ANTH 252: Language as History; Indo-European Origins

ANTH 252: Language as History; Indo-European Origins

Readings (in course packet)

  • Selections from Part Seven of Clark, V.P, Eschholz, P.A., & Rosa, A.F. (1981) Language: Introductory Readings New York York: St. Martin’s.   Friday 22 September
    Old English sample   Middle English sample   Hindi stop consonants

    1. Historical Linguistics: The Family Tree and Wave Models of Language Change (Ohio State University Language Files)
    2. Comparative and Historical Linguistics (J.A. Herndon)
    3. Reconstructing the Past (J.S. Falk)
    4. The Indo-European Language Family (J.D. Gordon)
    5. Indo-European Languages (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary)
  • Renfrew, C. (1987) Archaeology & Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.   Monday 25 September   Presented by Shreya
    • Preface: What Song the Sirens Sang
    • Chapter 1: The Indo-European Problem in Outline
    • Chapter 2: Archaeology and the Indo-Europeans
  • Mallory, J.P. (1989) In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth. London: Thames and Hudson.   Wednesday 27 September   Presented by Abbie J.
    • Chapter Four: Proto Indo-European Culture
    • Chapter Five: Indo-European Religion
  • Watkins, C. (1995) How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.     Wednesday 4 October   Presented by Michael.
    • Chapter 1: The comparative method in linguistics and poetics
    • Chapter 2: Sketch for a history of Indo-European poetics
    • Chapter 27: Preliminaries

Audio Links

Vedic chants     Homer’s Iliad

Guest Lecture

Dr. Timothy Lubin, Department of Religion, W&L. Monday 2 October Topic TBA.

Assessment #2 Question (due Friday 10 November)

  1. Describe the historical/comparative method to someone who is unfamiliar with scientific approaches to language, with an eye toward debunking some common misconceptions. What is wrong, for example, with the following claims?
    • English is really a “hybrid” language belonging to several different language families, because (as any good dictionary will show you), English has borrowed its vocabulary so heavily from French, Latin, and Greek.
    • The Hawaiian word kahuna is very similar to the Hebrew word kohen, and both mean “priest”. Obviously there is some connection: perhaps the Hawaiians are one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel!
  2. Investigate and describe a sound change not part of the readings (the name of the discoverer, the sounds involved).
  3. How did Europe’s discovery of and interest in the Sanskrit language bear upon its conception of itself and its own history and destiny? What were the social and political reverberations of that interest?

Your answers don’t have to be all text; I encourage you to make tables of sound changes where appropriate. It’s okay to more or less copy a table from one of the readings, as long as you give the appropriate credit (book, article, Wikipedia, etc.).

Suggestions for Further Research

  • The Nostratic hypothesis is a recent and controversial attempt to place the Indo-European languages in a broader family tree. Describe the research done in this field, focusing on the non-traditional methodology used, and the criticisms of Nostratic by conventional linguists.
  • Calvert Watkins is not the only scholar to have investigated the possibility of Indo-European cultural reconstruction. Research the work of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, including her Kurgan Hypothesis, her views on matriarchal society and goddess-worship, and scholarly criticism of these ideas. You may wish to incorporate related material from the culture and gender topics of the course.
  • Hittite was the last major branch of Indo-European to be (literally) unearthed. Investigate the historical, Biblical, linguistic, and archaeological issues surrounding this remarkable discovery.