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Encounters Old and New in World HistoryEssays Inspired by Jerry H. Bentley$
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Alan Karras and Laura J. Mitchell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824865917

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824865917.001.0001

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The Promise of—and the Threats to—Historical Linguistics as a Complement of Bentleyan World History

The Promise of—and the Threats to—Historical Linguistics as a Complement of Bentleyan World History

Chapter:
(p.151) Eleven The Promise of—and the Threats to—Historical Linguistics as a Complement of Bentleyan World History
Source:
Encounters Old and New in World History
Author(s):

Martin W. Lewis

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824865917.003.0012

Historical linguistics offers powerful tools for the broad-based approach to world history pioneered by Jerry Bentley. Linguistic analysis, for example, has allowed scholars to solve the mystery of the Roma migration to Europe in the medieval period. Unfortunately, historical linguistics is currently threatened by a movement that seeks to reinvent it as a computational science, using techniques borrowed from evolutionary biology and epidemiology. Applying such methods to the vexed issue of the origin of the Indo-European languages, a team of scholars has concluded that this language family originated not among Bronze-Age pastoralists from the Eurasian steppe, as the archeological consensus maintains, but rather among Neolithic farmers living in Anatolia. Careful historical analysis, however, shows that the findings of these scholars are incorrect at nearly every turn. Traditional methods of historical linguistics must therefore be preserved if scholarship on language is to contribute to the further development of Bentleyan world history.

Keywords:   Jerry Bentley, historical linguistics, Indo-European, deep history, Romani, Colin Renfrew, Hittite, phylogenetic analysis, geography, quantitative revolution

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