Paleolinguistics is a term used by some linguists for the study of the distant human past by linguistic means. For most historical linguists there is no separate field of paleolinguistics. Those who use the term are generally advocates of hypotheses not generally accepted by mainstream historical linguists, a group colloquially referred to as "long-rangers".

The controversial hypotheses in question fall into two categories. Some of them involve the application of standard historical linguistic methodology in ways that raise doubts as to the validity of the hypothesis. A good example of this sort is the Moscow school of Nostraticists, founded by Vladislav Illich-Svitych and including Aharon Dolgopolsky, Sergei Starostin, and Vitaly Shevoroshkin, who have argued for the existence of Nostratic, a language family including the Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic, Altaic, Dravidian, and Kartvelian language families and sometimes other languages. They have established regular phonological correspondences, observed morphological similarities, and reconstructed a proto-language in accordance with the accepted methodology. Nostratic is not generally accepted because critics have doubts about the specifics of the correspondences and reconstruction.

Other hypotheses are controversial because the methods used to support them are considered by mainstream historical linguists to be invalid in principle. Into this category fall proposals based on mass lexical comparison, a technique in whichrelationships are considered to be established by the presentation of sets of words dubbed "etymologies" in which the forms are perceived as resembling each other in sound and meaning, without establishing phonological correspondences or carrying out a reconstruction.Prominent examples are the work of Joseph Greenberg and Merritt Ruhlen.This method is generally regarded as unable to distinguish chance similarities from those that must be due to a historical connection and unable to distinguish similarities due to common descent from those due to language contact.

Some others who may be considered 'paleolinguists' due to their advocacy of controversial, deep hypotheses are:

Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald, N.D. Andrejev, M.S. Andronov, John Bengtson, Knut Bergsland, Derek Bickerton, Václav Blažek, René Bonnerjea, Karl Bouda, Linus Brunner, Robert Caldwell, Matthias Castrén, Vyacheslav Chirikba, Björn Collinder, Bojan Čop, Albert Cuny, Igor Diakonov, Vladimir Dybo, Heinz Fähnrich, Harold Fleming, Michael Fortescue, Panu Hakola, Irén Hegedűs, Eugene Helimski, Carleton T. Hodge, Otto Jespersen, D.H. Koppelmann, G. Kornilov, Frederik Kortlandt, Kalevi E. Koskinen, Saul Levin, Samuel E. Martin, Karl-Heinrich Menges, Roy Andrew Miller, Hermann Möller, Sergei L. Nikolayev, Shamil Nafiqoff, Susumu Ōno, Mikolas Palmaitis, James Patrie, Holger Pedersen, Alexis Manaster Ramer, G.J. Ramstedt, Rasmus Rask, Edward Sapir, Jochem Schindler, Wilhelm Schmidt, Robert Shafer, Georgiy Starostin, Morris Swadesh, Henry Sweet, V.A. Terenťjev, Vilhelm Thomsen, Vladimir N. Toporov, Alfredo Trombetti, V.L. Tsymburskij, Stephen A. Tyler, Ants-Michael Uesson, C.C. Uhlenbeck, and Michael Witzel.

An entirely different point of view underlies Mario Alinei's Paleolithic Continuity Theory, which is based on the doctrine of polygenism rather than that of monogenesis.


*Blažek, V., "et al." 2001. Paleolinguistics: The State of the Art and Science (Festschrift for Roger W. Wescott). "Mother Tongue" 6: 29-94.
* Campbell, Lyle. (1997). "American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America". New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
*cite book | last= Campbell| first= Lyle| authorlink= Lyle Campbell| coauthors= | editor= | others= | title= Historical Linguistics: An Introduction| origdate= | origyear= | origmonth= | url= | format= | accessdate= | accessyear= | accessmonth= | edition= 2nd | date= | year= 2004| month= | publisher= MIT Press| location= Cambridge| language= | id= ISBN 0-262-53267-0| pages= | chapter= | chapterurl=
*Hegedűs, I., "et al." (Ed.) 1997. "Indo-European, Nostratic, and Beyond (Festschrift for Vitalij V. Shevoroshkin)." Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man.
* Hock, Hans Henrich & Joseph, Brian D. (1996). "Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship: An Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics". Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
*cite book | last= Kessler| first= Brett| authorlink= | coauthors= | editor= | others= | title= The Significance of Word Lists: Statistical Tests for Investigating Historical Connections Between Languages| origdate= | origyear= | origmonth= | url= | format= | accessdate= | accessyear= | accessmonth= | edition= 2nd | date= | year= 2001| month= | publisher= CSLI Publications| location= Stanford, CA| language= | id= | pages= | chapter= | chapterurl=
*Matisoff, James. (1990) On Megalocomparison. Language, 66. 109-20
* Poser, William J. and Lyle Campbell (1992). " [ Indo-european practice and historical methodology] ," Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, pp. 214-236.
*Renfrew, Colin, and Daniel Nettle. (Ed.) 1999. "Nostratic: Examining a Linguistic Macrofamily." Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
*Ringe, Donald. (1992). "On calculating the factor of chance in language comparison". "American Philosophical Society, Transactions", 82 (1), 1-110.
*Ruhlen, Merritt. 1994. "The Origin of Language: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue." NewYork: John Wiley & Sons.
*Shevoroshkin, V. (Ed.) 1992. "Nostratic, Dene-Caucasian, Austric and Amerind." Bochum: Brockmeyer.
*Swadesh, Morris. 1971. "The Origin and Diversification of Language." Ed. by Joel Sherzer. Chicago/New York: Aldine Atherton.
*cite book | last= Trask| first= Larry| authorlink= Larry Trask| coauthors= | editor= | others= | title= Historical Linguistics| origyear= | origmonth= | url= | format= | accessdate= | accessyear= | accessmonth= | edition= 2nd | date= | year= 1996| month= | publisher= Edward Arnold| location= London| language= | id= ISBN 0-340-60758-0| pages= | chapter= | chapterurl=

ee also

*Superfamily (linguistics)
*Mass lexical comparison
*Proto-World language
*Origins of language

External links

* [ How likely are chance resemblances among languages?]
* [ Association for the Study of Language in Prehistory]
* [ Santa Fe Institute, Evolution of Human Language Project]

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