PIE vs. Proto-World (Out of Africa)

Rick Mc Callister rmccalli at sunmuw1.MUW.Edu
Thu Aug 12 16:36:57 UTC 1999


>If we extrapolate the degree of dissimilarity between IE languages after say
>9000 years (some would say 5500 years), how much dissimilarity would there be
>between languages separated by 10 or 20 times that time frame.  Should we
>expect any commonality at all?

	Maybe, maybe not. But that's no excuse for not looking. You may not
be able to get back to an ur-sprache but you would certainly make some
interesting discoveries. In fact, I'm sure that after Stefan gets back from
Siberia he's going to get together with Larry to formulate a
Basque-Yeniseian language family :>

>in terms of Glottochronology, what should we expect - when languages
>separated by a few thousand years can yield 'kaput', 'penn', 'sarah-' and
>'golova' for an item as basic as a head?

>Some stuff re the science on this matter:

>1. Scientific American Aug 1999 p 13 "IS OUT OF AFRICA OUT THE DOOR?"
>summarizes the growing evidence that the premise is not in sync with the
>bones (especially in the Far East.)  Remember also that the original theory
>based on mtDNA backdating the African 'Eve" is now considered flawed and too
>recent - and that she was even then dated to 200,000BP -  so that language
>separations set at 100,000 might as well arbitrarily start back with her or
>her children.  Then, like an exodus out of New Guinea, we could have a 500
>languages leaving Africa at one time.

	It is true that the date for Eve has been questioned but remember
that all non-Africans (as well as some Africans) are in the same
mitochondrial pool. The point is that the mitochondrial separation date for
this group is still a determined fraction of the date for Eve.
	As I remember the multi-genesis theory is based on skull
similarities that are rejected by the overwhelming majority of

>2. Scientific American March 1998 Review of Ian Tattersall's 'Evolution and
>Human uniqueness' summarizes some of the arguments that Neanderthals had
>language.  This would significantly backdate the appearance of human language
>by 100's of 1000's of years.

	True, but speech and language are two different things. The ability
to speak obviously does not presuppose modern language abilities. I don't
propose a date for language evolution.

>And there's nothing to say that modern humans
>could not have learned language from Neanderthals.

	I don't see how. There are no indications of an "out of Europe"
scenario. If you mean that modern humans inherited language from their
ancestors, this obviously presupposes monogenesis

>3. From an AP story (2/15/99) quoting a paper appearing in the same week in
>the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team at Berkeley
>challenging a Duke study positing Neanderthal speech capabilities based on
>the size of the hypoglossal canal (jaw nerves):

>"Researchers have long believed that the ability to make modern human speech
>sounds did not develop until about 40,000 years ago."  (This I believe
>revolved around the time of the appearance of Cro-Magnon.)

	Given that the Australians had already reached Australia about
60,000 BP, that date would seem to be very wrong

>Finally, I suspect the big problem here is in the use of the word "language".

	Agreed but I suspect that language was the key to modern human
expansion from Africa throughout the rest of the world.


>Coming out of Africa, humans may have made common noises that were very
>effective signals within respective groups.  But did any of those "local"
>signaling systems equate to a "language system?"   And given the distance (in
>form or time) between *PIE and modern English, what would be the distance in
>time between *PIE and one of those simple signaling systems?

	If this scenario is true, it still presupposes monogenesis

>The wonderful concept of "Zeit Geist" should not be forgotten here.  Unless
>monopolized - kept a secret or otherwise controlled - human capabilities tend
>to spread and create the medium for new capabilities.  Spoken language
>(unlike written language) is very hard to monopolize and easy to imitate.
>Once the capability arrived, languages may have been a product of the Zeit

	If you don't possess genetic language ability, you're not going to
be able to learn to speak by imitation.


Rick Mc Callister
Mississippi University for Women
Columbus MS 39701

More information about the Indo-european mailing list