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Origins of Indo-European Languages Traced to Turkey

Aug 24, 2012 08:02 AM EDT
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Scientists have traced the roots of the Indo-European languages to Anatolia in present-day Turkey, some 8,000 to 9,500 years ago.

A team of international researchers revealed the results of the Bayesian phylogeographic analysis of the Indo-European linguistic and spatial data. The technique is used to study the evolution, and it involved the analysis of 103 ancient and contemporary languages.

While the debate on the origin of languages has been prevailing for long, the majority view was that Indo-European languages originated from the Pontic-Caspian steppe (present day Ukraine) some 6,000 years ago.The hypothesis was that the nomadic 'Kurgan' people from the Pontic-Caspian steppe started spreading the languages into Europe, but there was another view that the languages spread from Anatolia to Europe with an expansion of agriculture some 8,000 years ago, reported The New York Times.

Earlier studies have supported both the theories, but researchers involved in the new study found more decisive evidence that showed the Indo-European languages, which included English, Hindi, Bengali, Russian, and most other European languages like Dutch, Spanish, French, Polish, German, and Greek, had their origins in Anatolia.

Dr Quentin Atkinson from the University of Aukland and his team studied the words and the geographic information from 103 Indo-European languages. Atkinson and his team compared the words which had common origin. They gave scores of 0's and 1's to the words in all 103 languages based on their origin. Those words with a common origin were given 1, while words which were unrelated were given 0. They noticed words like "mother," "mutter" (German), "mat"(Russian), and "mater" (Latin) were all derived from the proto-Indo-European word "mehter," a report in The New York Times said.

Later, a computer fed with information about the geography of the language and the dates whent those languages had actually split was used for calculation.

Based on computer models, they found that the Indo-European languages are having a common ancestor from Anatolia, who started to spread the language into Europe, with the expansion of agriculture.

The findings of the paper "Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family" are available in the journal Science.

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