Eurasian languages

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Eurasian is a macro family proposed by Joseph Greenberg that includes essential language families and individual languages ​​of Northern Eurasia . In addition to this far-reaching proposal, there is also the nostratic, which is sometimes even broader . Greenberg's hypothesis has so far received little acceptance.

Eurasian and its components

Joseph Greenberg developed his "Eurasian" concept as early as the early 1960s - parallel to and independently of the nostratics - which of course goes back to earlier hypotheses of kinship by other researchers, e. B. on Holger Pedersen . The Eurasian macro family is explicitly described for the first time in Greenberg's Language in the Americas by (1987). In the following years, Greenberg and Merritt Ruhlen continued to work on comparing the North Eurasian language groups. In contrast to Amerind , Greenberg also compared grammatical elements with each other in Eurasian, in addition to investigating related words, the similarities of which are in part very convincing (especially when comparing Indo-European , Uralic and Altaic languages), and which are not easily explained by the concepts of language union and loan can.

Finally, in 2000 ( Grammar ) and 2002 ( Lexicon ), the sum total of this research appeared in Greenberg's last two books, which were edited and edited by Ruhlen (Greenberg had died in 2001).

The Eurasian Macro Family according to Greenberg 2000-2002

In contrast to earlier designs, Greenberg 2000 explicitly includes the Etruscan. The positioning of Korean-Japanese (together with Ainu) is noticeable not as a component of Altaic, but as an independent branch of Eurasian.

Problems and acceptance

A hypothetical Eurasian proto-language would have to be at least 10,000 years old. B. the age of Proto-Indo-European is already estimated to be at least 5,000 years, the Proto-Ural is even older. However, one obtains time depths that also have to be applied to large language families that are now accepted, such as Niger-Congo or Afro-Asian , both language families whose definition also goes back to Greenberg (see Joseph Greenberg and African languages ).

In Mother Tongue VI (2001), John D. Bengtson gives a detailed positive review of the first volume (Grammar, 2000). He closes with the words: While one could quibble about certain details, there is no doubt that Greenberg's grammatical evidence for Eurasiatic is a monumental achievement and a fitting capstone to his life's work as the supreme linguistic taxonomist of all time. ( While certain details could be debated, there is no doubt that Greenberg's grammatical evidence for Eurasian is a pre-eminent achievement and a fitting keystone to his life's work as the greatest linguistic taxonomist of all time. )

However, the Eurasian macro family has so far only been accepted by a minority of researchers. Linguists who deal with the even more comprehensive nostratic and other macro hypotheses, however, deal with the hypothesis.

Relationship to the Nostratic and Dene-Caucasian

Eurasian expressly does not include the language families Afro-Asian , Dravidian and Kartvelian ; these three, however, are included in the nostratic . Some nostratics, such as B. Allan R. Bomhard (2007), meanwhile, do not see Eurasian and Nostratic as competing models, but interpret the Eurasian as a genetic sub-unit of the Nostratic, parallel to the Kartwel, Dravidian and Afro-Asian. Other nostratics consider Afro-Asian to be a parallel branch of nostratic, which also makes it easier to bring the "Eurasian" and "Nostratic" models closer together.

Eurasian as a subunit of the nostratic

  • Nostratic
    • Eurasian
    • Kartwelisch
    • Elamo-Dravidian
    • Afro-Asian ( partly understood as a parallel branch of the nostratic )

Another Eurasian macro family is the Dene-Caucasian , which goes back to Sergei Anatoljewitsch Starostin and which includes the individual languages Basque and Burushaski , some isolated ancient Oriental languages , the language families North Caucasian , Yenisian , Sinotibetic and the North American Na-Dené . Dene-Caucasian does not compete with Eurasian, since according to today's research there is no intersection between these macro-groupings (exceptions are perhaps Etruscan and Sumerian ).


  • Allan Bomhard: The Glottalic Theory of Proto-Indo-European Consonantism and its Implications for Nostratic Sound Correspondences. In: Mother Tongue XII , 2007.
  • Joseph Greenberg: Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, Volume 1, Grammar. Stanford University Press 2000.
  • Joseph Greenberg: Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, Volume 2, Lexicon. Stanford University Press 2002.
  • Joseph Greenberg: Language in the Americas. Stanford University Press 1987.
  • Merritt Ruhlen: On the Origin of Language. Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue. Wiley, New York 1994.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Joseph Greenberg: Language in the Americas. Stanford University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-8047-1315-4 , pp. 331-334