Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Farming-Language Dispersals: Principles

  • Paul Heggarty
  • David Beresford-Jones
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_2415

Introduction and Definition

Among various potential “windows on our past,” one rich seam of data is all too often overlooked: the linguistic record. Above all, much of the world is so dominated by just a handful of vast language lineages as to cry out for explanation. That explanation, moreover, can only lie in the same contexts and processes that shaped humanity’s cultural and population (pre)history more widely. Indeed, of all attempts to account for these broadest of patterns in the linguistic panorama, one of the most ambitious generalizations is the “farming-language dispersals hypothesis.” Most simply put, this proposes that many of the most significant language families – in both geographical range and speaker numbers – dispersed along with, and primarily thanks to, the spread of agriculture. If so, then the modern panorama of linguistic relationships and diversity across the world would in effect still reflect, at least on the very broadest scale, the impact of the “Neolithic...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.McDonald Institute for Archaeological ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK