Saturday, April 4, 2015

Origins of Indo-European languages, new phonological section highlight Language issue

The March 2015 issue of Language, the flagship scholarly journal of the Linguistic Society of America, is now available online:

Highlights of the March issue include a paper on the origins of Indo-European languages which has already been the subject of significant interest, as well as the inaugural article ofLanguage's new online section for "Phonological Analysis".

"Ancestry-constrained phylogenetic analysis supports the Indo-European steppe hypothesis", by Will Chang, Chundra Cathcart, David Hall and Andrew Garrett (all of UC-Berkeley), provides new support for the "steppe hypothesis" or "Kurgan hypothesis", which proposes that Indo-European languages first spread with cultural developments in animal husbandry around 4500 - 3500 BCE.

Chang et al. examined over 200 sets of words from living and historical Indo-European languages. After determining how quickly these words changed over time through statistical modeling, they concluded that the rate of change indicated that the languages which first used these words began to diverge approximately 6,500 years ago, in accordance with the steppe hypothesis. A pre-print version of this article released by the Linguistic Society of America in February received considerable discussion from news media, including the New York Times, Science, and PBS.

The March issue of Language also marks the debut of "Phonological Analysis", a new online-only section of Language dedicated to detailed examination of phonological data, theories, and models. The inaugural article of Phonological Analysis, "The foot domain in Bambara" (Christopher R. Green; University of Maryland - CASL), examines the role of the metrical foot, a linguistic unit built from syllables, in Bambara, a language spoken in Mali and western Africa. Using an array of primary data, Green demonstrates that a single assignment of metrical feet in Bambara unifies a set of linguistic phenomena previously thought to be separate.

Phonological Analysis is the newest of several online-only sections to be added to Language; other recent additions include sections on "Teaching Linguistics" and "Language and Public Policy".

Other articles in the March issue of Language include:

  • "Invariance in argument realization: The case of Iroquoian" (Jean-Pierre Koenig and Karin Michelson)
  • "Learning nonadjacent dependencies in phonology: Transparent vowels in vowel harmony" (Sara Finley)
  • "Rare-class adjectives in the tough construction" (Nicholas Fleisher)
  • "The real-time comprehension of WH-dependencies in a WH-agreement language" (Matthew Wagers, Manuel F. Borja, and Sandra Chung)
  • "Morphosyntactic complexity: a typology of lexical splits" (Greville G. Corbett)


EurekAlert. 2015. “Origins of Indo-European languages, new phonological section highlight Language issue”. EurekAlert. Posted: March 20, 2015. Available online:

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