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Linguistic diversity in prehistoric Europe (was Re: Ambiguity)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Friday, January 9, 2009, 17:19

On Thu, 8 Jan 2009 20:59:50 -0800, Roger Mills wrote:

> This very interesting msg. was referenced on Cybalist yesterday; it's > relevant to this question, and perhaps of general interest to all of us: > > The Linguistic Diversity of Aboriginal Europe By Don Ringe
Thanks! It is a very interesting read, and largely compatible with my personal opinions about the matter. Before the Neolithic revolution, Europe was linguistically more diverse than now, with about a dozen different stocks; diversity was highest in the south and lowest in the northeast. Pre-colonial North America is probably indeed a servable model for pre-Neolithic Europe. Things changed in the Neolithic. In the Mediterranean basin, it is widely assumed that Neolithicization was by cultural diffusion, i.e. local people adopted the new economy from their neighbour, without large-scale migrations. This cultural diffusion did not change the linguistic landscape qualitatively - some people took over their more progressive neighbours' language, but many didn't; at any rate, the old diversity shows up in the written records of antiquity, with three apparently unrelated non-IE languages (Basque, Iberian and Tartessian) in the Iberian peninsula alone. North of the Alps, the Neolithic cultures are very homogenous, and a demic diffusion is suspected: people moved in, bringing agriculture with them, and absorbing the Mesolithic population. Where did they come from? It appears as if they were refugees from the Black Sea Flood about 7500 years ago. These farmers would have spread a single language family across Central Europe, and indeed, such a family seems to have left its traces in the "Old European hydronymy", a fairly homogenous network of river names stretching from the British Isles in the west to the Baltic countries in the east. Some scholars believe that this language was Indo-European, but I doubt that. Proto-Indo-European could hardly have been spoken more than 6000 years ago, as it has terms for wheeled vehicles, domestic horses and metals. I assume that PIE was spoken 6000 years ago in what is now Ukraine. The language of the Old European hydronymy could, however, have been a sister group of Indo-European. I consider it likely that the speakers of Proto-Indo-European were also descendants of Black Sea Flood refugees. The Neolithic linguistic landscape of central Europe would have been characterized by the predominance of a single family, that of the Old European hydronymy (which I call "Hesperic"), but many patches of pre-Neolithic languages probably still survived, especially in mountainous areas. Indo-European began its success story in the Copper Age, starting about 4000 BC. There were two main waves of expansion, the first about 4000 BC and the second about 1000 years later. All modern IE languages are from the second wave; the Anatolian branch was the last survivor of the first. The Baltic and the Adriatic were reached by 2000 BC; the Atlantic coast by 1000 BC. The British Isles were only Indo-Europeanized by Celtic tribes about 500 BC, and could have been the site of a flourishing Hesperic-speaking civilization for long enough to inspire Celtic and Germanic traditions of Elves as well as the Greek tales of Hyperborea and Atlantis. ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf