About all these other Languages.
A few months ago I got into a discussion about languages on an internet forum. It started with the Slavic languages and got into Indo European languages, where they came from and got to.
I have my own ideas on the subject of historic linguistics. It is a pet subject of mine. I wrote up an article about the IE languages which was well received within that forum. Link to it here.
I promised to follow up on it when I had time. Lately on this discussion people started discussing the Nostratic languages. This is the presumed language super group which the Indo European languages came out of.
I decided it was time to continue the topic of evolution of language groups outward from IE to Nostratic, to the North Migration Languages, and to the origin of all languages. Here it is.
I am interested in the early development of human racial and cultural groups, and languages. I am not into this to prove any sort of racial or cultural superiority thing. I really want to know how it all worked.
I have formed my ideas about languages by looking into history, archeology, and genetic studies of human populations. Also, very importantly, published works from people doing computerized comparative linguistics in a proper way. That is, turning languages into data sets and seeing which ones “group” together.
Another way of tracing human migrations and evolutions is genetic studies. That is about finding gene markers and using random testing to map out “haplogroups” in human populations. As the hap mark genes mutate it shows how old human groups are, in which directions they migrated, how they intermingled, and so on.
Another important concept here is that all languages relate to each other. According to Noam Chomsky and his students, all languages descend from a single language which began to diverge into new languages about 150 000 years ago. New languages emerged from older language groups and became the parent group of new languages, until we have the 8 000 languages of earth, with hundreds of groups and subgroups.
One more concept; we are in the ice ages. We have been in cycles of warming and cooling for a million years; glacials followed by interglacials flowed by new glacials. We are now in what is called the Holocene; the warm period after the last glaciation.
These climatic cycles have been a main driver of human migration. Human groups move north when it gets warmer. When it gets cold, some groups move south while others are trapped where they are, surviving in “refugia” but with no way to migrate anywhere.
When it warms up again somer of these groups are released form their traps and expand. Often they will move south just as other groups move north again. This constant moving around greatly accelerates human development in all ways.
Agriculture developed simultaneously in various places at the start of the Holocene. No one is sure why, but it likely has much to do with the sudden rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide that follows ice ages. This allows for much more plant growth, creating much a better environment for living things, and for farming.
The spreaders of the Indo European languages are also spreaders of the R1a haplogroup. The base R haplogroup is the marker of this “Nostratic” language family. It shows that people trying to understand what languages are Nostratic need to look more carefully.
Everyone agrees that the nostratic macrofamily is what the Indo European language came out of. Here is what I say about what the Nostratric group is. It began in north east Asia before the last ice age, about 30 000 years ago.
The first division was between the group which remained there and the one which migrated west, likely following the chain of lakes which formed across Eurasia, below the glaciers. The east group survived where they were and then when the holocene came, migrated into North America. They intermingled somewhat with the Clovis people who had been there before.
The east group formed two main groups. One moved inland and eventually became the “Algic” and other languages of Eastern North America. Another group went south down the west coast of the Americas and seem to have created languages that survived into modern times.
American Indian languages are poorly studied, especially South American languages. But haplogroup R0 got all over the Americas.
The western Nostratics moved to West Asia. A group separated and went down into India during the ice age, the ‘R2’ haplogroup. The last vestige of their language is the Burashasko languages of Kashmir.
The next group to hive off went into the middle east at the end of the last glaciation and start of the holocene. They learned farming from the Japhthetic people who invented it. Then they migrated all through Europe, beginning the agricultural revolution there.
They were gradually assimilated by later groups except at the opposite ends of their spread. The Basque people in the Pyrenees and the Georgian or ‘Kartvellian’ people in the Caucasus speak languages descended from these “R1b” people. I would rather call these people “Iberians” because that is what other ancient people seemed to call them, throughout their original range.
The final group of Nostratics to spread out from West Central Asia were , of course, the Indo Europeans. I have already traced out their migrations well enough. Sorry, fans of Dravidians, but they belong to another group.
The Great Northern Migration
The Dravidians are part of another group which includes the Nostratics, within a greater group I call the Great Northern Migration (GNM), or the haplogroup K+ people. A lot of subgroups descent from this K+ group which spread from the Middle East during the last interglacial period.
When the ice ages returned some groups hunkered down and some migrated south. Then when warm times returned more northern people came south as migration routes opened.
As it got cold, a group of GNM people came down the pacific coast and became the Papuan peoples of Papua and New Guinea. The island of Papua has more languages than anywhere else on earth.
Another group in east Asia, tracked by the Q hapogroup, split before the last interglacial. One group went into the Americas and eventually became the dominant group on south and central America. Another lasted out the glacial and in fairly recent times split into the Turkic language group, and the “Paleo Siberian” language family of the Inuits, Aleuts, and some Siberian tribes.
There was another large group of the GNM people who were all together in Siberia at the start of the last ice age. One group lasted it out there and finally becoming the Ugrian languages; Finnish, Hungarian, Samoyed, and so on.
Another group broke off, went south, and by assimilating people of oriental race formed the basis for all these oriental peoples and languages. The way these Orientals dispersed in eastern Asia during the ice age is very interesting. They first split three ways.
The first group became the Sino Tibetan language group; in other words, Chinese and offshoots.
The second group split again. Some of these people stayed in the north and became the Koreans and Japanese. Another group came south and occupied most of south east Asia, chasing out the earlier people, before more people came from the north to assimilate them.
The remaining speakers of this language are called Mon/Khmer or “Austroasiatic”. Basically, they are the Vietnamese.
The third of these oriental groups also split in two. One became the Thais. Another went east and became sailors.
These spread all over the pacific and got to Madagascar. They are called “Austronesians“ people these days. They are the Malays, Polynesians, Melanesians, and so in.
Now we come to the Dravidian’s ancestors. They came south with the holocene. Some went into the middle east and became the Elamites, who really founded Mesopotamian civilization.
Some went into India. From there an intrepid group sailed to Australia and assimilated earlier people. This is why Australian languages are so similar to Tamil and other Dravidian languages.
So these are the Northern Migration Languages. Many ethnicities will be indignant about my contradictions of their stories about themselves, or who I group them in with. I am more interested in what the evidence shows than in what various people want to believe.
The Other Migrations
Now I take my examination of language groups up to the highest level. Here are the other migrations of early modern humans and their languages.
There was a great technological and cultural advance in the middle east about 75 000 to 60 000 years ago. This is associated with the “cromagnon” people. Three great migrations spread from this homeland to assimilate, not eradicate, earlier peoples.
The Northern Migration I have discussed. There were also the Great Southern migration and the “Into Africa” migrations.
There is one interesting group of people who do not seem to fit into any of these migrations. They remained in the middle east and eventually moved up into the Caucasus mountains. They are called the “West Caucasians” or the Circassians or as they call themselves, the Adyge.
The great southern migration went through South Asia to the far east. They were the first people in Australia and the Americas. They were mostly subsumed by later people.
The vestiges of this migration are the Mongols, the Tungus of Siberia, and the Athapascan people in the far north of North America.
Culturally modern people also came down into Africa from Southwestern Asia. In this instance, they came in several waves, not once, each intermingling with earlier people.
The first wave seems to have also resulted in a migration along the south Asian coasts into South East Asia. This seeded the so called “Oceanic Negro” peoples of the east. These were not the first modern humans going into the east, but in fact were late arrivals.
The language of the Andamese people seems to be a vestige of this migration.
With the last interglacial came what the linguists are calling “Niger-Kordofanian” languages. They eventually became dominant over most of Africa.
The last big wave into Africa came with the last glacial. The language these people brought is now called the ‘Erythrean” languages. It includes the Berber and Semitic languages and their speakers.
Semite languages are especially interesting. They were walked back into the middle east, where they came from originally, about 8000 years ago, and became predominant. Hebrew and Arabic are Semitic languages.
Many Semitic speakers left the middle east during a time of turmoil and went into Arabia, assimilating the earlier people there. From there groups of them went back into Africa and created the Ethiopian civilization. They came full circle in about 5000 years.
The Older People
There are two other primary language groups predating these migrations from the middle east. One is called the “Koi-San”. The other is called “Nilotic”. They are in Africa.
KoiSan means the strange, clicking languages of the “Bushman” people of southern Africa.
Nilotic means the related languages of the very tall, very black people who were in Africa from a very early time. They seem to have originated in the rift valley and migrated north from it in fairly recent times. They seem to be somewhat different from other black people who had been in Africa north of the Congo.
So, we seem to be able to reduce the world’s languages to five main groups, with a few odd outliers. The Northern migration people are the biggest and most successful group.
There will have been many large language groups which went out of existence during prehistory. They and their speakers were not ‘wiped out’ by later people. Generally, a more advanced culture assimilates, it does not exterminate, a more primitive one.
And that is my take on how all the world’s languages relate to each other, and how these relations came about. I hope it is informative.
My method of working this out has been to employ ‘Occam’s Razor’. This does not mean, to use the simplest explanation. It means, to assemble sufficient facts and then find the explanation which best fits the facts.
One of these days, I will set out what I have found about the physical evolution of the human species from the early stone chippers and fire users on. This does not always conform with the linguistic/ cultural history of human kind.
But it is also an interesting and surprising story.