Research group leader

Dr. habil. Martine Robbeets

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  • Phylogenetic linguistics [PDF]

 

Eurasia3angle is the acronym of a new research group headed by Martine Robbeets at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant, the group will work on “Millet and beans, language and genes. The origin and dispersal of the Transeurasian family.”

Key objective

The question about the origin and dispersal of the Transeurasian languages is among the most disputed issues in linguistic history. In Eurasia3angle, we will address this question from an interdisciplinary perspective. Our key objective is to integrate linguistic, archaeological and genetic evidence in a single approach, for which we use the term “Triangulation”.

Transeurasian

The term “Transeurasian” refers to a large group of geographically adjacent languages, stretching from the Pacific in the East to the Baltic and the Mediterranean in the West, that include up to five different linguistic families: Japonic, Koreanic, Tungusic, Mongolic, and Turkic.

Although most linguists would agree that these languages are historically related, they disagree on the precise nature of this relationship: are all similarities generated by borrowing or are some residues of inheritance?

Emerging questions

In her previous research, Robbeets has argued that in spite of massive borrowing, it is still possible to classify Transeurasian as a valid genealogical grouping, as represented in this classification.

 


New questions are emerging from this classification: Who were the ancestral speakers of proto-Transeurasian? Where and when did these people originally live? When did the ancestral language separate into its main branches? What triggered the split? In which directions did the dispersals go? When and how did the languages reach their present locations?

Farming and language?

In Eurasia3angle, we intend to address these questions, testing the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis for the Transeurasian languages. This hypothesis posits that many of the world’s major language families owe their dispersal to the adoption of agriculture. Becoming farmers, people grew in number, moved into wider territories and displaced the languages of preexisting hunter gatherers. The specific interpretation of this hypothesis that we intend to test is that the Transeurasian homeland correlates with the early Neolithic Xinglongwa culture situated in Southern Manchuria in the sixth millennium BC.

 
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