The Split.

Linguist Matthew Scarborough reports on a conference at the University of Copenhagen called The Split: Reconstructing Early Indo-European Language and Culture. He has a paragraph on most of the presentations, and they tempt me to wish I’d stayed in the field: “The Hittite verbal system and the Indo-Hittite Hypothesis,” “The Old Hittite ‘ninth case’ in areal and genetic perspective,” the etymology of Hitt. ḫišša– ‘thill, shaft (of a cart)’ and the feminine gender in Indo-European, “Did the Indo-Europeans have a word for ‘wheat’? Hittite šeppit(t)- revisited and the rise of Post-PIE cereal technology”… this sort of thing gets my blood moving faster. The third and final day of the conference consisted of archaeological papers, and he concludes his discussion with this excited paragraph:

For me, the final paper of the conference with the rather lengthy title After migration: how culture, genetics and language were reshaped by local processes of social integration: The case of Yamnaya and Corded Ware by Kristian Kristiansen was perhaps the most eye-opening contribution. To give some background, from my work with the MPI in Jena I have come to realise that the field of archaeogenetics has exploded in the last few years as the new techniques for extracting and analysing Ancient DNA (aDNA) have improved dramatically. What I hadn’t known is exactly how dramatically they have improved. The impression that I get is that it is a revolution to the field of prehistoric archaeology comparable to that of the introduction of Carbon-14 dating in the 1950s. Rather than butchering the very eloquent and well argued talk through a short summary, I would greatly encourage people check out the project that he has been investigating entitled The Rise: Travels, transmissions and transformations in temperate northern Europe during the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC: the rise of Bronze Age societies. I get the impression that we will see quite a few very paradigm-shattering results for the question of Indo-European origins and the Indo-Europeanisation of Europe based on archaeological syntheses of aDNA evidence very soon within the next few years. Very exciting times lie ahead in the near future, and I wonder if the question of when and where PIE was spoken – something that I previously thought to be an impossible question – might soon be able to get some sort of a concrete answer.

David Marjanović dumps cold water on him in the comments (“o.O We already did, back in 2013 mostly”), but Matthew says “as a pure historical linguist with only a passing knowledge of these things (and mind you, keeping my head down and trying to finish a Ph.D. in the intervening time), this is the first time I’d actually realised how groundbreaking the latest aDNA stuff was,” and I’m with him — it’s pretty exciting! Anyway, if you have any interest in this stuff, check out his post.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Hat! 🙂

  2. I hope these developments eventually help solve a lot of questions I’m struggling with (purely through linguistics) on the topic of Japanese dialectology and early populational migrations.

  3. Szolt Simon


  4. Hat, you have stayed in the field. You publish on linguistics almost every day, which is way more than any professional linguist manages, albeit in the form of squibs and reviews rather than papers. You don’t teach in person, but you have created a forum for amazing seminars far and above the usual standard. And your service to the community is beyond doubt.

    Tenure by acclamation.

  5. @juha, Oh, yes. That’s right. *facepalm* I’ll fix that in a jiff…

  6. Hat, you have stayed in the field.

    In the language-related field, certainly. In the field of linguistics, arguably. But in the field of IE, sadly, I have not; I read bulletins from the front with the interest of a distant occupier of an armchair.

  7. Good to see that David is still Marjanovićing. I haven’t seen him in ages.

  8. David Marjanović says

    My head is spinning now.


    I’ve fulfilled my promise of reading the abstracts, but haven’t been back since then. Timezones! I’ll try to post a commented list of links to papers on the weekend.

    I haven’t seen him in ages.

    Been busy lately…

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