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Examining the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis (Mcdonald Institute Monographs) [Hardcover]

By Peter Bellwood (Editor) & Colin Renfrew (Editor)
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Item description for Examining the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis (Mcdonald Institute Monographs) by Peter Bellwood & Colin Renfrew...

Linguistic diversity is one of the most puzzling and challenging features of humankind. Why are there some six thousand different languages spoken in the world today? Why are some, like Chinese or English, spoken by millions over vast territories, while others are restricted to just a few thousand speakers in a limited area? The farming/language dispersal hypothesis makes the radical and controversial proposal that the present-day distributions of many of the world's languages and language families can be traced back to the early developments and dispersals of farming from the several nuclear areas where animal and plant domestication emerged. For instance, the Indo-European and Austronesian language families may owe their current vast distributions to the spread of food plants and of farmers (speaking the relevant proto-language) following the Neolithic revolutions which took place in the Near East and in Eastern Asia respectively, thousands of years ago. In this challenging book, international experts in historical linguistics, prehistoric archaeology, molecular genetics and human ecology bring their specialisms to bear upon this intractable problem, using a range of interdisciplinary approaches. There are signs that a new synthesis between these fields may now be emerging. This path-breaking volume opens new perspectives and indicates some of the directions which future research is likely to follow.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   520
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 8.75" Height: 11.5"
Weight:   4.2 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Publisher   McDonald Institute for Archaeological Researc
ISBN  1902937201  
ISBN13  9781902937205  

Availability  0 units.

More About Peter Bellwood & Colin Renfrew

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Peter Bellwood has an academic affiliation as follows - Australian National University Australian National University, Austral.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Social Sciences > Anthropology
2Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Social Sciences > Archaeology
3Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Social Sciences > Linguistics
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Anthropology > Anthropology
5Books > Subjects > Reference > General
6Books > Subjects > Reference > Words & Language > Linguistics
7Books > Subjects > Science > Evolution > Genetics

Reviews - What do customers think about Examining the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis (Mcdonald Institute Monographs)?

PIE in the Sky  Jun 16, 2004
Off and on over the years, anthropologists have mooted a theory (not really a "hypothesis") that farming spreads through rapid demographic and spatial expansion of the populations that invented agriculture. The main counter-theory holds that farming spreads by copying: local people, previously non-farmers, picked up farming from neighbors, who had in turn picked it up from neighbors, and so on back to the origin point. Ethnographic records abound for farming-as-demographic-expansion (Anglo-Americans in the western US and Canada, Australia, etc.) and, less often, farming-by-copying (some groups in India and Siberia, etc.).
If farming spread by demic expansion, is that the reason for the vast spreads of some language families? The claim has been made especially for Austronesian (AN) and Indo-European (IE), and is identified with this book's two editors, Austronesianist Bellwood and Europeanist Renfrew. This book results from a conference where defenders and critics of the theory met and hashed it out.
The case is certain for Austronesian in at least part of its range. Austronesians introduced agriculture to Micronesia and Polynesia--in fact, they were the first people there. They probably introduced ag to Taiwan, the Philippines, and other islands. New Guinea already had its own, and Austronesian languages did not prevail there (instead, Trans-New-Guinea languages may have spread with local ag). However, the dramatic Austronesian spread (from a South Chinese or just possibly Southeast Asian base) did not come with early agriculture, but with the development of complex, sophisticated, boat-savvy cultures, millennia after agriculture was invented in central China. China's ag began about 8000 BC, and is believably associated with no fewer than six independent linguistic phyla, all of which spread in historic times. One could make a case for any or all of them as having spread with initial ag, and indeed several different authors in this book argue for different phyla being first! (Oddly enough, no one argues strongly for Thai-Kadai, by far the likeliest on geographic grounds.) Moreover, it turns out that the expansion of Austronesian languages and their agriculture did not go with a clear demic expansion. Genetic researches reported in this volume show that the Austronesians mixed happily along the way, picking up and leaving genes at every port, as sailors do.
The case for Indo-European is much worse. Leaving aside the question of whether there really were "Proto-Indo-European (PIE)" speakers (many doubt this, and think the "PIE" words were borrowed back and forth among several languages), IE is clearly too young a phylum to date back to the origin of ag in the Near East (9500 BC at the latest). Moreover, the Mediterranean shows some of the best evidence for demic expansion with early ag--but the best-kept secret in this book is that the Mediterranean was not IE till late. Spain was non-IE (NIE) till Celts and Romans invaded in historic times! Italy had Etruscan, and Latin shows a mass of NIE loanwords from presumed other NIE languages. Greeks invaded a NIE Greece fairly late, and their countless NIE loanwords for high-culture items show it (one recalls they first got writing only around 1400 BC, from NIE Minoans). Meanwhile, it seems that the Germanic languages are the result of NIE people picking up IE languages from the neighbors (and, some would say, making an awful mess of it...Just kidding). (See Zvelebil, this volume.) I am aware of pretty convincing evidence that Gaelic developed the same way--NIE people picking up Celtic. All these shifts are too late for the demic-expansion hypothesis, and in any case the archaeology shows a long period of mixing and borrowing. Moreover, the genetic clines in Europe from northwest to southeast clearly have something to do with the original settlement of Europe by modern humans ca. 40,000 years ago; with later historic flows, such as the Arab explosion into the Mediterranean in the 700s AD; and with natural selection, possibly via smallpox (introduced with cattle-keeping) and malaria (made commoner by field agriculture and irrigation). They certainly do not result solely from IE invasion. And ag in the Near East may have been invented by Sumerians, speakers of "Caucasus languages," Afroasiatics (as argued-very speculatively-by Militarev in this volume), or now-long-extinct peoples.
In the New World, Mexican agriculture seems to have fueled the spread of at least four linguistic phyla, and the two most obviously involved with early ag (Oto-Manguean and Mixe-Zoque) did not spread far. No vast demic expansion here. The other two, Uto-Aztekan and Mayan, did spread far as language groups, but probably got their agriculture later, and did not spread as demic units. By contrast, the really huge linguistic expansions in North America--Inuit, Algonkian, Athapaskan, Penutian, etc.--took place in totally non-agricultural contexts. Lyle Campbell's article pointing this out is probably the most significant article in the book, at least for born skeptics.
This volume shows that agriculture and language sometimes spread together and sometimes don't. When they spread together, there is genetic mixing with locals along the way, not a sudden dramatic replacement of one group by another. The modern New World/Australia situation was exceptional; disease and gunfire conveniently wiped out almost all the locals, allowing demographic expansion of European settlers to go unchecked. Such things did not normally happen in the ancient world.
In short, we can abandon the idea of a single wave of farmers marching shoulder-to-shoulder out of the Near East, singing "Stout Hearted Men" in PIE. IE language spread seems to have had something to do with agricultural introduction and demic spread, but the picture is complex and confusing, and needs more research. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, for other spreads hypothesized here, which range from very well supported (Austronesian by far the best) to wildly speculative (the ag-spread component of the papers on Tibeto-Burman and Austroasiatic). So defenders and critics converge at the end on an intermediate picture.
What is wonderful about this book is the unbelievable amount of data brought together to test and evaluate a really interesting theory. This is science at its best. No resolution yet, but, much better, a stimulus and guide to further research.

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