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Chapter 9 - The Diffusion of Languages. Tracing Linguistic Diversification The Language Tree Theories of Language Diffusion Diffusion to the Pacific and the Americas Influence on Individual Languages. Tracing Linguistic Diversification. Hints from Analysis of “Sound Shift”

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Chapter 9 - The Diffusion of Languages

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chapter 9 the diffusion of languages

Chapter 9 - The Diffusion of Languages

  • Tracing Linguistic Diversification
  • The Language Tree
  • Theories of Language Diffusion
  • Diffusion to the Pacific and the Americas
  • Influence on Individual Languages
tracing linguistic diversification
Tracing Linguistic Diversification
  • Hints from Analysis of “Sound Shift”

- Milk - lacte (Latin) - latta (Italian) - leche (Spanish) and lait (French)

- Eight - octo (Latin) - otto - ocho -huit

  • Such backward reconstruction,called “deep reconstruction”, is crucial to linguistic research
  • William Jones - discovered the resemblance between Sanskrit (ancient Indian language) and Greek and Latin in 18th century
  • Jacob Grimm, 19th century, suggested that related languages have similar consonants which would change over time in a predictable way(Softening of consonants)
proto indo european language
Proto Indo-European Language
  • Ancestral language
    • The predecessor of Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit
    • Link Romance language and other languages together

To prove its existence:

1) reconstruction

2) Locate the hearths

3) Diffusion routes must be traced

4) knowledge of the ways of life

divergence august schleicher
Divergence - August Schleicher
  • Language divergence -languages differentiated over time and space
    • 19th century, suggested by August Schleicher, Language - dialects - isolated dialects - discrete languages, for example - Spanish and Portuguese an now is Quebecois French
  • languages spread by relocation diffusion, but sometimes cause long- isolated languages, difficult for reconstruction
  • Replacement
  • Invasion of major language causes the replacement process which make the reconstruction of small branch of the language complicate.
  • Language Island - Hungarian, Finnish, Estonia and Basque survive (fig 8-3)
theories of language diffusion
Theories of Language Diffusion
  • Conquest Theory
    • from Black Sea (proposed homeland, today Ukraine and Russia) spread westward using horse and wheel and trading, sound shift represents a long period of westward divergence, beginning the diffusion and differentiation of Latin, Germanic and Slavonic languages
    • Celtic group was pushed to the west of the Europe by newer language
  • Agriculture Theory
    • After more archeological records revealed, Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Robert Ammerman proposed that agriculture not conquest diffused the P-I-E languages. Proposed homeland - Anatolia (Turkey), between 7 and 9000 years ago.
agriculture theory
Agriculture Theory
  • 1n 1984, Thomas Gamkrelidze and Victor Ivanov (who reconstructed most of Proto-Indo-European Language), proposed the source area: Anatolia in modern Turkey
  • Vocabulary - mountain streams, valleys, rapids, lakes, mountain trees, and other high-relief landforms
support for the agr theory
Support for the Agr. Theory
  • Analyses of protein (gene)-shows the evidence of the distance decay from southern Turkey -Balkans-west and northern Europe. Farming spread into Europe.
  • Every generation (25yrs) moved 11 miles. In 1500yrs, European frontiers would have been completely penetrated by farmers (Ammerman and Cavallo-Sforza)
drawback of the ag theory
Drawback of the Ag. theory
  • Anatolian region not a good place for farming and no archeological evidence to support the culture hearth
  • Some prefer the dispersal hypothesis (fig 9-2) and fig9-3
the search for a superfamily
The search for a superfamily
  • Colin Renfrew - 3 Agr. Hearths
  • 1) Anatolia -Indo-European
  • 2) Western arc of Fertile Crescent - languages of Africa and Arabia
  • 3) Eastern arc of Fertile Crescent - Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, later replaced by Indo-European

3 Agri. hearths 1) Anatolian -> Europe Indo-Europ

2) Western arc of the Fertile Crescent -> N Africa and Arabia

3) Eastern arc of the Fertile Crescent -> Iran, Irag, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, later replaced by Indo-Eur

russian scholars vladislav illich svitych and aharon dologopolsky
Russian Scholars-Vladislav Illich-Svitych and Aharon Dologopolsky
  • Nostratic - pre-Proto-Indo-European reconstructed by them independently
  • No domesticated plants or animals in Nostratic - hunter-gatherers,not farmers- “dog=wolf” means domestication of wolves
  • About 14,000 years ago, dog bones were found - Nostratic may have been used.
  • Could be the ancestral language of 1)Proto-Indo-European (Indo-European) 2)Kartvelian language (southern Caucasus), 3) Uralic-Altaic (Hungarian, Finnish, Turkish and Mongolian) 4) Dravidian and 5) Afro-Asiatic (Arabic)
  • But, we still don’t know what gave rise to Nostratic.
pacific diffusion
Pacific Diffusion


  • Papuan from New Guinea,extended east- and westward
  • Austronesian began in coastal China - Taiwan (6000yrs ago)
  • Puzzles- 1)Why took so long from East Asia to islands off the Asia’s coast
  • 2) Complexity due to invasion of other languages or isolation?
  • 3) No Nostratic model for the languages of the Asian mainland reconstructed



(Madagascar, Melaniesia

Micronesia and Fiji)


(Maori in New Zealand)

figure 9 6

Austronesian - reached Taiwan 6000 yrs ago (words for rice, field, farm, water buffalo, plow and canoe)

Figure 9-6
  • New Zealand - 1000 years ago
  • Australia - 50,000 to 60,000 years ago
  • New Guinea - even earlier

Bellwood’s Pacific-realm model shows the stages in the expansion of Austronesian languages

diffusion in the americas
Diffusion in the Americas
  • Native Americans, no more than 40 millions before the European invasion, came from Asia via Bering land bridge around 12,000 to 13,000 yrs ago (long believed)
  • The Languages were supposed to be simple without other language’s presence, but there are as many as 200 American Indian Languages now.
  • Divergence occurred within short period of time after crossing Bering Land Bridge.
  • The Greenberg Hypothesis-three indigenous American Languages -1)Oldest and largest -Amerind, 2) Na-Dene-Canada, Alaska and Apache and Navajo and 3) Eskimo-Aleut
greenberg hypothesis
Greenberg Hypothesis
  • If Amerind Languages are the same family, the divergence must have occurred during a period of more than 12000 yrs.
  • Support and Controversies
  • No proper reconstruction procedures involved
  • He compared similar-sounding words in contemporary languages not sound-shifts.
  • Supportive archeological data, first wave of migration may have happened 40,000 B.P.
  • Dental data- supported three wave of migration
  • Majority of linguists still doubt the 3-wave and 3-family hypothesis.
  • But, the controversy will be resolved from Genetic and Archeological research, eventually.
  • 15 30 N and 90 15 W
  • Area - slightly smaller than Tennessee
  • Pop - 12.6 million
  • - 1.89 /1000 migrants
  • Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs
  • Languages - Spanish 60%, Amerindian 40%
  • Literacy - 50%, 75% below poverty line
individual languages
Individual Languages
  • Remain in contact with each other->keep the languages alive
  • Three components influences world’s language mosaic:


languages stabilized


between people

Political Org -

Limit access/scope

  • Middle Ages - invention of
  • printing press and rise of
  • nation-state are important
  • factors to the modern
  • languages. Such as..
  • Printings of Luther Bible in
  • German and King James Bible
  • in English set the standard
  • forms of languages for
  • Germany and English
  • Chinese/Latin-dispersed languages
  • over continents through Pol. org.
  • Languages diverged after
  • Roman Empire fell
how to view the ppt slides from web
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