Na-Dene family theory

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Roel~, Aug 25, 2013.

  1. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    There is a theory about the Na-Dene group. Languages like Basque, Georgian, some native-American languages and Chinese are included. What I wondered about if anyone knows what theories there exist why these languages actually would be related. I read some about it on wikipedia, but that's limited and I wondered if there is more in the vocabulary and grammar which could have a relationship to eachother.
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Na-Dene is the group of American languages, and is an acknowledged family. The speculative theory is called Dene-Caucasian, combining the names of Na-Dene and North Caucasian - not Georgian, which is South Caucasian, but the other two indigenous families there, North-East Caucasian and North-West Caucasian. (Their union into North Caucasian is not generally acknowledged, but is not implausible). Dene-Caucasian also includes Basque, Sino-Tibetan (whose main representative is Chinese), and the isolated Himalayan language Burushaski.

    I don't like to say this, but (holding my nose) Wikipedia is probably the best summary you're going to get with any ease. Their article on Dene-Caucasian looks reasonably expansive (and sympathetic), and told me more about the alleged correspondences than I'd known before. Such grand families are mostly rejected by mainstream historical linguists, but they're interesting to ponder, because something like that was very likely true even if we can no longer hope to reconstruct the ancestors or the tree.

    Presumably the macrofamilies (Dene-Caucasian, Nostratic, Austric or Austro-Asiatic) would have represented movements of early peoples as they spread out of Africa, and then Indo-European-speaking farmers moved in across most of Europe, separating the Basques from their very distant cousins to the east. It is plausible that the Na-Dene family is related to something in Asia, and the connexion with Yeniseian appears to be more widely accepted after recent work.

    I'm not even going to start trying to assess how plausible the supposed connexions are. The people who put them forward are at least respectable trained linguists, not total cranks.
  3. calcraft Member

    Work by Vajda, Ruhlen and, especially, Starostin, makes very interesting reading on this subject. For SOME reason, "new" members are not allowed to post links on these fora, and so I cannot include any pointers to their pdfs here. You can even Owi Nandi deliver a short lecture on Dene Caucasian, at Youtube. His accent is, to say the least, charming. Buena suerte!

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