English Language ‘Originated in Turkey’

 

BBC says English language originated in Turkey! I know it sounds weird given the little similarity between Turkish and English but theorists had made an extensive research about the issue. You know, there was a different language in Anatolia before the Turks came to this land. I am not an expert, so I do not want to say something misleading. You’d better hear it from BBC:

Modern Indo-European languages – which include English – originated in Turkey about 9,000 years ago, researchers say.

The New Zealand researchers used methods developed to study virus epidemics to create family trees of ancient and modern Indo-European tongues to pinpoint where and when the language family first arose.

Their study is reported in Science.

A language family is a group of languages that arose from a common ancestor, known as the proto-language.

Linguists identify these families by trawling through modern languages for words of similar sound that often describe the same thing, like water and wasser (German). These shared words – or cognates – represent our language inheritance.

According to the Ethnologue database, more than 100 language families exist.

The Indo-European family is one of the largest families – more than 400 languages spoken in at least 60 countries – and its origins are unclear.

The Steppes, or Kurgan, theorists hold that the proto-language originated in the Steppes of Russia, north of the Caspian Sea, about 5,000 years ago.

The Anatolia hypothesis – first proposed in the late 1980s by Prof Colin Renfrew (now Lord Renfrew) – suggests an origin in the Anatolian region of Turkey about 3,000 years earlier.

To determine which competing theory was the most likely, Dr Quentin Atkinson from the University of Auckland and his team interrogated language evolution using phylogenetic analyses – more usually used to trace virus epidemics.

Phylogenetics reveals relatedness by assessing how much of the information stored in DNA is shared between organisms.

Like DNA, language is passed down, generation to generation.

Although language changes and evolves, some linguists have argued that cognates describing the fundamentals of life – kinship (mother, father), body parts (eye, hand), the natural world (fire, water) and basic verbs (to walk, to run) – resist change.

These conserved cognates are strongly linked to the proto-language of old.

Using phylogenetic analysis, they were able to reconstruct the evolutionary relatedness of these modern and ancient languages – the more words that are cognate, the more similar the languages are and the closer they group on the tree.

The trees could also predict when and where the ancestral language originated.

Looking back into the depths of the tree, Dr Atkinson and his colleagues were able to confirm the Anatolian origin.

“Compared to the Kurgan hypothesis, this new analysis shows the Anatolian hypothesis as the clear winner” Prof Mark Pagel FRSUniversity of Reading

 

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