Articles tagged with: Indo-European Expansion
This post focuses on two additional problems that skew the analysis toward locating the Indo-European urheimat in Anatolia as opposed to the steppe zone: the location of the highest-order split in the IE language family and the southern location of extant Indo-Iranian languages.
As mentioned in previous GeoCurrents posts, the animated map that accompanies the Science article of Bouckaert et al. depicts their model in action, showing the expansion and differentiation of the Indo-European languages in time and space. Earlier posts criticized the map’s contour shadings, which indicate high probabilities of IE languages being spoken in given areas at given times. Today’s post …
The current post addresses the issue of language spread, questioning whether it occurs by way of diffusion only, as modeled by Bouckaert et al. Instead, we suggest that a different transport phenomenon, that of advection, should be incorporated in order to provide an adequate mathematical model of language expansion.
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.
As noted in the previous GeoCurrents post, Bouckaert et al.’s dating of the Romani split off the rest of the Indic tree at 1500 BCE (3,500 years ago) is a gross miscalculation. But there is a larger issue here concerning the dates for the various splits on the Indo-European family tree. The dating procedure employed by Bouckaert et al. is based on two essential assumptions: that the rate of loss (or gain) of cognates is steady, and that certain key splits—the ones they have chosen as data—have been incontestably dated through historical records. But both of these assumptions are blatantly wrong.
Bouckaert et al.’s supposed contribution consists of comparing (existing) lists of cognates for 207 meanings in 103 contemporary and ancient Indo-European languages (5047 cognate sets in total). Based on a calculation of shared cognates, their computational algorithms produce a phylogenetic* tree representing how these 103 languages are related to each other; each split on the tree is dated first in relative and then in absolute terms. Bouckaert et al. also map the resulting tree, creating an animated visualization of how these linguistic lineages supposedly split off from each other and spread across the landscape. Here, we will consider problems arising from the underlying methodology of counting shared cognates.
The website that accompanies “Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family” (August 24 Science), maintained by co-author Quentin D. Atkinson, proudly features several maps that allow the easy visualization of the patterns generated by the model. One is a conventional map that purports to show “language expansion in time and space,” depicting and dating the spread of …