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back to article Going viral 9,500 years ago: 'English descended from ancient Turkey'

Linguiboffins have traced the origins of Indo-European languages to Turkey using the same methods developed to track bird flu, HIV and other viruses. "If you know how viruses are related to one another you can trace back through their ancestry and find out where they originated,” said lead researcher Dr Quentin Atkinson of the …

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Dubiety...

I'm always a bit dubious when someone comes up with a theory that isn't supported by current evidence, and then finds another way of interpreting the data that "proves" exactly what they claimed before they had any real reason to believe their claims in the first place....

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Pint

Re: Dubiety...

Gotta chime in here too. It sounds suspiciously like they're using phrenology to back up their claims :-)

Seriously, though, it's all well and good pointing out similar linguistic constructs and then jumping to a conclusion, but a lot of this stuff might be coincidental or maybe a case of parallel development (why is the first day called "Sun" day and the second "Moon" day in so many languages, for example? I don't actually know--just throwing it out there). I'm all for clever theories but the problem with many linguistic theories is that they're not falsifiable. That being said, what's the point?

Beer, since they seem to have run out of jynnan tonnyx.

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Re: Dubiety...

actually this fits in with a picture I have been researching of early indo european civilisations. And I would not be surprised of it was broadly correct.

there are vestiges of a pan european and N Indian culture from about that era - in similarities of speech and various artefacts - even music - not actual nations and races, but a culture of knowledge art and technology.

In the same way that today Japan is remarkably similar to Europe, when compared to - say - Central Africa.

So I wouldn't dismiss this out of hand. But I wouldn't either say it proves much about the actual movement of people.

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Meh

If I'm Turkish

Then I'm a flamin Dutchman.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dubiety...

As I am both half English and half Northern German, with a smattering of Bavarian, Yorkshire, Notts and East Anglian, I don't tan, have blonde hair and blue eyes I doubt that I have any connection to Turkey having not even had a holiday there.

My ancestors the Vikings were responsible for part of my linage, as we're the Teutonic Knights.

I doubt it is possible for language to be used as a bench mark as language is so changeable and fluid. Nice try but no cigar.

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Headmaster

Re: If I'm Turkish

You're not Turkish. The Turks only arrived in Asia Minor about 1000 years ago. The area was inhabited before them by Greeks and Armenians, and before them by various peoples like the Cappadocians, Lydians etc.

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Re: If I'm Turkish

And even some time later by Hittites, before Lydians.

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Megaphone

Re: Dubiety...

The days of the week are named after what the medievals believed were the planets, or so I believe. It is more obvious if you use French rather than English.

Monday - Lundi - Moon

Tuesday - Mardi - Mars (Tiw's planet)

Wednesday - Mercredi - Mercury (Woden's planet)

Thursday - Jeudi - Jupiter (Thor's planet)

Friday - Vendredi - Venus (Frige's planet)

Saturday - Samedi - Saturn

Sunday - Dimanche - Sun

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Re: Dubiety...

The trouble I always have with these pop science summaries is knowing what bits of the conclusions are really new and what aren't... The less hard science papers are sometimes easier because they seem to spend the first few paras trashing their predecessors. In this case the basics are what I understood to be very roughly the case anyway, but how much does the details vary from all the other detailed ideas there have been over the years? To me it seems there's no way of knowing unless you have good knowledge of the subject, in which case you're way beyond the pop sci summary anyway.

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Coat

days of week Re: Dubiety...

Good thing the medievals named the days before the rest were discovered... the week would be three days longer (and you can guess how long the weekend would be), and we'd be in the middle of an extended argument about cutting a day, since Pluto had been demoted.

Yes, that is an anachronisticly powerful telescope in my pocket.

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Pint

Re: Dubiety...

For all you feeling so bad about being accused of having a turkey in the family three remember we are all African from the beginning. So just call your self African and get over it. The important thing to remember is that you are not American as the possibility for the Americans to reach the islands in those days is so remote.

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Pint

Re: Dubiety...

As you said this works best in French.

The English have Nordic Gods in the mix (Odin's Day-Wednesday; Thors' Day -Thursday; Frier's (Odin's wife) Day -Friday)

BTW Dimanche is the lord's day and stem's from Domus (latin for lord) I believe.

This is amazing that no real linguists have answered this thread.

Also, it is interesting to add that Babel is supposed to have been in the Anatolia area so this may have a connection.

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Re:BTW Dimanche is the lord's day

One of the Scottish Gaelic words for Sunday has the same meaning. The other translates as Sabbath. Which you use depends on your flavour of Christianity.

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Re: what bits are new

That's my feeling, too. Colin Renfrew was pushing this idea at least twenty years ago. Presumably the thing with this new paper is that they've somehow delivered the coup de grace to rival theories.

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Re: Dubiety...

This is amazing that no real linguists have answered this thread.

Yeah, I was hoping for that, hence my tongue-in-cheek post about phrenology and so on. I'm still kind of curious about the names of the days of the week, and it would have been nice to have a linguist give an explanation. It's nice to know that many Europeans have a God/Sun day and a Moon day (along with other planetary namings), but that doesn't explain why Japan has (and apparently China had at one point) pretty much the same system. Is it actually a case of parallel evolution or did knowledge of the planets and the fashion of using them for naming the days spread via language?

Another coincidence I've noticed between east/west is "-bury" in the UK at the end of place names and "-buri" at the end of place names in Thailand. Is it just coincidence or does it denote a common root language (Sanskrit/Indic languages)? Again, I have no idea, but it would be nice to know...

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Unhappy

Interesting

Can anyone lend me $20 so that I can read the full report?

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Re: Interesting

Can anyone send me on a nice holiday fact-finding mission to Turkey so I can catch some sun check the evidence for myself?

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Anonymous Coward

I call...

Quote of the Weak:

"...traced languages such as English and German to Anatolia, [. . .] where they were first used about 8,000 to 9,500 years ago."

("Guten Tag, haben Sie hier schon Emmer oder essen Sie noch Wildgras?")

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Re: I call...

That's pretty much the technique.

If the word for wild grass, horse, sky is similar in different languages, but the words for ocean,forest, snow etc are different then you can assume that they originated somewhere in central asia.

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WTF?

This is news?

Jared Diamond, in his book "The Third Chimpanzee" wrote about this in 1993-1994 and this was a "popularization" of the research available back then. Are these guys looking for a holiday in Turkey?

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Are these guys looking for a holiday in Turkey?

Not if they've got any sense. Incidentally I have firm evidence that English is descended from the language of the Carib people and merely need a trivial amount of funding to finalise my research through some field work in their ancient homelands...

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Anonymous Coward

9500 years from now when civilization begins to rediscover itself, the word "viral" will be traced back to You Tube. And the word "turkey" will be traced back to the person who coined the term viral.

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or ...

... etymologists will be puzzled to find that 'turkey' traces back to the seemingly unrelated word 'metro'.

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Joke

Re: or ...

Maybe it's an anagram ? No reason to believe Microsoft are any good at them either ?

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@JimmyPage

You mean "morte"?

-A.

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Anonymous Coward

How many commentators have paid their $20

How many commentators have paid their $20, or are their critiques merely based on the abstract & El Reg?

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Re: How many commentators have paid their $20

I would expect zero, and that's the problem with having to pay for the report.

I went as far as the abstract and found that I needn't have bothered : the Reg article was much more informative.

Much as I'd like to be more informed when entering the debate, $20 a shot is a bit too steep a price to pay.

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J 3

Re: How many commentators have paid their $20

Indeed... Anyway, in another, less lazy site I read earlier today a bit more of detail that could have helped assuage some of the commentards' anguish: the researchers tested the method in a more "obvious" case as a positive control, so to speak: they used it only on Latin languages to see what would be the chosen location, and the method spat out central Italy. From that they then assume that the method is working, which might be an overreach but I have no way to tell at the moment.

Now I have to log into the university network to get the original paper and read it myself, to see if they are not pulling our collective legs. Anyway, using phylogenetic methods in linguistics is not news; actually, many of the original phenetic methods started in linguistics about a century ago and were then adapted to biological research.

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@ J 3 (Romance languages as test case)

The problem with using the evolution of Latin into the Romance languages is that:

A) the model of language expansion is totally different -- the Roman Empire was aggressively expansionist, with a settled and well-defended centre.

B) there has been no major invasion or new civilisation in the territories where Romance languages are still spoken.

Meanwhile the Germanic tribes have migrated many many times and encountered several other civilisations (Celts, Romans, Slavs and other unknown extinct ones)

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Re: How many commentators have paid their $20

Interesting. But of course if you plowed in English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and a few other languages into that program, it would spit out the United States as the origin, since the US language is such a polyglot of all the other languages. It seems to me that would be true in the past of any locale that was at a cross-roads of trade, which is exactly what Turkey was (the Silk Route, where Europe and Asian trade routes met). All that would be required would be the advent of widespread trade at an earlier time than presently documented. If those who lived in the area adopted words from various languages, it could appear that they were the source, and the language spread from their.

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Holmes

Alternate theory

It was actually Turkish door-to-door salesmen. That accounts for the spreading of the language and the "genetic contribution".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Alternate theory

Nice catch, Joe

One thing about the Pontic steppe region, you never know who else they've been steppeing.

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DJ

What we need here is a women's perspective...

about those cunning linguists.

Or would that be fallacious?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What we need here is a women's perspective...

Not unless it's written with ph instead of letter f....

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Re: What we need here is a women's perspective...

Either way, it's viral so be certain to isolate the control group before getting too deep into the research.

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Kurgan semi-nomadic pastoralists

That's not my recollection from Highlander 1.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kurgan semi-nomadic pastoralists

Although he did have something to say, as I recall.

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Windows

Bleeding obvious!

Where can I, as a Brit, get a Turkish Kebab on a Friday night???

Oh, wait. It's Friday...I'll cut this drivel short, gotta nip over the road to the kebab shop...

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Not quite

English is the language we have now. It is mostly derived from French brought here by William the Bastard.

Over fifty years I have challenged people to suggest a French word that is not represented somewhere in English and I haven't been beaten yet. Play here if you like.

Old English was brought to the island by Saxons, it is present in our language as a few hundred words. I don't understand why we are so hung up about it. Perhaps because it gave us the name.

Other languages have also contributed.

Our only indigenous language is Welsh.

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Re: Not quite

Merde?

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Re: Not quite

>>Our only indigenous language is Welsh.

This is not the case, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Manx and Scots and Irish Gaelic are all derived from the same origins, Celtic peoples who migrated from Eastern Europe.

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Anonymous Coward

Can we play with other languages ?

"Schadenfreude" is my favourite word of all time, but has no single equivalent in English. Also the Germans have 2 different words for random, IIRC "zufall" and something else ....

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Trollface

Re: Not quite

cow, sheep, swine, table, coffer, arm breast, hand finger

Oh, sorry you wanted French words. If you're going to claim "mostly derived from French" I think you have to try both ways. Germanic-derived words are probably far more common in everyday speech, especially the swearwords.

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Merde

Good one. Provisional score 0 -1 .

I am off for the day. Anyone can propose, anyone can steal my fun and answer..

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PJI
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Re: Not quite

Nonsence. Of the 100 commonest everyday words, 70 or so are Anglo-Saxon. Most of the rest are Norse. then come lots of Norman French, Latin and Greek as well as German etc. of course the N. European languages are closely related and overlapping. The various Celtic languages are scarcely represented apart fro place names. Latin and Greek tend to be used in technical, scientific and legal contexts. But the basics, with grammar simplified as Saxon and Scandinavian invaders and settlers mixed, are not French. food and art are heavily French and Italian.

USA English vocabulary and grammar are strongly influenced by their main immigrant sources, such as ex slaves, East Europe and Yiddish, Hispanic languages and German, resulting in tendencies to new speech patterns, intonation and words as all the immigrants adapt English to their familiar patterns, with a curious retention of some archaic English and Irish forms through separation until modern times.

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@Allan George Dyer

Er, table is a French word, of Latin origin.

Still, loads of French words are Germanic in origin. All the ones starting with an aspirated H, for example. And the Normans were Vikings.

-A.

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Re: Not quite

Merde.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/merde

-A.

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Re: Not quite

OK, I'm playing. Souhaiter. Jouer.

Or does it have to be nouns?

-A.

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Re: Not quite

There are a handful of English words from Gaelic.

Bard, bog, brogue (shoe), cairn, crag, dune, galore, shanty, slogan, smashing!, trousers, and, whisky.

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