs Proto-Indo-Caucasian *kwr-. It is too easy to make different
            reconstructions from the current corpus, so any proposition cannot be seen very
            credible. The main problem is that the words usually look too similar, taken
            the huge differences in the morphological level; therefore they are best explained
            as loanwords (or even false comparisons, if the criteria are too loose).

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            “Ural-Eskimo hypothesis does not seem very credible to me, at
            least as reconstructed by Fortesque”

            Seefloth seems to have strengthened it. But I agree with your overall point on long range linguistics.

            “All the earliest locations of Uralic and Altaic are more southern, northern expansions being later”

            But overall Uralic is way north of the Sayans and some later southerly movements by Samoyeds are attested, too. It looks like a southern contact zone between Uralic and Altaic is no more likely than a northern one. Genetics may favor one over the other more decisively.

            “And because Saami did not split off first but only from the West Uralic dialect together with Finnic and Mordvin, its origin must be yet further to the southeast.”

            Or the origin of Mordvinian to the north or northwest. Ladoga is still very northerly compared to South Siberia.

            Thanks for the Darden paper.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/German-Dziebel/535243148 German Dziebel

            More at http://anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org/2012/10/on-the-homeland-of-the-uralic-language-family/. We may want to spare Asya’s and Martin’s real estate if we want to discuss Uralic.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            This is fine. I am enjoying the discussion and learning much from it.

          • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

            Yes, I second Asya’s observation. Many thanks for your well-considered observations.

        • Trond Engen

          Thank you. I see that I”ll have to reread a couple of chapters of David Anthony and Mallory & Adams. This seems to fit with some thoughts I had about Uralic when I read about the contacts — quite possibly because they wanted me to have them — but now I’m better equipped to spot the details.

  • Pingback: On the Homeland of the Uralic Language Family

  • Philip Neal

    It is perfectly possible that a set of words including the word for wheel originated as loans words or semantic innovations in one of the non-Hittite branches of Indo-European and were borrowed by the rest around 6000 to 5000 before the present. But this would not result in forms as different as hweol, kuklos, cakra and so on: the word must have been fairly close to kwekwlos when borrowed and all the phonological changes required to produce those forms would have taken place later. Is Atkinson suggesting that little or no phonological change took place between 8500 BP and 6000 BP, only the changes required to distinguish Hittite from the other branches? If that was the case, surely the non-Hittite languages would have been mutually intelligible dialects up to 6000 BP, and there would be no reason to expect their lexicons to diverge at the rate which obtained after they became distinct languages – the hypothesis with which Atkinson started out.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for your comment, Philip. I agree with you that such assumptions would need to be made, but they are not reasonable. First, Bouckaert et al’s own map shows the different non-Hittite branches spread away from the IE homeland at the time of the wheel’s appearance in the archeological record, preventing them from being able to borrow these words from each other or some other language. Moreover, I don’t understand why diverging dialects and separate languages should have different rates of change. Even for contemporary varieties we often cannot make a distinction: is Scots a dialect of English or a separate language? What about four varieties of Albanian or three varieties of Breton, which Bouckaert et al list as “languages”? Moreover, the label “dialect” vs. “language” depends on comparison with other varieties, not any inherent property of the tongue itself. Hence, a dialect and a language need not have different rates of change.

  • Dragos

    There are words which are inherited only by some of the daughter languages. The Romance languages prove this point: the regional Latin dialects which will later become French, Catalan, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, etc. branched off at about the same time but they did not inherit the same words from Latin.

    For example we have French “lire” and Italian “leggere”, and on the other hand in Romanian we find “a citi” borrowed from the Slavic languages. This difference can be explained with historical arguments (written culture, church language, etc.) and it doesn’t mean the Romanian branched off earlier.

    The speakers of Anatolian languages also borrowed words from some non-IE languages. The shift from non-IE to IE in Anatolia was not sudden: it lasted hundreds, thousands of years. Plenty of time for the non-IE speakers to acquire the wheel technology. Maybe some non-IE languages developed their own terminology and maybe the Anatolian languages borrowed such words from those non-IE languages. Maybe they didn’t and they split off PIE before the formation of the “wheel vocabulary”. I don’t think the answer is that obvious.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for your comment, Dragos. I am not sure though what you are trying to argue. My argument about the wheel vocabulary hinges on the words that were inherited from a common source (PIE), not words that were not inherited, as in the Romanian example you give. (BTW, we don’t know that Romanian didn’t originally inherit the Latin verb for ‘read’ and only later replaced it with a Slavic borrowing, do we?)

      • Dragos

        My argument is the following: it may be possible that Anatolian inherited a word for wheel from PIE, and then borrowed another word for wheel from another neighboring non-IE language (which acquired the wheel technology meanwhile). The remark “in order to reconstruct a term to Proto-Indo-European, the common ancestor of all Indo-European languages, it must be present in those languages that are first to branch off from the base of the tree” may be helpful in certain contexts, but it is not necessarily true. Probably this is why Bouckaert, Atkinson et al make some many mistakes (e.g. Romani splits off so early), because their methods do not consider the real (social, economic, political) history of the speakers. They are unable to tell if the amount of change within a language is due to an early split off or it’s the reflection of an eventful history

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          You are correct that Anatolian might have inherited a wheel word from PIE and then replaced it by borrowing. But in that case, it is not possible for us to reconstruct that word to PIE (including Anatolian), so my remark is correct. That we can’t reconstruct a word does not mean it didn’t exist, but that we don’t have sufficient evidence to do such reconstruction.

  • Rebecca Armstrong

    Fascinating discussion. Sorry I missed it, apparently I am a year too late. Probably no one will see this but on the off chance that someone does — here goes!

    First, let me preface this by saying I am not a historian or linguist or any other field related to this discussion, just an interested spectator. My comment refers to this:

    “Yet, here again Tocharian presents an insurmountable obstacle. According to the original Bouckaert et al.
    article, by the date of this putative borrowing Tocharian speakers have
    already moved far away from the Indo-European-speaking core, as well as
    from the Semitic-speaking areas (see a frame of their animated map for
    3300 BCE on the left). According to Don Ringe, once proto-Tocharians
    left the Indo-European homeland, there was no contact, linguistic or
    otherwise, between them and the other Indo-European peoples. Assuming
    this to be true, how could Tocharian speakers have borrowed vehicular
    words from either from other Indo-Europeans or from Semitic speakers?”

    Just out of curiosity, how early should the contact between them and other Indo-European people be to qualify? Because there was certainly contact in later periods.

    In the 1st and 2nd century AD, the Kushan Empire ruled key regions of the Tarim Basis, as well as northern India (which was full of Indo European speaking people). Those Buddhist liturgical manuscripts that comprise much of the record of Tocharian A certainly suggest the involvement of Indians, either directly or via Bactria. In fact, I understand that some of the oldest records of written Tocharian are in the Brahmi script, used for writing Sanskrit at the time. And not just Sanskrit, there are plenty of Prakrit texts of the same Tocharian compositions found in the same places.

    Could it be possible that the words for wheel (and the 4 related concepts) were borrowed at this stage? Or even a bit earlier. It’s been speculated that the Kushan people were possibly originally Tocharian, but had migrated out and were living in northern Afghanistan and Iran (since the Kushan Empire originated in that region), and may have acquired such words among the Indo-European people there. And since they were the ones who spread back into the Tarim Basin, they may have taken the words with them.

    I don’t know how likely or unlikely this is, it just occurs to me because the actual writing from which all our present knowledge of Tocharian comes is from after these events.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Rebecca, welcome to the discussion!

      As regards your question, I would think that these contacts you mention are too late, as the words would not have shown the phonological changes that they do show if they were borrowed at that late a date. I am relying on Don Ringe’s work here, as he is much more of an expert on these issues than I am. I will refer you to his work for details.