David Anthony: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language May 23, 2018 18:49:07 GMT
Post by Admin on May 23, 2018 18:49:07 GMT
David Anthony, Early Indo-European migrations, economies, and phylogenies, presented at the seminar "Tracing the Indo-Europeans: Origin and migration", organized by Roots of Europe - Language, Culture, and Migrations, University of Copenhagen, 12-14 December 2012
THREE REASONS FOR ARCHAEOLOGISTS TO CARE ABOUT THE INDO-EUROPEAN PROBLEM
Reason #1: Proto-Indo-European is eloquent and real
Language can illuminate the archaeological record in unique ways. Lan-guage is what makes humans human. Vocabularies and grammars contain a rich index of cultural beliefs and practices. Processual archaeology has long been criticized for neglecting the human subject/agent, and historical linguistics could allay some of those criticisms. A reconstructed vocabulary can reconstitute the meanings and cultural models that drove individual and group behavior in the world around the speakers of that vocabulary. Rather than continuing the rather sterile debates about the location of the PIE homeland, we should shift our attention to the cultural models and mean-ings implied by the PIE vocabulary. They are the real prize and the reason for an archaeologist to pursue the question of PIE origins. If we want to understand what the world meant from the subjective viewpoint of a pre-historic PIE-speaking agent, we can acquire a deeper understanding from an examination of his/her vocabulary and grammar (Benveniste 1973; Wat-kins 1995; Mallory and Adams 2006) than from a GIS viewshed analysis— although in an ideal world we would combine both sources of information. This has actually been done by archaeologists in the American Southwest. Here, reconstructed vocabularies and place-names, oral histories referring to prominent mountains, archaeological data including artifact types and architecture, biological skeletal data, and a GIS viewshed analysis of visible horizon features were combined by Bernardini et al. (2013), expanding on earlier work by Ortman (2012), to identify in an entirely new way the origin and route of prehistoric migrations of Tewa-speaking people. Language not only can be used by archaeologists, it is a rich source of information that deepens our understanding of the archaeological record and can be integrated with data gained from other sources such as GIS.But are proto-languages real? Can Proto-Indo-European be mapped and compared with archaeological cultures or other kinds of material-culture distributions? The linguist James Clackson (2007:16, 2012:265) warned against reifying PIE.
He suggested that reconstructed PIE is like a constella-tion, composed of elements from different eras located at variable distances, an illusion that doesn’t exist in the real world. This metaphor permits PIE to ﬂoat across chronological periods, and it reserves the study of PIE to an academically deﬁned domain distant from actual time or geography—and, therefore, also from nationalism. The constellation analogy is reassuring politically, but is also misleading. A constellation has no effect on anything real. Proto-Indo-European is evident entirely through the profound, systematic, and quantiﬁable effects it had on the world’s languages. An actual language, PIE, must have been ancestral to the daughter IE languages, whose regular derivation from PIE is demonstrable by the comparative method. We can see distinct parts of PIE through different evidentiary lenses—phonology, syntax, morphology, vo-cabulary, poetic conventions, and comparative mythology—and they yield aligned perceptions (Watkins 1995). A constellation would disappear if the observer moved, but PIE gets more interesting when seen through differ-ent windows. Clackson did not say that PIE never existed, but only that it evolved and changed through time and that we cannot separate its earlier from its later materials prior to the appearance of its daughter languages in texts. This text-privileged view of language is not shared by all linguists.
The chronological subgrouping problem has been addressed using both traditional (Meid 1975; Lehmann 1989) and new computational methods (Bouckaert et al. 2012; Jäger 2013; Chang et al. 2015). Clackson (2007:17) himself conceded that “it may be possible to assign some absolute dates to items of material culture, such as wheels [emphasis added] or the terminol-ogy for spinning wool.” Can we regard reconstructed PIE as if it were an actual language? First, obviously, the ancient language reﬂected in PIE is only partially recovered, so PIE is not a whole language; it is like a partial skeleton retaining some desiccated soft tissue. The core skeleton in the case of PIE is composed of reconstructed sounds. The units of sound reconstructed for each word root are accepted as being comparable to the units of sound in the actual ancestral word, although the exact phonetic realization would have varied. The sound system of reconstructed PIE is derived from the accumulated comparisons of thousands of individual cognates and yet presents a rela-tively coherent phonological system. Similar units of sound identify gram-matical categories that are marked in the same way with the same phono-logical endings and conjugations across the PIE grammatical system. PIE grammar and phonology constitute an unremarkable human language that falls within the observed range for known modern languages (Anthony and Ringe 2015). That is a strong indicator that what is reconstructed, while not a whole language, is the skeleton of one. Archaeologists can think of re-constructed PIE as representing the partial remains of a regional linguistic phase, like a regional phase in material culture, that contains traces of both chronological (diachronic) and geographic (dialectical) variation.