Re: The Anthroplogy of th

Scott C DeLancey (
13 Dec 1994 11:43:51 -0800

In article <>,
Rab Wilkie <> wrote:
> -=> Quoting Scott C Delancey to All <=-
> SCD> Several people, from Paul Radin up through Greenberg, have
> SCD> argued that linguistic evidence shows that all the rest of the New
> SCD> World languages represent a single migration.
> They may represent the influence of one language, spoken by a people
> who settled in the New World as a result of a single migration, but
> this need not imply that there were no other occupants & languages here
> beforehand who subsequently were subsumed.

True. Anyway, the linguistic evidence isn't and never will be conclusive
on this point; as far as I can see, if we're to have an answer to the
question of how many migrations it will have to rest primarily on
evidence that the physical anthropologists come up with.

> SCD> In my opinion, shared with almost everyone who knows much of anything
> SCD> about the subject, no one has yet produced linguistic evidence which
> SCD> makes a very convincing case for this.
> Are you familiar with Merritt Ruhlen's work as presented in "The Origin of
> Language", Wiley, 1994?

I haven't read the new book, but yes, I'm quite familiar with Ruhlen's
and Greenberg's work, and I stand by my opinion that there's no convincing
case for the genetic unity of the "Amerind" languages. (Let me hasten
to add, before the Greenberg apologists start screaming, that I think this
is a very plausible idea; all I'm saying is that Greenberg and Ruhlen have
not proven it).

> Would Beringian passage ever have been much of an obstacle, even during
> times when the strait existed? The Timor Sea didn't prevent the arrival of
> the first Australians -- 50,000y ago. (Or 120,000y BP, if the pollen analyses
> /fire regimen correlations are an indication of VERY early settlment).

Good point. Actually someboey in sci.anthropology just a week or two
ago was saying that it's not at all clear that the original settlement
of Australia was by sea; something about an intermittent land bridge ...
But you're right, it's certainly imaginable (to me anyway, but I'm
not an archeologist) that even the earliest migration(s) to the New
World involved boat travel across the strait. One objection to this
hypothesis might be the fact that except for the Northwest Coast,
Native Americans don't seem to have been much for sea-going boats or
maritime activity; you'd think if they already had boats & maritime
skills sufficient to get across the Bering Strait 12,000, or 25,000,
or whatever years ago, that you'd still find that culture & technology
at least along the West Coast.

Scott DeLancey
Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403, USA