Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

pp 2731-2739

Farming-Language Dispersals: A Worldwide Survey

  • Paul HeggartyAffiliated withDepartment of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Email author 
  • , David Beresford-JonesAffiliated withMcDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge


The farming/language dispersals hypothesis, most simply put, proposes that many of the world’s most significant language families – in both geographical range and speaker numbers – dispersed along with, and primarily thanks to, the spread of agriculture. The entry on “Farming-Language Dispersals:​ Principles” in this encyclopedia explores the range of issues and qualifications that attend this general hypothesis, to clarify those cases in which one might in principle expect that it would or would not hold true. Much necessarily hangs on the particular “real-world” contexts – cultural, chronological, and geographical – through which each of the world’s major language families dispersed. Given the great diversity in those variables in the human story worldwide, the hypothesis duly does not play out consistently from case to case, or in others simply does not apply at all. Such is what this contribution now aims to survey, across the globe.

The first main exposition ...

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