February 19, 2011

A common ancestor of Indo-European and Hurrian

There is an interesting monograph by Fournet & Bomhard on the Indo-European Elements in Hurrian (pdf). I will leave the linguistic details to the experts, as I doubt that many people are competent in both Proto-Indo-European and Hurrian to assess the authors' thesis. However, this is the bit that captured my attention:
Hurrian cannot be considered an Indo-European language — this is so obvious that it barely needs to be stated. Traditional Indo-European languages, such as Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Gothic, Old Irish, Old Church Slavic, Tocharian, etc., are clearly related to each other through many common features and shared innovations that are lacking in Hurrian.

However, that is not the end of the argument. In the preceding chapters, we presented evidence that Hurrian and Proto-Indo-European “[bear] a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could have been produced by accident; so strong that no philologer could examine [them] without believing them to have sprung from some common source.” In this chapter, we will discuss our views on what that common source may have been like. In so doing, we will have to delve deeply into prehistory, well beyond the horizon of what is traditionally reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European in the traditional handbooks.

...

Our discussion now comes to an end. In the course of this book, we have attempted to show, through a careful analysis of the relevant phonological, morphological, and lexical data, that Urarto-Hurrian and Indo-European are, in fact, genetically related at a very deep level, as we indicated at the beginning of this chapter by quoting from the famous Third Anniversary Discourse (1786) of Sir William Jones. We propose that both are descended from a common ancestor, which may be called “Proto-Asianic”, to revive an old, but not forgotten, term.
On the basis of genetic data I have recently proposed an origin of the Indo-Aryans in the Transcaucasus, based on their possession of a genetic component related to that of modern Northeast Caucasian speakers and the putative relationship of the latter with the Hurro-Urartian group. If the Hurrian-Indo-European "Proto-Asianic" hypothesis is true, then it would strengthen that hypothesis as it would place the Proto-Indo-Europeans in the vicinity of the Hurrians.

24 comments:

Jan said...

Dienekes,

that paper was deeply criticized by Alexei Kassian on the pages of the Journal of Language Relationship
http://journal.nostratic.ru/db/index.php?en
Kassian, Alexei [Review] A.Fournet, A.R.Bomhard. The Indo-European Elements in Hurrian (2010) - p. 199-206
Fournet, Arnaud; Bomhard, Allan Ответ на рецензию А. Касьяна на статью 'The Indo-European Elements in Hurrian' - p. 135-141
Kassian, Alexei More about the theoretical foundations of lexicostatistics (an answer to A.Fournet & A.Bomhard) - p. 142-145

Also, you may be interested in
A. Kassian. Hattic as a Sino-Caucasian language // Ugarit-Forschungen. Internationales Jahrbuch für die Altertumskunde Syrien-Palästinas. Bd 41, 2009–2010. P.309–447.
where he makes some historical speculations.
http://www.box.net/shared/ft4x8phbus

Dienekes said...

that paper was deeply criticized by Alexei Kassian on the pages of the Journal of Language Relationship

As I said, I leave the linguistic arguments to the experts.

Dienekes said...

I'll just add that the concept of a Sino-Caucasian language family rubs me the wrong way in every way possible. I don't know what arguments are made for it, but I don't see a shred of genetic evidence that would parallel such a language family.

ashraf said...

That book is about Indo-European elements in Hurrian not Hurrian being-strongly-(as all world languages are related at a out of africa primeval language level) related to IE, and this is in line with a western asian homeland for proto indo-european and when Hurrian tribes migarated from the caucasus to western asia (the homeland of proto indo-hittite) they did absorb many IE elements and IE elements in Hurrian is a FACT accepeted by the mainstream scholars!

ashraf said...

However Hurrian and proto indo-european differs greatly at a structural level, while pie is an inflective ablautic language hurrian is an agglutinative one.
Hurrian wich is most likely a northeast caucasic language (connected to languages such as Avar, Lezgin...)diffusing into Anatolia (because of the lack of intra-Hurrian languages/dialects diversity contrasting with the great internal diversity within the indo-european anatolic languages=>a clue for them being indigenous to Anatolia and connected with the local population)
Thus the proto Indo-European elements in Hurrian are very interesting.
It should be noticed that there are also an Indo-European superstratum (from the Indo-Iranian branch=>Mitanni) into Hurrian as well.
We could perhaps compare the "para-proto indo-european" substratum in Hurrian with east Iranic elements in Turkish and the indo-iranian mitanni superstratum in Hurrian with west Iranic (Persian) elements in Turkish at a purely taxonomic oriented level comparison between Hurrian and Turkish.

On the other hand,the problem with the Indo-Uralic connection is that Uralic is strongly related to paleosiberian languages and on the light of the presence of aleut loanwords in the proto uralic vocabulary, proto Uralic homeland should be located in eastern Siberia (around the Ob river), we may say that Uralic is connected to the north mongoloid race and thus could not imagine a genetical interrelation between IE and Uralic (and the similarities between the 2 is probably due to:
1/the common inherited elements of "proto world" (the primeval out of Africa language)
2/a strong sprachbund(vocabulary+grammar+pronouns) resulting from some sort of IE's para IE's folks advancing into the asian steppes and influencing very strongly the language of the "primitive" proto uralic hunters gatherers (it could be said that hunter gatherer's language may not be able "developping" grammar+pronouns and be of the creole type and would borrow them from neighbor folks)
However for the afrasan/IE connection, both "proto folks" should have in common the western asian component (see my signature) and both languages are ablautic inflective (not agglutinative-type) ones

Shared Sino-Caucasian are in trace amounts and due,most likely, to an earlier(than pre proto "nostratic" and that's why the affinity is so moribund)human migration out of Africa, to make a parallel (wich would solve the absence of a common sino-caucasian autosomal component, we can say that Sinic-Caucasic affinity is, very broadly speaking, at a same level than, let's say Nostratic-NigerKordofanian affinity) please take a look at the 2 pictures below
http://img249.imageshack.us/img249/544/deneasiatic.gif
http://img191.imageshack.us/img191/4774/sigxy.jpg

AdygheChabadi said...

I seriously doubt the theorized relationship between Proto-Indo-European and Hurrian is substantial. Maybe be due to areal influences rather than genetic ones.

Hurro-Urartian bares a much more striking resemblance to the Northeast Caucasian Languages...Nakh-Dagestani.

However, I do believe that Indo-European speakers existed near or in the same area as the Caucasian Languages for a long period as is evidenced by Indo-European loans or borrowings in the Caucasian languages, both North Caucasian and South Caucasian.

Jan said...

Dienekes,

I'm not an adherent of a common human protolanguage (not even Sino-Caucasian one), but Kassian's paper presents some evidence for linguistic, archaeological and anthropological connections between Balkans and North Caucasus relevant to you post.

Gioiello said...

I think it is very interesting what says Kassian in his paper on Hurrian language: “The discussion about the Indo-European homeland is not a purpose of my paper ; see
Mallory, 1997 for an overview of the existing hypotheses. I share the opinion, according
to which the Neolithic/Chalcolithic homeland of the Proto-Indo-Hittites was situated in
the Carpatho-Balkan region (cf., e. g., Diakonoff, 1985; also Дыбо, 1994, 1999, 2002,
2006). Gimbutas’ Pontic-Caspian steppe model (the kurgan theory), placing the IE
homeland to the east of Dniepr, appears precluded due to a significant number of Proto-
Narrow IE (or even Proto-Indo-Hittite) roots and stems denoting forest, various trees,
hills/mountains together with numerous agricultural and stockbreeding terms which is
strikingly opposite to the absence of typical steppe vocabulary. Of course, reconstructed
IE cultural vocabulary might be theoretically present in the language of some steppe
people: e. g., a few riverside sites of Sredny Stog community (Dniepr–Don region, the
first half of the 5th – the first half of the 4th millennia BC) could at a stretch satisfy these
conditions, but the absence of proper steppe floral terms or specific terms of mobile
pastoralism make such a supposition unlikely. The non-steppe homeland of the Indo-
Europeans can also be proven by the fact, noted in Старостин, 1988/2007, 315 f., Starostin,
2009, 80, that IE *ewo- ‘horse’ (which can be not a Narrow IE, but Indo-Hittite
term, see the discussion in EDHIL, 237 ff.) seems to be borrowed from an ancient
language of the NCauc. stock discussed above, cf. its NCauc. descendant *ɦɨ[n]čwĭ
(~ -ĕ) ‘horse’.
A sometimes proposed argument for the kurgan theory is the IE–Uralic lexical contacts,
but these contacts date back to the Indo-Iranian epoch, not earlier (Proto-IE–Proto-
Ural. isoglosses which belong mostly to the basic vocabulary represent the Nostratic
heritage). Various Anatolian / South Caucasian models reflect rather the Nostratic expansion
than posterior Indo-Hittite migrations. The main argument for the Anatolian location
of the IE homeland are lexical borrowings between Proto-IE and Proto-Semitic, but in
fact these isoglosses seem a mirage. See, e. g., Dolgopolsky, 1989 w. prev. lit. for the
traditional list of Proto-Semitic loanwords in IE and Дьяконов, 1982a and 1982b for the
heavy criticism of these connections. The most probable Proto-Semitic loanword in IE is
the designation of ‘7’ (Blažek, 1999, 246 ff.), but, firstly, it was a wandering word in that
region (cf. Kartv. *šwid- ‘7’, probably Hurr. šitta- ‘7’ and Etruscan semφ), secondly, I
claim that this numeral penetrated into IE dialects after the split of the IE proto-language
(Kassian, 2009). The second probable candidate is Narrow IE *tar-os ‘aurochs’ < Sem.
*ṯawr- ‘bull, ox’ (Akkad. šūru, Ugar. ṯr, Hebr. šōr, Off. Aram. twr ‘bull, ox’ etc., SED 2,
#241), but the same scenario is likely: the word was borrowed into Proto-Greek from
some Semitic dialect, where Sem. *ṯ tended to shift to [t], thereupon spread into the Western
IE dialects—cf. the similar linguistic fate of designations of ‘lion’, ‘leopard/panther’,
‘monkey’ or ‘elephant/camel’, which are wandering words and cannot be reconstructed
at the Proto-IE level. Starostin, 2007b (a draft published post mortem) attempts
to breathe life into the IE–Semitic contact theory and proposes the solid list of items borrowed
from IE into Semitic; I will not discuss it here, but I am sure that these isoglosses
either are chance coincidences or represent the common Nostratic–Afro-Asiatic heritage”(page 426).

Ponto said...

All those linguists are saying is that there are I.E elements in Hurrian, not that Hurrian is I.E. There are Semitic elements in I.E and I.E elements in Semitic languages. Language borrowings is not unusual.

No offense to linguistics but Linguistics is all smoke and mirrors.

ashraf said...

I read both the book, Kassian's review, Fournet&Bomhard's answer to the review as well as Kassian's answer to Fournet&Bomhard's answer.

It appears that Kassian has its own (false) preassumptions on genetical relation between sinic and caucasian as well as between indo-european and altaic+korean+japanese&uralic while refuting that hurrian has IE elements in it merely because it does not fit his own preassumptions of a genetical relation between uralic, altaic and indo-european.(when there is no genetical match between the caucasoid and mongoloid associated languages and the similarities between the 2 groups are most likely due to sprachbund of migrating[intoto siberia]indo-european, one has to remember that the first attested uralic or altaic language is the very late 8 th century orhon turkic and before that date much likely the siberian languages borrowed much from the advancing indo-european farmers)

Also one has to remember that the Moscow school of linguistics was accused to have a political agenda (in "proving" the interrelation between IE, uralic, altaic and eskimo they seek to legitimize the Russian conquest of huge territories of lands inhabited by those non russian folks saying that "anyway our languages have a common origin so no harm if you shift to russian and assimilate into russian")

Please read Bomhard&Fournet's answer to Kassian'review (includes also Kassian's answer to the answer) here below


As for IE homeland, besides loanwords it's the fauna and fluara described by PIE as well as the absence of north european component amongst indo-european speaking armenians, anatolians[before language shift],iranians and indians (while western asian component is present in all indo-european folks of europe) wich are against an ukrainian homeland of early proto indo-hittite.

http://journal.nostratic.ru/db/files/(61)jlr2011-5(135-141).pdf

Alex said...

Asymmetric comparisons don't lead anywhere expect to the place they started from. Hurrian and other extinct languages are greatly unknown to us in comparison to IE. Almost everything in West Eurasian linguistics, archeology, and genetics revolves around IE and Semitic explanations. And nobody puts any real effort to understand the autochthonous populations of the Caucasus or North Mesopotamia/Iran simply as they are, without a spin on Indo-Aryans or Hebrews. If you are really interested in knowing the proto-historic and historic development of this area of the world, I suggest you leave old concepts behind. Start from scratch without trying to look for an easy, trump card solution that allays your entrenched notions

eurologist said...

"I share the opinion, according
to which the Neolithic/Chalcolithic homeland of the Proto-Indo-Hittites was situated in
the Carpatho-Balkan region"

What makes this attractive, or in general the northwest Balkans to roughly Hungary and surrounding low lands,is that this area is the home of the people who prevented agriculture to spread north for 500 years, but then may have been instrumental in bringing about the Danubian (after creating grains and animals and practices suitable for the colder, longer winters and generally wetter climate). Also, one can interpret the early northern agriculturalists' mtDNA such that it was of local origin, from this region. IE could have entered the Ukraine via Poland and along the rivers going south (there is some evidence for the establishment of Danubian-style houses migrating exactly that way) - rather than moving west from the Ukraine.

kareem said...

I like the topic a lot :)

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The likelihood of unusually heavy linguistic borrowing in Hurrian under pressure from both an Indo-Aryan Mittani superstrate and a Hittite areal influence seems more plausible than a deep common origin for the two languages that is stronger than other Eurasian languages (although, of course, if you go back far enough, presumably all Eurasian languages have a common origin at some point).

A good analogy might be the way that Latin grammar and verb roots made their way into the Germanic substratum of English in the Middle Ages (particularly in the kind of formal official writings that survive to us today to provide what we know of Hurrian) under the influence of Latin language using Catholic officials and French language speaking rulers. Thus, English has far strong similarities to the Romance languages than would be expected from the common Indo-European origins of the Romance, Celtic and Germanic languages.

"On the basis of genetic data I have recently proposed an origin of the Indo-Aryans in the Transcaucasus, based on their possession of a genetic component related to that of modern Northeast Caucasian speakers and the putative relationship of the latter with the Hurro-Urartian group."

I certainly give credence to the Northeast Caucasian relationship to Hurro-Urartian. The linguistic similarities are strong, the geography is right, and given what we know about history, geography and population genetics the Northeast Caucasian populations are plausible populations in the region to be the oldest layer and to have escaped the Indo-Iranian wave from Persian, the Hittite wave in Anataolia and the Akkadian influence from Mesopotamia into adjacent mountains, that between these three pincers, exterminated other Hurro-Uratian languages and Kassite and Elamite languages as well.

But, the presence of this population genetic component in Indo-Aryan has other possible explanations. Given the very old layers of advanced metalworking in the Transcaucus, and the close coincidence of advanced metalworking in South Asia with the Indo-Aryans arrival that is similar to that of the methods used in the Transcaucus, one possibility that seems plausible is that metalworkers from the Transcaucus were incorporated as a jati-like group into the Indo-Aryan population wave, a bit like the way that diasporic Jews were the bears of certain professions in Europe as a distinct population within a larger society there.

I am also inclined to think that the cult of Hephaestus/Vulcan in the Mediterrean (and perhaps that of Viśvákarma in South Asia) may have been a late fusion to the Indo-European pagan pantheon with an origin in the Caucusian/Hurrian peoples, as the center of his cult in Lemnos was one of the longest holdouts of non-Indo-European languages in the region. In contrast, in the East, this cult may have been an integrated part of the Indo-Aryan ethos by the time it arrived.

It is also plausible that the genetic profile of the Northeast Caucasian speakers today may have been extant over a larger range ca. 4500 BCE, i.e. pre-Mittani and pre-Akkadian and pre-Hittite. The factors that allowed them to keep a relative of a Hurrian language today may also have made their genetic traces unmuddied by the many waves of migration that have impacted population genetics to some extent in neighoring areas. Thus, even if East Anatolia does not have population genetics that look like the NE Caucasians today, that doesn't mean that the Hurrians might not have looked similar in population genetics to today's NE Caucasians at the time when Indo-Aryan ethnogenesis was taking place. So, one doesn't need admixture to take place precisely in the NE Transcaucus for the hypothesis to be plausible.

ashraf said...

The archeologist Goodenough too, proposes the Balkan region as the homeland of proto indo-european.

However as for proto indo-hittite (the ancestor of proto indo-european) it could have originated in Asia , based on the fact that most of the Balkanian Y-DNA haplogroups came from Asia (R1a, R1b, G, J2, E1b)

Also autosomally speaking, indo-european speaking Armenians appeared to be lacking the north european component but have the western asian one, so perhaps western asian component is connected with indo-hittite and its "daughter-component" (most closest one according to mr Dienekes's project) is connected with indo-european proper.

Some users on other fora, saw that proposal as a result of "asiocentrism" however there is no any "centrism" when investigating relations between languages or searching the region where the proto language first developped before its breakup!
And all languages do descend (or are related) from a single language of the first modern human to migrate out of Africa.

ashraf said...

Erratum+addenda:
similarly as that stating that africa is the craddle of humankind should not be considered afrocentrism and stating that europe has imposed its civilization and norms on much of the world (look to our european clothes and european tongue=english...) should not be considered eurocentrism (as they are mere facts) stating that asia could be the region when first proto indo-hittite devlopped from proto out of africa should not considered asiocentrism

"IE could have entered the Ukraine via Poland and along the rivers going south (there is some evidence for the establishment of Danubian-style houses migrating exactly that way) - rather than moving west from the Ukraine."

this assumption has 3 major flaws
1/hg's: european hg's have ultime orign in asia not the opposite way
2/autosomal DNA: ie speaking armenians lack north european component while all ie speaking populations have the western asian one

3/linguistics+fauna&flaura+archeodemography+pie having shared (with afrasan and caucasian) agriculture+husbandry+metalurgy+mythology+animal vocabulary (no such things between ie and let's say vasconic)please see below
http://www.nostratic.ru/books/(151)mcalpin%20-%20drav%20ela.doc

as for the nostratic theory please see the thread below

http://anthrocivitas.net/forum/showthread.php?p=146856#post146856

eurologist said...

this assumption has 3 major flaws
1/hg's: european hg's have ultime orign in asia not the opposite way
2/autosomal DNA: ie speaking armenians lack north european component while all ie speaking populations have the western asian one
3/linguistics+fauna&flaura+archeodemography+pie having shared (with afrasan and caucasian) agriculture+husbandry+metalurgy+mythology+animal vocabulary (no such things between ie and let's say vasconic)please see below
http://www.nostratic.ru/books/(151)mcalpin%20-%20drav%20ela.doc


Your first two "flaws" assume neolithic time scales for R1a and R1b etc. in Europe - which I and many, many others find ridiculous given the star-like patterns within Europe that equal those outside in depth and age, and because the existing pattern is not supported at all by the known archaeological, well-established migration findings.

As to typical IE words, the many lakes and rivers and mountains in and around the Carpathian basin, and its varied climate and landscape, are actually a good match. As to the agricultural vocabulary - sure, some of it likely came from Anatolia, where the agriculturalists moving into the Balkans originated. How much of that vocabulary can easily survive 9,000 years is another question.

plschwarz said...

There seems to be a tacit assumption that OOA dictates a monogensis of language.This is part of a greater desire to have the whole OOA experience happening once.
I suggest that neither is true. In regard to language
once the physiology was in place multigenisis is hard to rule out.
And as there increase in the number of possible routes out of Africa, there is an increasing possibility that there were multiple groups who broke out of Africa. This increases the chance that languages of different origins mirated out also.

Octavià Alexandre said...

The thing is Arnaud Fournet is an amateur linguist fond of crackpot theories, Hurrian being one ihis favourites pastimes. But now Bomhard has retracted from this coauthored work.

Tresi said...

Megalocomparativism is a great fail. It fails everywhere and always. People who are engaged in it just have very dim imagination of what languages are and how they should be compared.

Trying_to_be_something said...

I've reworked the book on Hurrian and indo-european, and it is now available here:
http://www.thebookedition.com/a-manual-of-hurrian-arnaud-fournet-p-93092.html
Personally I clearly assert that Hurrian is an Indo-European language, being even clearer in that respect than Hittite.

Trying_to_be_something said...

I must add that Bomhard indeed was rather colder than I was as regards the level of relationship between Hurrian and PIE.
He thought the relationship is distant whereas I think that it is so close as to mean Hurrian is basically an IE language.
Note that Hurro-Urartean is also close to Nakh, which does not disprove the relationship with IE languages.

Octavià Alexandre said...

Personally I clearly assert that Hurrian is an Indo-European language, being even clearer in that respect than Hittite.
And thus you made a fool of himself, my dear Arnaud.

Trying_to_be_something said...

Nice to see you are not dead, my dear Lord of all Trolls,
for your information, I suggest you read some good books:
http://www.thebookedition.com/a-manual-of-hurrian-arnaud-fournet-p-93092.html
http://www.thebookedition.com/a-glossary-of-hurrian-and-kassite-arnaud-fournet-p-95064.html
All the best.
A.