Re: Linguistic Anthropology

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Fri, 8 Sep 1995 13:55:08 -0600

On Tue, 5 Sep 1995, Allan Dunn wrote:

> Could someone give me a good place to begin reading on the study
> of anthropology as it relates to linguistic relationships between groups
> and linguistic changes within a group? I've been reading a lot of
> bizarre (or maybe not so bizarre- I don't know enough about it, I'm assuming)
> stuff on the newsgroup about the relationship between diverse and very
> distant language groups that until now I had thought was an open book.
> One person brought up the theory that Da-Ne was related to
> Basque, while another put Basque, Japanese, and Turkish in the
> Finno-Ugric Family. Has there been some break-through in language
> categorization that I am not aware of? I thought these old theories had
> been debunked years ago, along with the ones claiming that Native American
> languages were dialects of Hebrew.
> I would love to research this myself, but I don't speak any of
> these languages and don't have the time to do the research myself.
> Who has researched this, and how reliable are they?
> AD
The linguistic stock you are referring to is Na-Dene, not Da-Ne, which
includes Tlingit, Athabascan, Navajo, Apache, and other languages. Some
linguists believe they detect an ancient link with Sino-Tibetan (cf.
Swadesh 1971:286-287). The theory of an ancient core stock of
Basque-Dennean originating in central Asia and spreading out from there
was also proposed by Swadesh. See Swadesh, Morris. 1971. The Origin and
Diversification of Language. ed. by Joel Sherzer. Chicago, IL: Aldine/
Atherton. His Chapter on "The Progress of Babel," pp. 213-226 elaborates
these ideas somewhat. Unfortunately, Swadesh died before completing his
studies on ancient language origins, development and spread, so this book
is a compilation of what he had finished before his death.

I also remember seeing an article several years ago in either Scientific
American or American Scientist that brought up to date some of the more
radical linguistic hypotheses about ancient linguistic families and
stocks. I'll see whether I can find a specific citation for it.

K.H. Schwerin