Intense but irregular NWIE and Indo-Iranian contacts show Uralic disintegrated in the West

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Open access PhD thesis Indo-Iranian borrowings in Uralic: Critical overview of sound substitutions and distribution criterion, by Sampsa Holopainen, University of Helsinki (2019), under the supervision of Forsberg, Saarikivi, and Kallio.

Interesting excerpts (emphasis mine):

The gap between Russian and Western scholarship

Many scholars in the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation also have researched this topic over the last five decades. Notably the eminent Eugene Helimski dealt with this topic in several articles: his 1992 article (republished in Helimski 2000) on the emergence of Uralic consonantal stems used Indo-Iranian and other Indo-European loans as key evidence, and it was one of the first serious attempts to stratify the loanwords, paying attention to the non-initial syllables as well. Helimski (1997b) discusses Indo-Iranian loanwords more generally, but it is especially notable for the introduction of the “Andronovo Aryan” idea: Helimski argues that some loanwords in Ob-Ugric and Permic are derived from an unattested, third branch of Indo-Iranian. Helimski’s idea has been supported by at least Mikhail Zhivlov in a 2013 article, but otherwise it has not received wide acceptance. Helimski was also known for his criticism (see especially Helimski 2001) of Jorma Koivulehto’s etymological work: although the main targets of Helimski’s criticism were Koivulehto’s writings on Proto-Indo-European and Germanic borrowings (which fitted poorly with Helimski’s ideas of the Nostratic roots of Proto-Uralic and his other theories on Uralic linguistic prehistory), also some of his Indo-Iranian ideas received unnecessarily sharp criticism in Helimski (2001).

Vladimir Napol’skikh is another important Russian scholar who has written on several occasions about Indo-Iranian–Uralic contacts. His 2014 article is notable for its criticism on Helimski’s Andronovo Aryan theory and his arguments in favour of Indo-Aryan loanwords. Napol’skikh also considered some of the traditional Indo-Iranian loanwords to be borrowings from Tocharian (see below) in some of his earlier works, an idea which has been criticized by Kallio (2004) and Widmer (2002) and which Napol’skikh himself has since dropped in later publications (2010, 2014), where many of these alleged Tocharian loans are again considered Indo-Iranian.

Some of the main characteristics of Russian research is that the earliest Indo-European loanwords are usually considered to represent an inheritance from the Nostratic proto-language (Helimski [2001]; Kassian, Zhivlov & Starostin [2015]), an idea which is not widely accepted by scholars of Uralic in the West. Although this often does not concern the Indo-Iranian loanwords at all, or it concerns only a part of them, the works of Jorma Koivulehto, who dealt with both earlier Indo-European and Indo-Iranian loans, receive so much criticism from the Russian scholars that his important ideas are often totally rejected or left unmentioned in Russian research.

This kind of rejection of central etymological research literature can be considered one of the most pressing problems in Uralic loanword studies, and it leaves a regrettable gap between Russian and Western European scholars in this perspective.

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Semantics

Among the Indo-Iranian loanwords in Uralic, one can easily mention examples that follow the classification of semantic change as described above. For widening or generalization, vasara ‘hammer’ is a good example: the Indo-Iranian original denotes ‘the weapon of the god Indra’ in Indic and ‘the weapon of the god Mithra’ in Avestan, whereas Finnish ‘hammer’ (and the Mordvin meaning ‘axe’) are more general meanings of tools. Fi huhta is a good example of narrowing: Iranian *tsuxta- means simply ‘burned’, whereas in Finnic huhta means specifically ‘a burned patch used in slash-and-burn agriculture’. Metonomy has taken place in Mordvin, where čuvto denotes simply ‘tree’; this probably developed through the meaning ‘wood burned for agriculture’. Khanty (South) wǟrəs denotes ‘horse’s mane’, but its Iranian original probably had a more general meaning of hair (cf. Avestan varəsa- ‘hair of human and animal, mostly hair of the head’).

An interesting example of degeneration is the etymology of Finnic orja ‘slave’, probably borrowed from the Indo-Iranian ethnonym *(H)ārya- ‘Aryan’ (for the original semantics of this word, see the entry *orja in Chapter 2). A similar development is seen in English slave which is etymologically connected to the ethnonym Slav.

Distribution as a criterion in the dating of loanwords

(…) some of the Indo-Iranian loans seem to have a wide distribution, but upon a closer look it becomes clear that they include phonological irregularities, which can only be explained by assuming that they are parallel loans. The ability to recognize parallel borrowings is extremely important in Uralic loanword studies, and it has been developed with success in the research of Germanic and Baltic loanwords (see Junttila 2015).

Interestingly, K. Häkkinen (1983: 207) argues that although words disappear from languages, the most basic words often remain stable and are maintained for longer periods. Although this is probably true, here the notion of “basicness” is something that is open to different interpretations. Many central concepts in culture and livelihoods are often described with prestige words that are borrowed, and these central words can be very easily replaced. In determining the age of the loanwords one has to always keep in mind that a reflex of a very early cultural borrowing from Indo-Iranian to Proto-Uralic/Proto- West Uralic etc. can easily have been lost in some daughter language, if a later prestige loan for the same concept has been borrowed from some later contact language (such as from some form of Germanic or Baltic into Finnic or from some Turkic language into Udmurt, Mari or Mordvin).

In Uralic linguistics the common loanword layers shared by some intermediary proto-language have often been seen as giving support to the reconstruction of these stages, but K. Häkkinen (100–108) considers this problematic. It should also be noted that the distribution of Indo-Iranian loanwords very rarely matches the assumed taxonomic divisions: there are some loanwords confined to the Finno-Permic, Finno-Volgaic or Ugric languages, but very few loanwords that would be Finno-Permic, Finno-Volgaic or Ugric in the way that the word is found in all the languages that belong to the branch.

Consontants

Laryngeals

There are only very few possible examples of a consonantal substitution of the word-initial laryngeal. It seems probable that the word-initial laryngeal, if it was retained, was not substituted in any way in Uralic. *karšV (> Fi karhu), an uncertain etymology, is the only possible example.

(…) Even if *k was a result of laryngeal hardening, the development would probably be earlier than Proto-Indo-Iranian, meaning that by the time the word was borrowed, the Indo-Iranian word simply had the stop *k that was regularly substituted by Uralic *k.

Evidence for Andronovo Aryan and Indo-Aryan loanwords?

None of the loanwords have to be considered as Andronovo Aryan or Proto-Indo-Aryan based on the criteria that were presented in the Introduction. The Uralic palatal affricate *ć or sibilant *ś can in all cases be explained from Proto-Indo-Iranian *ć, and there is no need to assume that it should reflect Andronovo Aryan *ć or PIA *ś. In the etymological material of this study, no further positive evidence was found for the distinction of PU *ś and *ć as substitutions of the Proto-Indo-Iranian affricates. This means that at least in word-initial position there probably was no difference between *ć and *ś, and even though we do not know what this sound was phonetically, it is safe to assume that Uralic words showing *ś reflect a sound substitution of Indo-Iranian *ć and *Ʒ́.

Regarding the distribution of the etymologies within Indo-Iranian, all the loanwords which cannot be from Iranian because of the lack of attested Iranian cognates have a more or less secure Proto-Indo-Iranian etymology, and nothing prevents us from assuming that these words reflect Proto-Indo-Iranian borrowings. It is also possible that some words with solid Proto-Indo-Iranian etymologies were present in Iranian but were lost before the first Old Iranian texts were composed.

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List of Indo-European and Indo-Iranian Etymologies

Pre-Indo-Iranian

*ertä ‘side’, *kekrä ‘wheel’, *kečrä ‘spindle’, *mekši ‘bee’, (*meti ‘honey’), *ońća ‘part’, (*orpa ‘orphan’), *peijas ‘feast’, *pejmä ‘milk’, Pre-P *pertä ‘wing’, *repä ‘fox’, *rećmä ‘rope’, *sejti ‘bridge’

Proto-Indo-Iranian

*aćtara ‘whip’, *anti/onta, *ora ‘awl’, *orja ‘slave; south’, (*orpa ‘orphan’), *pośi ‘penis’, *śaŋka ‘handle’, Pre-Md *śaγa ‘goat’, *śarwi ‘horn’, *śaδa- ‘to rain’, śara- ‘shit’, *śi̮ta ‘hundred’, Pre-P *śVta ‘hundred’, *śasra ‘thousand’, *śišta ‘wax’, *śoma- ‘sad’, *waćara ‘hammer’, *woraći ‘boar’

Ambiguous early loans (can be either from PII or PI)

*ajša ‘shaft’, *asVra ‘lord’, *iha ‘yearning. passion’, *ihta ‘lust’, *jama ‘twin’, *jawi/jowa (> Mo juv) ‘awn’, *jawi (> PS *jäə̑) ‘flour’, *ji̮ni ‘way, path’, *juma ‘god’, *kana- ‘to dig’, *kara- ‘to dig’, *kata- ‘to graze’, *kertä- ‘to bind’, *ki̮ntaw ‘tree stump’, *kürtńV ‘iron’, PKh *kǟrtV ‘iron’, *kärtä ‘iron’, *martas ‘dead’, *ńātV- ‘to help’, *pakas ‘god’, *para ‘good’, Kh pĕnt ‘way’, PMs *pē̮ńtV ‘brother-in-law’, *pora ‘old’, *poči- ‘to boil’, Pre-P *porta ‘vessel’, *puntaksi ‘bottom’, Pre-Ma *pänti- ‘to bind’, PMa *pärća ‘ear of corn’, *pätäri- ‘to flee’, *saγi- ‘to get, obtain’, *sampas ‘pillar’, *saŋka ‘old’, *sara ‘lake’, *sasara ‘sister’, *säptä ‘seven’, *tajwas ‘sky’, *takra ‘piece of flesh’, *tarna ‘grass’, *tojwV ‘wish’, *toraksi ‘through’, *tora- ‘to fight’, *täjV ‘milk’, *täjinV ‘cow’, *täši, *uška ‘bull’, *wakša- (> PS *wåtå-) ‘to grow’, *wajna- ‘to see’, *wojna- ‘to see’, *wiša ‘venom’, *wi̮rna ‘wool’, *wärkä ‘kidney’, PS *wǝ̑rkǝ̑ ‘wolf’, *wirtV- ‘to hold, raise’, *äŋkärä ‘coal’

List of uncertain Indo-Iranian etymologies

PFi *aiwa (← Germanic ?), Ma *arša ‘mane’, PMs *ǟrV ‘fire’, *aštira ‘barren earth’, POug *ćakV ‘hammer’, *ćara- ‘brown; ? to dawn’, *ćero ‘hill-top’, *ćerti ‘group’, *itä- ‘to appear’, Pre-Fi *karšV ‘bear’, PMs *kīrV ‘iron’, *kota ‘chum’, Pre-Sa *kupa ‘pit’, PFi *kärsä ‘snout’, *maksa- ‘to pay’, PFi *mana-, PUg ? *mańći, Ma marij ‘Mari; man; husband’, *mē̮ja ‘wedding’, *mykkä ‘dumb’, PP *oč ‘corn’, *orpV ‘relative’, PFi *paksu ‘thick’, *peji- ‘to milk’, *pi̮ŋka ‘psychedelic mushroom’ POUg *porV ‘phratry’, Pre-Sa *poti ‘against’, Pre-Fi *šatas ‘germ’, *sentü- ‘to be born’, *šerä- ‘to wake up’, Ms šVšwǝŋ ‘hare’, PUg *śeŋkV ‘nail’, Pre-Sa *soma/sami ‘some’, PP *sur ‘beer’, PFi *süte- ‘to hit’ (< ? *sewči-), Hu szekér ‘wagon’, Kh ʌīkər ‘Narte’ PUg *taja- ‘secret’, Pre-Fi *terni ‘young’, *terwV ‘healthy’, ? *towkV ‘spring’, PWU *utarV ‘udder’ (← Germanic ?; Mari *waδar ← II), *waŋka ‘hook’, Mo E v́eŕges, M vərǵas ‘wolf’

Etymologies that were probably borrowed from another Indo-European source (PIE, PBSl, Germanic, Baltic)

*aisa ‘shaft’ ← Balto-Slavic, PFi *aiwa (← Germanic ?), *apV ‘help’ ← Germanic, *jewä ‘grain’ ← Balto-Slavic, Ma karaš etc. ‘honeycomb’ ← Baltic, (*meti ‘honey’ ← ? PIE,) Fi *ojas ‘shaft’ ← Slavic, *ola ← Baltic, *oŋki ← Germanic, *porćas ← Balto-Slavic, Pre-Sa *porta ‘vessel’ ← Germanic, *salV ‘salt’ (cannot be reconstructed for PU, various later parallel loans), *śi̮lkaw ← Balto-Slavic, *sammu- ← Germanic, *śuka ← Balto-Slavic, Mari *šŭžar ← Baltic/Balto-Slavic or Slavic, *tejniš ‘pregnant animal’ ← Baltic/Balto-Slavic, PWU *utarV ‘udder’ (? ← Germanic)

Early loans into differentiated branches

Proto-West Uralic

Only in Finnic:

*aćnas ‘voracious’, *iha ‘wish’, *ihta ‘lust’, PFi *isV ‘appetite’, *martas ‘dead’, *očra ‘barley’, *peijas ‘feast’, *pejmä ‘milk’, *pe̮rna ‘spleen’, *sampas ‘pillar’, *sooja ‘shelter’, *tajwas ‘sky’, *takra ‘piece of flesh’, *terwV ‘healthy’, *tojwV ‘wish’

All of these words, with the exception of *sooja ‘shelter’, were clearly borrowed into Early Proto-Finnic (Pre-Finnic) at the latest. Formally most of the loans could be from PII or PI.

Only in Saami:

*kata- ‘to graze’, *kertä- ‘to bind’, *pora ‘old’, *wojna- ‘to see’

All of the loans were acquired before the Saami vowel changes. Formally all could be either from Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Iranian.

Only in Finnic and Saami:

*asma ‘voracious’, *jama ‘twin’, *kekrä ‘wheel’, *mača ‘insect’

*asma ‘voracious’, *jama ‘twin’, *kekrä ‘wheel’, *mača ‘insect’ Of these, *mača from Proto-Iranian and *jama is ambiguous. As the -sm- in asma does not point to Proto-Indo-Iranian *ć, this is probably an Iranian loan too. It is possible that these words were borrowed into Proto-West Uralic, as there is no general support for a Finno-Saamic proto-language today. As the cognates within Finnic and Saami are regular, there is no need to assume parallel borrowings. *kekrä has to be from Proto-Indo-Iranian.

NOTE. Based on the discussion of stages of borrowing from Indo-Iranian, and of the distribution of *kekrä among Uralic dialects in particular, Holopainen probably means Pre-Indo-Iranian for this example.

Only in Mordvin and/or Finnic and/or Saami (can point to a borrowing into Proto-West Uralic):

*ji̮ni ‘way’, *kečrä ‘spindle’, *rećmä ‘rope’, *śaŋka, *waćara ‘hammer’, *warsa ‘foal’, *wasa ‘calf’, *woraći ‘pig’

Based on phonological criteria, these loans do not form a chronologically coherent layer, but probably their modern distribution is accidental (their original distribution can have been wider). *kečrä ‘spindle’ and *rećmä ‘rope’ are from Pre-II, *śaŋka, *waćara and *woraći from PII, *warsa and *wasa from later Iranian (Alanic). *ji̮ni is ambiguous. Also the loans confined to Finnic and Saami mentioned above probably were borrowed into Proto-West Uralic, as it is a more convincing taxonomic entity than Proto-Finno-Saamic.

Proto-Mari-Permic

Only in Mordvin, Finnic and/or Saami and Mari

*juma ‘good’

This loan can be either from PII or PI. As it is obvious that these four branches do not form any taxonomical entity (Salminen 2002; J. Häkkinen 2009), it is only logical that there are no other loanwords with a “Finno-Volgaic” distribution.

Only in Mari:

*kVrtnV ‘metal’ (← PII, PI or later), Pre-Ma *pänti- ‘to bind’, PMa *pärća ‘ear of corn’, *si̮rńa ‘gold’ (← Old Iranian)

Only very few early Indo-Iranian loans can be found in Mari and in no other Uralic language. It is unclear what the reason for this is. It is, of course, possible that some uncertain loanwords like marij ‘man; Mari’ turn out to be correct after all, but even that does not make the number of loans in Mari very high. The situation has to be explained either with loss of vocabulary and replacement by later loans (from Turkic, and also perhaps from Permic) or with Mari’s location on the periphery at the time of the later contacts with the Iranian languages. Agyagási (2019: 254–258) argues that the current area where Mari is spoken was formed only relatively late, after the Mongol invasion in the High Middle Ages. If this is indeed correct, and Mari was spoken in more northern areas before that, it can be assumed that Pre-Mari had only sporadic contacts with the Iranian languages after it split off from Proto-Uralic.

Only in Permic (early loans; for later loans confined to Permic)

*a(č)wa ‘stallion’, PP *ju ‘awn’, *kertä ‘house’, *kärtä ‘metal’, *kada- ~ *gada- ‘to steal’, *karka ‘chicken’, *parśa ~ *barśa ‘mane’, *parta ‘knife’, *pertä ‘wing’, *poči- ‘to boil’, *porta ‘vessel’, *dura ‘long’, *domV ‘to tame’, PP *śumi̮s ‘band’, PP *šud‘luck’, *uška ‘bull’, *wi̮rna ‘wool’, *wirä ‘man, husband’, *äŋkärä ‘coal’

The number of loanwords in Permic is relatively high, and many of these can be considered to be Iranian loanwords. Technically many loans are ambiguous, but as some of the words were borrowed late due to historical reasons (‘iron’), and some were borrowed into a Pre-Permic which already had a phonological system that was different from Proto-Uralic (*šud- has d which cannot reflect PU *δ).

It is probable that the Permic languages were in continuous contact with the Indo-Iranian languages from the time they split from Proto-Uralic until the early mediaeval era.

Proto-Ugro-Samoyedic

Only in Khanty and Mansi (regular cases):

POUg *ēräɣ ‘song’, POUg *eträ ‘clear sky’, POug *mɔ̈ŋki ‘forest-spirit’, *ńātV- ‘to help’, *päčäɣ ‘reindeer’

The number of these etymologies is so low that it is very difficult to determine whether these words were borrowed into Proto-Ob-Ugric or some earlier proto-language, such as Proto-Ugric.

Only in Khanty and/or Mansi and/or Hungarian (regular cases):

*säptä ‘seven’ (Khanty + Hungarian regular), *sara ‘lake’

There are so few convincing loanwords with a “Ugric” distribution that they provide very little evidence. Either of these loans could be from Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Iranian, if we assume that *s > *h was a common Iranian sound change. Both loans were acquired

Only in Samoyed:

*jäwi (> PS *jäə̑), PS *pulə̑ ~ *pi̮lə̑ ‘bridge’, *täjki ‘spear’, PS *wǝ̑rkə̑ ‘wolf’, Pre-S *täši (> PS *tät), *wakša- (> PS *wåtå) ‘to grow’

Of these, only *wåtå- has to be a very early loan because of *s > *t. *jäwi (> PS *jäə̑) and PS *wə̑rkə̑ were possibly acquired before the Proto-Samoyed vowel developments, making them probably early loanwords too. Formally all of them could be either from PII or PI. *pulə̑ ~ *pi̮lə̑ could have been borrowed into Proto-Samoyed (with Iranian *u corresponding to Samoyed *u), and because of the *l the word is probably from a relatively late, Middle Iranian language.

The following loanwords have a distribution with a cognate in both Samoyed and some other branch:

*śaδa- ‘to rain’, *tora- ‘to fight’ (also *itä-, which is more uncertain, belongs here)

Pan-Uralic loans

The following loanwords have a distribution with regular cognates with at least one Ugric branch and some other branch, which points to early borrowing. Although formally *kana- and *kara- are ambiguous, they are probably from Proto-Indo-Iranian because of their distribution. The rest of the loans are from Pre-II or PII.

*kana- ‘to dig’, *kara- ‘to dig’, *meti ‘honey’, *mekši ‘bee’, *orpV ‘orphan’, *ora ‘awl’, *peji- ‘to milk’, *pätäri- ‘to flee’, *śara- ‘shit’, *śoma- ‘sad’

The following loanwords are found in at least two non-adjacent branches of Uralic (the ones listed in the above categories are not counted). As there are no widely accepted criteria for a word to be considered “Uralic”, all of these could be considered loanwords into Proto-Uralic, in this case probably from Proto-Indo-Iranian or Pre-Indo-Iranian.

*ajša ‘shaft’, *anti/onta ‘grass’, *ertä ‘side’, *ki̮ntaw ‘tree stump’, *mertä ‘human’, *orja ‘slave’, *para ‘good’, *počaw ‘reindeer’, *puntaksi ‘bottom’, *saγi- ‘to get, obtain’, *repä ‘fox’, *si̮ŋka ‘old’, *sasara ‘sister’, *sejti ‘bridge’, *śišta ‘wax’, *tarna ‘grass’, *toraksi ‘through’, *wiša ‘venom’

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Discussion about the distribution and its impact on Uralic taxonomy

(…) there are Proto-Iranian loanwords which were borrowed simultaneously into several early branches of Uralic, making it likely that Uralic had split into several branches by the time of these contacts.

Also the fact that many of the Proto-Indo-Iranian loanwords either show a restricted distribution (such as West Uralic *waćara, *woraći) or irregular correspondences (*asVra, *śasra, *śi̮ta) can point to the conclusion that Proto-Uralic was fragmenting by the time when contacts with Proto-Indo-Iranian took place.

The earlier, Pre-Indo-Iranian loanwords usually show a wider distribution and regular sound correspondences. Although the number of these earliest loans is quite small, based on their distribution and regular correspondences it can be assumed that the Pre-Indo-Iranian stage (after RUKI, *l > *r and the merger of velars and labiovelars but before the merger of non-high vowels) was concurrent with Proto-Uralic, with the changes leading to Proto-Indo-Iranian happening after the dispersal of Proto-Uralic.

The distribution of loanwords reinforces the old idea that Samoyed is a lexical outlier, as only few convincing Indo-Iranian etymologies for Proto-Uralic words (*saδa- ‘to rain’, *tora- ‘to fight’) have a convincing reflex in Samoyed. However, the fact that such etymologies exist means rather that the situation is due to lexical loss in Samoyed, and that the earliest contact occurred before Samoyed split off from Proto-Uralic.

There are very few loanwords that have a Ugric distribution (being found in at least one Ob-Ugric branch and Hungarian), and likewise rather few in Ob-Ugric. The few loans that have a distribution confined to Ugric were borrowed before the change *s > *θ took place. This means that the Ugric distribution does not mean much from the point of view of chronology or taxonomy, as the words were borrowed into a language that was still identical to Proto-Uralic. Even some loans borrowed into Khanty and Mansi have to be so early.

Impacts on dating and the location of the contact zones

Because of the very limited number of convincing etymologies found only in Finnic or Saami, it is probable that there were not (extensive) contacts with Pre-Finnic or Pre-Saami after the split of Proto-West Uralic.

The great number of loanwords of varying ages in Permic inevitably points to the conclusion that the pre-form of the Permic branch had been constantly spoken in an area that was adjacent to the Iranian languages. The different layers of loanwords in Permic clearly point to chronological differences in the donor languages, but it also seems that Permic was in contact with various forms of Iranian and not with different diachronic stages of the same language.

In general, the words that have been borrowed are typical cultural words, and the contacts between Indo-Iranian and Uralic seems to have been a typical contact situation in which a culturally less-advanced language group borrows various cultural terms from a more “advanced” group. The words in various loanword layers related to horse and cattle breeding show obvious cultural influence in the field of domesticated animals, and the borrowing of some names of grains points to agricultural influence from the Indo-Iranians on the speakers of Uralic.

Needless to say, many of the borrowings I listed in A Song of Sheep and Horses suffer from the same ailment attributed to Indo-Europeanists in general:

With slight exaggeration one can agree with the remark by Koivulehto (1999a: 209–210) that the Indo-Europeanists often use outdated sources or are simply uninterested in the topic. The problem is further complicated by the various and often obsolete views expressed in even relatively modern Uralicist works, such as those of Rédei (1986c; 1988) or Katz (2003); (…) Mallory & Adams (2006) adequately refer to the importance of the early loanwords, but they use mostly Rédei’s outdated reconstructions and stratigraphy in support of their theories.

I need to review all related texts with this thesis and the works recently published by Kümmel, as well as the recent book of the Leiden school on Indo-Uralic.

Also, does anyone know the (traditional?) why of the resistance to the Indo-Uralic concept among Uralicists? Maybe it’s a reaction against the Nostraticist and Siberian views of Uralic espoused by the Soviets?

Related

“Steppe people seem not to have penetrated South Asia”

indo-iranian-sintashta-uralic-migrations

Open access structured abstract for The first horse herders and the impact of early Bronze Age steppe expansions into Asia from Damgaard et al. Science (2018) 360(6396):eaar7711.

Abstract (emphasis mine):

The Eurasian steppes reach from the Ukraine in Europe to Mongolia and China. Over the past 5000 years, these flat grasslands were thought to be the route for the ebb and flow of migrant humans, their horses, and their languages. de Barros Damgaard et al. probed whole-genome sequences from the remains of 74 individuals found across this region. Although there is evidence for migration into Europe from the steppes, the details of human movements are complex and involve independent acquisitions of horse cultures. Furthermore, it appears that the Indo-European Hittite language derived from Anatolia, not the steppes. The steppe people seem not to have penetrated South Asia. Genetic evidence indicates an independent history involving western Eurasian admixture into ancient South Asian peoples.

INTRODUCTION
According to the commonly accepted “steppe hypothesis,” the initial spread of Indo-European (IE) languages into both Europe and Asia took place with migrations of Early Bronze Age Yamnaya pastoralists from the Pontic-Caspian steppe. This is believed to have been enabled by horse domestication, which revolutionized transport and warfare. Although in Europe there is much support for the steppe hypothesis, the impact of Early Bronze Age Western steppe pastoralists in Asia, including Anatolia and South Asia, remains less well understood, with limited archaeological evidence for their presence. Furthermore, the earliest secure evidence of horse husbandry comes from the Botai culture of Central Asia, whereas direct evidence for Yamnaya equestrianism remains elusive.

RATIONALE
We investigated the genetic impact of Early Bronze Age migrations into Asia and interpret our findings in relation to the steppe hypothesis and early spread of IE languages. We generated whole-genome shotgun sequence data (~1 to 25 X average coverage) for 74 ancient individuals from Inner Asia and Anatolia, as well as 41 high-coverage present-day genomes from 17 Central Asian ethnicities.

damgaard-south-asia
Model-based admixture proportions for selected ancient and present-day individuals, assuming K = 6, shown with their corresponding geographical locations. Ancient groups are represented by larger admixture plots, with those sequenced in the present work surrounded by black borders and others used for providing context with blue borders. Present-day South Asian groups are represented by smaller admixture plots with dark red borders.

RESULTS
We show that the population at Botai associated with the earliest evidence for horse husbandry derived from an ancient hunter-gatherer ancestry previously seen in the Upper Paleolithic Mal’ta (MA1) and was deeply diverged from the Western steppe pastoralists. They form part of a previously undescribed west-to-east cline of Holocene prehistoric steppe genetic ancestry in which Botai, Central Asians, and Baikal groups can be modeled with different amounts of Eastern hunter-gatherer (EHG) and Ancient East Asian genetic ancestry represented by Baikal_EN.

In Anatolia, Bronze Age samples, including from Hittite speaking settlements associated with the first written evidence of IE languages, show genetic continuity with preceding Anatolian Copper Age (CA) samples and have substantial Caucasian hunter-gatherer (CHG)–related ancestry but no evidence of direct steppe admixture.

In South Asia, we identified at least two distinct waves of admixture from the west, the first occurring from a source related to the Copper Age Namazga farming culture from the southern edge of the steppe, who exhibit both the Iranian and the EHG components found in many contemporary Pakistani and Indian groups from across the subcontinent. The second came from Late Bronze Age steppe sources, with a genetic impact that is more localized in the north and west.

CONCLUSION
Our findings reveal that the early spread of Yamnaya Bronze Age pastoralists had limited genetic impact in Anatolia as well as Central and South Asia. As such, the Asian story of Early Bronze Age expansions differs from that of Europe. Intriguingly, we find that direct descendants of Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers of Central Asia, now extinct as a separate lineage, survived well into the Bronze Age. These groups likely engaged in early horse domestication as a prey-route transition from hunting to herding, as otherwise seen for reindeer. Our findings further suggest that West Eurasian ancestry entered South Asia before and after, rather than during, the initial expansion of western steppe pastoralists, with the later event consistent with a Late Bronze Age entry of IE languages into South Asia. Finally, the lack of steppe ancestry in samples from Anatolia indicates that the spread of the earliest branch of IE languages into that region was not associated with a major population migration from the steppe.

I think the wording of the abstract is weird, but consequent with their samples and results, so probably just clickbait / citebait for Indian journalists and social networks, or maybe a new attempt to ‘show respect for the sensibilities of Indians’ related to the artificially magnified “AIT vs. OIT” controversy, that is only present in India.

However, everything is possible, since it is brought to you by the same Danish group who proposed the Yamnaya ancestral component™, the CHG = Indo-European (and simultaneously EHG in Maykop = Anatolian??), and now also the CWC/R1a = Indo-European & Volosovo = Uralic

Here is the reaction of Narasimhan: Narasimhan has deleted the Tweet, it basically questioned the sentence that steppe people did not penetrate South Asia.

Related

Close inbreeding and low genetic diversity in Inner Asian human populations despite geographical exogamy

turko-mongol-indo-iranian

Open access Close inbreeding and low genetic diversity in Inner Asian human populations despite geographical exogamy, by Marchi et al. Scientific Reports (2018) 8:9397.

Abstract (emphasis mine):

When closely related individuals mate, they produce inbred offspring, which often have lower fitness than outbred ones. Geographical exogamy, by favouring matings between distant individuals, is thought to be an inbreeding avoidance mechanism; however, no data has clearly tested this prediction. Here, we took advantage of the diversity of matrimonial systems in humans to explore the impact of geographical exogamy on genetic diversity and inbreeding. We collected ethno-demographic data for 1,344 individuals in 16 populations from two Inner Asian cultural groups with contrasting dispersal behaviours (Turko-Mongols and Indo-Iranians) and genotyped genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms in 503 individuals. We estimated the population exogamy rate and confirmed the expected dispersal differences: Turko-Mongols are geographically more exogamous than Indo-Iranians. Unexpectedly, across populations, exogamy patterns correlated neither with the proportion of inbred individuals nor with their genetic diversity. Even more surprisingly, among Turko-Mongols, descendants from exogamous couples were significantly more inbred than descendants from endogamous couples, except for large distances (>40 km). Overall, 37% of the descendants from exogamous couples were closely inbred. This suggests that in Inner Asia, geographical exogamy is neither efficient in increasing genetic diversity nor in avoiding inbreeding, which might be due to kinship endogamy despite the occurrence of dispersal.

Interesting excerpts:

Two cultural groups, which matrimonial systems are reported to differ, coexist in Inner Asia: Turko-Mongols are described as mainly exogamous while Indo-Iranians are thought to be mainly endogamous45. However, it is not always clear if exogamy refers to clan (ethnic) or village (geographical) exogamy. Here, we used a dataset of 16 populations representing 11 different ethnic groups from both cultural groups and we quantified geographical exogamy rates and distances in each population. Using an empirical threshold of 4 km, we confirmed that matrimonial behaviours differ as described in the literature, even though we found some exceptions: three Turko-Mongol populations (out of 14) have less than 50% exogamy, whereas one Indo-Iranian population (out of four) has more than 50% exogamy.(…).

geographic-distance-turko-mongols-indo-iranian
Geographical distances between the birth places of couples in Turko-Mongols and Indo-Iranians. The geographical distances are plotted in log scale (km). Their densities are represented by population (dashed lines) or for the Indo-Iranian and Turko-Mongol groups (solid lines). We represented the average distances within couples per population using a Kernel’s density estimate implemented in R with a smoothing bandwidth of 0.2. See Supplementary Table 1B for population codes.

An additional important result of our study is that geographical distances are not negatively correlated with inbreeding, as could have been expected under an isolation-by-distance model65. Interestingly, a recent study based on a large genealogical dataset, collected across Western Europe and North America, and including birth places information, similarly found an absence of correlation between relatedness and the distance between couples, for the cohorts born before 185066. Our analyses within present-day Turko-Mongols reveal more specifically that the structure of the relationship between geographical distance and mating choice inbreeding is not linear, but rather tends to be bell-shaped, and thus cannot be correctly assessed with a single correlation test. Indeed, descendants from parents born 4 to 40 km apart are more inbred than descendants from endogamous couples (≤4 km) or from long-range exogamous ones (>40 km). As a consequence, close inbreeding exists despite geographical exogamy, and about a third of descendants from exogamous couples are inbred.

These results, in addition to those obtained by [Kaplanis et al. 2018]66, highlight the importance of using geographic distances rather than exogamy rates to characterize the impact of exogamy on inbreeding, as already described when studying patrilocality67. Indeed, when we compare mating choice inbreeding patterns for descendants from exogamous and endogamous couples defined for thresholds of 4, 10, 20 and 30 km, we find no significant differences (for number and total length of class C-ROHs and F-Median coefficient: MWU test p-values > 0.1). We only detect significantly lower values in descendants from exogamous couples for larger distances above 40 and 50 km (p-values < 0.03).

genetic-diversity-turko-mongol-indo-iranian
Genetic diversity (A) and inbreeding patterns (B,C) within populations. Grey lines in (B) represent inbreeding values corresponding to second-cousins and first-cousins. The grey line in (C) represents the homozygosity population baseline expected under panmixia. The number of samples per population is indicated between parentheses. See Supplementary Table 1B for population codes.

Our results also challenge the intuition that exogamy necessarily increases the genetic diversity within a population and therefore reduces drift inbreeding. Indeed, we found that Turko-Mongol populations have a lower genetic diversity (as measured by the mean haplotypic heterozygosity) and more intermediate ROHs associated with drift inbreeding than those of Indo-Iranians despite higher exogamous rates. (…)

Overall, this research sheds light on mating choice preferences: we showed that two thirds of partners that have not dispersed did mate with unrelated individuals, and that drift and mating choice inbreeding is variable, even among close-by populations. We also provide new insights into the relationship between dispersal and inbreeding in humans, based on genetic data, and demonstrate that geographical exogamy is not necessarily negatively associated with mating choice inbreeding, but rather can have a more complex non-linear relationship. Contrary to the common situation in many animals, this finding suggests that Inner Asian human populations who practise exogamy at small geographical scales might be focused on alliance strategies that result in kinship endogamy. (…)

Related:

Rakhigarhi samples from the Indus Valley Civilisation will support the conclusions of Narasimhan et al. (2018)

indus-valley-harappan-rakhigarhi-steppe

New article on The Caravan, Indus Valley People Did Not Have Genetic Contribution From The Steppes: Head Of Ancient DNA Lab Testing Rakhigarhi Samples, by Hartosh Singh Val.

Niraj Rai, head of the DNA Laboratory where the samples from the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Haryana are being analysed, has this to say:

It will show that there is no steppe contribution to the Indus Valley DNA.

The Indus Valley people were indigenous, but in the sense that their DNA had contributions from near eastern Iranian farmers mixed with the Indian hunter-gatherer DNA, that is still reflected in the DNA of the people of the Andaman islands.

The Rakhigarhi study provides direct evidence for the claims of a paper published in preprint on bioRxiv in March 2018, which outlines a comprehensive model for the settlement of different populations within the subcontinent.

Rai had earlier told Open magazine that the male:

Y chromosome R1a genetic marker is missing in the Rakhigarhi sample.

Commenting on other hypotheses:

any model of migration of Indo-Europeans from South Asia simply cannot fit the data that is now available.

The paper based on the examination of the Rakhigarhi samples will soon be published on bioRxiv.

EDIT: Added related Tweet of the report’s author:

Related:

Mitogenomes show ancient human migrations to and through North-East India not of males exclusively

middle-bronze-age-asia

New open article Ancient Human Migrations to and through Jammu Kashmir- India were not of Males Exclusively, by Sharma et al., Scientific Reports 8, N. 851 (2018)

Abstract:

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the Northern most State of India, has been under-represented or altogether absent in most of the phylogenetic studies carried out in literature, despite its strategic location in the Himalayan region. Nonetheless, this region may have acted as a corridor to various migrations to and from mainland India, Eurasia or northeast Asia. The belief goes that most of the migrations post-late-Pleistocene were mainly male dominated, primarily associated with population invasions, where female migration may thus have been limited. To evaluate female-centered migration patterns in the region, we sequenced 83 complete mitochondrial genomes of unrelated individuals belonging to different ethnic groups from the state. We observed a high diversity in the studied maternal lineages, identifying 19 new maternal sub-haplogroups (HGs). High maternal diversity and our phylogenetic analyses suggest that the migrations post-Pleistocene were not strictly paternal, as described in the literature. These preliminary observations highlight the need to carry out an extensive study of the endogamous populations of the region to unravel many facts and find links in the peopling of India.

Conclusion:

To conclude, the extent of presence of variants defining novel HGs or personal variants indicate high diversity in maternal genetic component of the population of J&K. Statistical analyses indicate that maternal population in J&K have undergone expansion, along with other regions of Indian sub-continent9. However, signatures of maternal gene pool expansion in the region past LGM and early Holocene era are also seen, and this is a unique observation for the present study. These distinct signatures and maternal lineages, never reported before in India, apparently suggest that this region might have served as a corridor, yet also as a reservoir for many unreported lineages.

The overall diversity seen in the maternal gene pool of J&K suggests that the migrations to and through this region were not exclusively of males. This data has refined the existing phylogenetic tree and added to the information further diversity of mtDNA in Indian populations. Further, this preliminary study highlights the importance of the region and emphasizes that the populations of this region should be studied extensively to understand the gene pool of Indian populations. Along with the Y chromosomal and mtDNA markers, a study of autosomal markers is also warranted in these population groups. It is anticipated to help in finding some of the missing links in the evolution of modern humans and their migratory history to and from the mainland India and the Indian subcontinent, a future perspective of our study. Further, we would like to emphasize that the endogamous populations should be studied with respect to their individual evolutionary and migration histories, rather than pooling these together as one group, an underlying drawback that has plagued many of the Indian population based studies in the past, diluting individual signatures and masking stories their DNA has to tell.

See also:

The Indus Valley Civilisation in genetics – the Harappan Rakhigarhi project

indus-valley-harappan-rakhigarhi

Razib Khan reports on his new website about an article by Tony Joseph, Who built the Indus Valley civilisation?, itself referring to the potential upcoming results of a genetic analysis project involving Rakhigarhi, the biggest Harappan site.

The possible scenarios based on potential sample results in terms of Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups seem to be generally well described, and I would bet – like Khan – for some kind of an East-West Eurasian connection. This is all pure speculation, though, and after all we only have to wait one month and see.

map-indus-valley
Detailed map of Indus Valley Civilization settlements. Key: ville actuelle – modern cities; site indusien – Indus Valley Civilization site; site majeur – major site (from Wikipedia, by Michel Danino)

Out of the potential models laid out by Joseph something struck me as plainly wrong. From the section about R1a and Vedic Aryans (emphasis mine):

In the ancient DNA from Rakhigarhi, scientists identify R1a, one of the hundreds of Y-DNA haplogroups (or male lineages that are passed on from fathers to sons). They also identify H2b — one of the hundreds of mt-DNA haplogroups (or female lineages that are passed on from mothers to daughters) — that has often been found in proximity to R1a.

There is no reason whatsoever to think that this would be the research finding, but if it is, it would cause a global convulsion in the fields of population genetics, history and linguistics. It would also cause great cheer among the advocates of the theory that says that the Indus Valley civilisation was Vedic Aryan.

(…)

And it goes on to postulate reasons why such a big fuss will be created about the potential finding of haplogroup R1a, and its implications for the Out-of-India Theory. A global convulsion, no less.

But, since when do genetic findings cause revolutions in Linguistics? Or even in Archaeology?

When I thought the identification of R1a – Indo-European could never reach a lower level of unscientific nonsense, based on circular reasoning, here it is, a worse example.

Not only are there people waiting desperately to see just one sample of an R1a subclade in Yamna to oversimplistically identify (yet again) Corded Ware with the Indo-European expansion; there are also people waiting to find just one sample in India or Central Asia to destroy the current models of steppe origins for Proto-Indo-European.

I guess this childish game is more or less based on the same premises that made some people believe that the concept of the ‘Yamnaya component’ destroyed traditional archaeological models.

R1a-thegeneticatlas
Modern haplogroup R1a distribution from The Genetic Atlas (PD), the kind of simplistic maps that generated the current misconceptions (or how to sow the wind among populations with an inferiority complex).

It seems that all new methods involving admixture analysis, PCA, and other statistical tools to study Human Ancestry are still irrelevant for most, and indeed that Archaeology and even Linguistics are at the service of the simplistic identification of ancient languages with modern haplogroup distributions.

We are reliving the 1990s in Genetics, and the 1930s in Archaeology and Linguistics all over again. This must be great news for companies that offer genetic analyses… I wonder if it is also good for Science, though.

The funny thing is, the same people responsible for the survival of these misconceptions, i.e. R1a – Indo-European fanboys, who constantly fan the flames of absurd genetic-genealogical and ethnolinguistic identification, are often the first to criticize models compatible with the Out-of-India Theory.

I really hope some R1a subclade is found among the samples, so that stupidity can reach the lowest possible level in discussions among amateur geneticists obsessed with haplogroup R1a’s role in the expansion of Indo-European speakers. Maybe then will the rest of us be able to overcome this renewed moronic supremacist trends hidden behind supposedly objective migration models.

For those interested in actual Indo-European migration models, the finding of early R1a subclades in central Asia (or India) – like the potential finding of R1a subclades in Yamnadoes change neither Archaeology nor Linguistics on the Indo-European question.

Genomics is merely helping these disciplines evolve, by supporting certain archaeological models of migration over others, but no revolution has been seen yet, and none is expected.

Each new genetic paper helps support the strongest archaeological models of steppe origins for Proto-Indo-European, and a Late Indo-European expansion compatible with current Linguistic reconstructions.

Featured image: From Wikipedia, Indus Valley Civilization, Mature Phase (2600-1900 BCE), by Jane McIntosh.

Related:

Indo-European and Central Asian admixture in Indian population, dependent on ethnolinguistic and geodemographic divisions

indian-population-genetics

Preprint paper at BioRxiv, Dissecting Population Substructure in India via Correlation Optimization of Genetics and Geodemographics, by Bose et al. (2017), a mixed group from Purdue University and IBM TJ Watson Research Center. A rather simple paper, which is nevertheless interesting in its approach to the known multiple Indian demographic divisions, and in its short reported methods and results.

Abstract:

India represents an intricate tapestry of population substructure shaped by geography, language, culture and social stratification operating in concert. To date, no study has attempted to model and evaluate how these evolutionary forces have interacted to shape the patterns of genetic diversity within India. Geography has been shown to closely correlate with genetic structure in other parts of the world. However, the strict endogamy imposed by the Indian caste system, and the large number of spoken languages add further levels of complexity. We merged all publicly available data from the Indian subcontinent into a data set of 835 individuals across 48,373 SNPs from 84 well-defined groups. Bringing together geography, sociolinguistics and genetics, we developed COGG (Correlation Optimization of Genetics and Geodemographics) in order to build a model that optimally explains the observed population genetic sub-structure. We find that shared language rather than geography or social structure has been the most powerful force in creating paths of gene flow within India. Further investigating the origins of Indian substructure, we create population genetic networks across Eurasia. We observe two major corridors towards mainland India; one through the Northwestern and another through the Northeastern frontier with the Uygur population acting as a bridge across the two routes. Importantly, network, ADMIXTURE analysis and f3 statistics support a far northern path connecting Europe to Siberia and gene flow from Siberia and Mongolia towards Central Asia and India.

Among the most interesting results (emphasis mine):

Our meta-analysis of the ADMIXTURE output shows that the IE and DR populations across castes shared very high ancestry, indicating the autochthonous origin of the caste system in India (Figure 2). f3 statistics show that most of the castes and tribes in India are admixed, with contributions from other castes and/or tribes, across languages affiliations (Supplementary Table 4 and Supplementary Note). The geographically isolated Tibeto-Burman tribes and the Dravidian speaking tribes appear to be the most isolated in India. Linear Discriminant Analysis on the normalized data set clearly supports genetic strati cation by castes and languages in the Indian sub-continent

(…)

Our meta-analysis of the ADMIXTURE plot in Figure 4A quantifies the ADMIXTURE results (darker colors indicate higher pairwise shared ancestry). Indian populations show a greater proportion of shared ancestry with the so-called Indian Northwestern Frontier populations, namely the tribal populations spanning Afghanistan and Pakistan. Central Asian populations share higher degrees of ancestry with IE and DR Froward castes. Uygurs share high degrees of ancestry with Indian populations.

(…)

f3 statistics (all negative Z-scores are shown) indicate Chinese and Siberian ancestry contributing to the Tibeto-Burman tribal speakers. On the other hand, the Mongols and the Europeans have contributed significant amounts of ancestry to the Indo-European and Tibeto-Burman forward castes. F3 statistics also show that the Central Asians are an admixed population with signs of admixture from Caucasus and other parts of Europe.

Among the results for proportions of shared ancestry between Indians and Eurasians (FIG. 4), there is an obvious influence of European admixture (Caucasus, and Southern, Central, and Northern EU), potentially from the Yamna-Corded Ware expansion, in IE_ForwardCaste, which is lessened in IE_BackwardCaste and also in IE_Tribal, while DR_ForwardCaste shows again more admixture than IE_Tribal, but diminishing with lower castes and quite low in DR_Tribal.

Ancestry from Central Asia is strong with a similar pattern, which hints at the influence of Sintashta, Andronovo, and BMAC influence in the expansion of the Steppe component, even more than a later Turkic component.

On the other hand, the influence from Turkey is difficult to assess, given the complex genetic history of Anatolia, but the map contained in Fig. 6 doesn’t feel right, not only from a genetic viewpoint, but also from linguistic and archaeological points of view. This is the typical map created with admixture analyses that is wrong because of not taking into account anthropological theories.

Quite interesting is then the influence of admixture in these different ethnolinguistic groups, Indo-European and Dravidic, which points to an initially greater expansion of Indo-European speakers, and later resurge of Dravidian languages.

Featured image contains simplified origin and data of samples studied, from the article.

Related:

The Aryan migration debate, the Out of India models, and the modern “indigenous Indo-Aryan” sectarianism

indus-valley-early-harappan

The Proto-Indo-European Urheimat

Not long ago, the Proto-Indo-European language Urheimat problem used to be cyclic in nature: linguistic and archaeological publications appeared supporting a Copper Age migration from the steppe proposed by Marija Gimbutas, or a Neolithic expansion from Anatolia (or Armenia) proposed by Colin Renfrew, and back again.

I have always supported the simpler, more recent Chalcolithic migration of Late Indo-Europeans from the Pontic-Caspian steppe over an older Neolithic expansion from Anatolia with agriculture. The latter model implied a complex cultural diffusion over a greater span of time than is warranted by linguistic guesstimates, understood as the general grasp that anyone can have on how much a language changes in time, comparing the different stages of different Indo-European languages. Whether they like to talk about it or not, or whether they would describe them as such (or else as terminus ante or post quem), most known linguists and archaeologists involved in Indo-European studies have published at some point their own guesstimates.

To have an idea about how guesstimates work, you only have to learn some Indo-European languages from different branches, the ancient languages from which they are derived, how they have evolved from them through time, and their proto-languages, to see how unlikely it is that the differences from Late Indo-European to Proto-Greek, Proto-Indo-Iranian, Proto-Celtic, or Proto-Italic need a leap of ca. 3000 years almost without change, as required by the Anatolian hypothesis. Some have strong reactions against guesstimates arguing you cannot compare historic or proto-historic changes to prehistoric ones, to support a different linguistic change rate from Proto-Indo-European to proto-languages. I find this to be a sound criticism, but often used justify a worse, ad-hoc estimate that supports other theory.

Glottochronology – in case you are looking for mathematics or statistics to solve the problem – is as useless today as it always was. Not everything – in fact few things in anthropology – can be solved with algorithms and statistics. I do love algorithms and statistics, because their results – if based on sound assumptions – are hard to be contested, but not a single good one has been proposed for comparative grammar, as far as I know.

Algorithms solve everything

Steppe hypothesis

The steppe hypothesis was always the simpler connection with modern Indo-European languages, from a linguistic and archaeological point of view, and archaeogenetics (since the advent of haplogroup investigation, and the finding of modern R1a distribution) did also support it. However, it implied a conquest by warring patrilocal peoples, that substituted the ‘original’ Neolithic European and Asian population and languages, and invasions have not been a fashionable antrhopological subject for a long time.

One of the consequences of the genocidal racism and xenophobia seen during World War II was the strong reaction to its ideological foundations, and there was a common will to end with Kosinna’s trend of historic ethnolinguistic identification of modern peoples. Linguistics and archaeology did then search for more complex models of human relations and exchange, mostly to avoid what appeared as simplistic concepts of migration or invasion. Marija Gimbutas’ simplistic kurganist, male-driven invasion of territories inhabited by matrilocal Old Europeans, albeit reasonable, did not fit well with these post-war times. One could accept historic and proto-historic atrocities and genocide by any people against others, and even tribal conflicts between prehistoric hunter-gatherers that ended in the destruction of one of them, but a violent, massive spread of ‘Aryans’ was considered a dangerous idea to be avoided.

Thanks to the effort of David Anthony (among others) in supporting migration models in Archaeology, the steppe model did have a strong revival even before archaeogenetics began to be a thing in anthropological research.

Anatolian hypothesis

The Anatolian hypothesis, on the other hand, seemed like a fine, long evolution of a language accompanying the peaceful spread of a technological innovation, farming and cattle herding. Originally believed to be mostly a cultural diffusion (now it has been demonstrated to be a mixed diffusion event, with strong demic diffusion in its early phase), it was thus in line with a more politically correct view of prehistoric events.

This cultural diffusion gave in turn way to more peaceful and innovative solutions to language spread, like waves of expansion, or a constellation of languages influencing each other for long periods, so that even the potential reconstruction of a single Proto-Indo-European language or people was doubted. Prehistoric friendly neighbours would have adopted farming and exchanged goods and languages for thousands of years, and only with proto-historic events did people have ethnolinguistic identification that caused conflicts…

While recently there have been some doubts expressed by Mathieson et al. (2017) on the of the steppe hypothesis regarding Proto-Anatolian, it is likely that the lack of enough ancient DNA of the Balkans and Anatolia is the key factor here.

An interesting linguistic proposal, the glottalic theory, while sound in its assumptions and results – much less likely in my opinion than the more common two-dorsal theory, and this much more likely than the prevalent three-dorsal one – gave some theoretical support to the Anatolian (or Armenian) hypothesis, since some proponents felt that a glottalic Proto-Indo-European should have an origin near to the Armenian homeland – because glottalic Proto-Armenian would have retained a phonetic state nearer to the “original” Proto-Indo-European.

That simplistic regional continuity explanation is akin to the trend of Basque researchers to discover links of Proto-Basque with the Pyrenees in Mesolithic and Palaeolithic times, when there is no data to warrant such identifications – and it seems in fact that Proto-Basque, Proto-Iberian, and Palaeo-Sardinian might have accompanied the expansion of farming in the Neolithic. Probably most proponents left of the Glottalic theory today (like Frederik Kortlandt and Alan Bomhard) would accept a steppe migration unrelated to an Armenian or Anatolian origin.

Marginal proposals

There were indeed other marginal proposals, with people supporting origins of Proto-Indo-European in both ends of the current distribution of Indo-European languages, from the “Indo-” in Out of India theories, to the “-European” in Eurocentric proposals. Most Eurocentric proposals – based on certain archaeological cultures and their evolution in- and outside Europe – have been dismissed with archaeological and genetic research, and the remaining ones usually favour the more fashionable peaceful spread of languages.

Palaeolithic Continuity Theory

A small group in support of the more recent Palaeolithic Continuity Theory remains. It seems to me as deeply flawed from a linguistic point of view (with a much larger time span needed than for a Neolithic expansion), but their arguments are led by research on genetics and archaeology, and not much is left for European romanticism, so it has always appeared to me as a professionally acceptable – although futile – attempt by eccentric researchers to disentangle prehistoric events.

Similar to what happens with proponents of the Anatolian hypothesis, new linguistic, archaeological, and genetic research is used to remake PCT models – instead of just dismissing it -, so it is likely that we will have many different proposals of stepped population movements that will make both models eventually converge with the steppe migration theory, to the point where only the steppe migration theory remains, with some added details on its most ancient origin. I guess sometimes it is difficult to let (part of) your life’s research just go away without fighting for some recognition… You desperately look for a tap on the back by some colleagues, even out of pity, who will tell you ‘it seems you might have been right in some details, after all!’…

Out of India

The Out of India theory is the name given to a group of (mostly) independent models that usually propose a Proto-Indo-European homeland based on or around India. Contrary to the PCT, an Out of India theory set during the Mesolithic or Neolithic would be feasible from a linguistic point of view: you could somehow connect some archaeological migrations to support the spread of Early-Proto-Indo-European-speaking R1a lineage happen east-to-west (and north), and genetically it had support in some papers on modern distribution of R1a subclades, for example in Underhill et al. (2014). Underhill himself has since questioned his conclusion in view of recent papers publishing ancient DNA analysis.

Out of India theories, overall, could thus be as strong (or as weak) as the theories concerning an Anatolian origin, in their potential for explanation of the ancient origin of the Proto-Indo-European language spoken in the steppe during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic. However feasible they might a priori be, I have yet to encounter a decent modern paper with that kind of proposal, based on recent genetic papers. Most modern articles are just Indian nationalist crap, and the only decent papers on this matter are becoming quite old fpr this relatively young field of Indo-European studies. Maybe that’s because I don’t have enough time to look for the hidden good anthropological papers among so much dirt. After all, it is not a very likely theory, and one has a limited amount of time.

In recent papers, if you get rid of simplistic reactionary and revisionist views, conservative Indo-Aryan Hindu nationalist or religious bigotry, fantastic connections with the Indus Valley civilization, and simplistic identifications of Proto-Indo-European as ‘nearer’ to Vedic Sanskrit – with absurdly old and odd references to Schleicher’s reconstruction and dialectal Indo-Slavonic or Satem references -, you are left at best with some basic criticisms of Eurocentrism and the known shortcomings of anthropological disciplines in investigating Proto-Indo-European Urheimat, but no data to support any connection with India whatsoever.

If there is a reason for a generalised inferiority complex in India, I would find it in the shameless publication and popularity of such worthless research papers, a trend that is also seen in scientific fields, with Indian researchers having a increasingly tougher time passing editorial and peer reviews, and resorting thus to national journals. In the case of Indo-European studies, instead of trying to fit data with what we know, the only aim in Indian research seems to be to connect the Indus Valley with Proto-Indo-European, and Proto-Indo-European with a “pure” (i.e. Vedic) Indo-Aryan, to support a mythological Indo-Aryan Hinduist India. And that is mostly what you will find in any Out of India article today, whether based on linguistic, archaeological, or – what is prevalent today – genetic investigation.

This has been The Out of India Controversy Week: it began last week with the publication of a quite decent article in The Hindu by Tony Joseph summing up the current situation of anthropological research. It was followed by reactions in conservative Indian news, and this in turn was contested by Davidsky and Razib Khan. The original article by Tony Joseph has been echoed by Victor Mair in Language Log, and I agree with his description of Joseph’s paper as “informed, sensitive, balanced, and nuanced. This is responsible science journalism”, even if I disagree with some of his statements (in a different way than Mr. Mair). However, this propaganda disguised as scientific criticism is what you get from Indian nationalists.

EDIT (25/6/2017): Razib Khan has published a thorough post on Indian evolutionary genetics as follow-up to this week’s controversy. I think there is too much effort being invested during these controversies precisely by the people who need not explain themselves. Anyway, good summaries of anthropological matters are always welcome.

EDIT (29/6/2017): Other posts on the subject, from Brown Pundits: On the “Aryan” debate – the linguistics POV; Razib Khan’s Indian genetics, part n of many; and Aryan Migration and its Discontents.

Interestingly, any time new research comes to shake certain Indian nationalist foundations, a stronger backfire effect happens, and more criticism is done on the shortcomings of such anthropological research. Because, indeed, if the anthropological theory is flawed, mythical Indo-Aryans spread from the Indus Valley, right…? One can only expect this kind of controversies to escalate in conservative Indian blogs and fora alike, and then deescalate until the next paper is published. A dialectic cycle whose only evident result is the increased opposition that conservative Indian researchers – or researchers that depend on funding by such groups – will have in publishing anything related to a potential Aryan invasion, and the addition of a stronger bias in Indian research.

Western European history

It might well be because I am western European, and western Europeans tend to accept quite well multiple invasions from the East. After all, they have happened so many times in proto-historical and historical times, that it is part of our ethnolinguistic nation-building lore. French people trace their history to the expansion of Celts, Romans, and Franks; Spaniards and Portuguese trace it to the spread of Celts, Ibero-Basques, Romans, and Westgoths; Italians to the expansion of Etruscans, Celts and Italics, Romans, Ostrogoths and Langobards; the English to the expansion of Celts, Angles and Saxons, Vikings, and Normans…

It often seems to me that western Europeans will romanticise their origins no matter what appears in historic and genetic investigation: if Neanderthals are unrelated to Europeans, they are ‘cavemen’; if they intermixed with our ancestors, then they suddenly become quite human in their behaviour, and it is great to have more Neanderthal admixture. If Indo-European-speaking R1a lineages invaded central Europe from the east, and transferred their languages, great, because “we” are heirs of original western European hunter-gatherers of Palaeolithic R1b lineages; if R1b lineages represent an invasion of eastern peoples speaking Late Indo-European, great too, because it means that our paternal forefathers were the ‘original’ Indo-European speakers…

This reaction, our history is great no matter what, seems to be a good one for research, since it allows for any change in our romantic views of the past. This, however, does not seem to be the case for some nations, and this inability to change their views is likely related to the inferiority complex that some nations have developed, in turn probably caused by western European colonialism, so one is left to wonder how responsible we are of modern chauvinist trends.

The sad future

Seeing how so many people of eastern European ancestry are convinced of an origin of R1a-M417 in Indo-European migrations from Yamna – when there is (yet?) not a single proof of it – may be just as troubling as the Indian case, or maybe more, since it affects an important part of Europe. I cannot believe that even today only western Europeans are capable of romanticising their own past no matter what, while the rest of the world lives in a quest to appropriate whatever they view as some great ancient culture, people, or language for their own ancestors.

I have already received complaints and have seen people (of Y-DNA haplogroup R1a) complain online that their forefathers cannot have been Uralic speakers, and some Uralic speakers (of haplogroup N) that original Uralic speakers cannot have been of R1a lineages. Firstly, if I were eastern European – be it Germanic, Balto-Slavic, or Uralic speaker, or a speaker of Indo-Aryan languages, of R1a or N lineage, whatever my country of origin, I like to think I would prefer to know where my forefathers actually came from, and what languages they did in fact speak thousands of years ago, even if that disrupts everything I or my fellow countrymen (wrongly) assumed for a long time. Secondly, we – as western Europeans speaking Romance or Germanic languages – have the right to know exactly how our peoples and languages really came to be, even if that means disrupting others’ dreams. Our paternal ancestors probably changed languages 3 or 4 times during their multiple migrations from the east, and were not peaceful hunter-gatherers living since the Palaeolithic in the same region we do now, as traditionally held; if we can get over this, eastern Europeans and Indians can get over it, too.

I think everyone deserves to know the truth, and they will eventually like it and fantasise with it. But many individuals want to disrupt any possible change to keep their current ethnic and nationalist agendas untouched, and that can affect us all. Nationalistic and romantic trends are understandable: Romans needed Virgil at the peak of their conquests to tell them that they had a glorious past in Troy, connecting them to the immortal Greek epics. The most important lesson one can learn from that example is that Italian researchers are still (2000 years later!) influenced by that myth, and they keep trying to look for Anatolian remains in Latin studies, and in the archaeology and evolutionary genetics of Italy. I guess you could therefore say these mythification trends are naturally human…but losing so much time in absurd quests for mythological identities seems absurd, and can only damage research.

It is sad to think about future generations of Indians looking for any sign to support an autochthonous Indo-Aryan homeland, while the rest of the world keeps moving in the right direction…

(Note: featured image is licensed CC-by-sa 4.0 from Avantiputra7 at Wikipedia)