European and Asian languages traced back to single mother tongue

tags: Europe, Guardian (UK), linguistics, Asia, Indo-European, Eurasia



Languages spoken by billions of people across Europe and Asia are descended from an ancient tongue uttered in southern Europe at the end of the last ice age, according to research.

The claim, by scientists in Britain, points to a common origin for vocabularies as varied as English and Urdu, Japanese and Itelmen, a language spoken along the north-eastern edge of Russia.

The ancestral language, spoken at least 15,000 years ago, gave rise to seven more that formed an ancient Eurasiatic "superfamily", the researchers say. These in turn split into languages now spoken all over Eurasia, from Portugal to Siberia.

"Everybody in Eurasia can trace their linguistic ancestry back to a group, or groups, of people living around 15,000 years ago, probably in southern Europe, as the ice sheets were retreating," said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at Reading University....



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