Francisco Villar is a renowned expert in Indo-European, and also in the languages of Pre-Roman Iberia. As we saw in this post, one of his theories is that the study of ancient toponyms, especially hydronyms, shows that the oldest languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula were IE. Any other type of language (Basque, Iberian) appeared later (Villar, 2000). In his last research work (Villar et al 2011), carried out in collaboration with Blanca Prósper, Carlos Jordán and María Pilar Fernández Álvarez, he continues his previous research, comparing the linguistic data with the archaeological and genetic evidence that's now available. I will comment on the results in a series of posts, starting with this one. For the moment, I'll try to summarize some of the main points.
In their research, they focus on the ancient hydronyms of Europe and southwest Asia. The choice of material is relevant: hydronyms usually retain signs of archaic linguistic layers. Analysing these toponyms, they identify a series of components that are significantly present in those areas, e.g. *aisko/isko-, *ab-, or *balso-. Not only that: they also demonstrate, using phonological and lexicological criteria, that these components are IE, with no exception.
The aim of the research is to to try to correlate this set of data with the currently available theories of IE origin and expansion into Europe. The novelty is that the authors take into account Alinei's Paleolithic Paradigm as one of the possible scenarios. Putting together linguistic, archaeological and genetic data, they reach the conclusion that the distribution of these toponyms correlates basically with two main events: the Mesolithic population expansion from the Glacial refugia of southern Europe, and the expansion of agriculture in the Neolithic. Both events involve IE languages. This is important. If the Mesolithic populations that migrated north were already carrying IE languages with them, then those languages were there already in the Paleolithic. In order words, the Paleolithic Continuity Paradigm (PCP).
Of course, some may think: "Ok, there were IE language in Europe at that early age, but then there was another wave of IE dispersal at the bronze age which brought the IE languages as we know them today and historically". The authors admit this possibility, but also say that it is quite unlikely. As they say, and as I have insisted in this blog many times, there is no evidence of any sort of relevant population movement in the Bronze Age that could even remotely support this theory, usually known as the Kurgan theory.
As I said, I'll publish more posts getting into the details of this important research work. For example, I'll talk about their criticism of some aspects of traditional IE reconstruction, e.g. the reconstruction of PIE phonology. Let's see some excerpts (the highlighting is mine):
(p. 724-725): "Ciertas líneas de investigación han tendido a limitar el sistema vocálico indoeuropeo a dos vocales /e/ y /o/ e incluso a una sola (...). Tal reconstrucción, que no vamos a criticar aquí en detalle, desemboca en sistemas vocálicos irreales, inexistentes en las lenguas del mundo, sea cual sea la familia lingüística en la que busquemos. El testimonio de los arqueo-hidro-topónimos lleva la reconstrucción profunda del vocalismo indoeuropeo por derroteros muy diferentes. En las series vocálicas de nuestras arqueo-raíces la /e/ y la /o/ se manifiestan como variantes triviales y en parte locales de las respectivas formas básicas /i/, /u/ y /a/ (...). De ese modo, el sistema vocálico que se dibuja en el estadio cero es de tres miembros (a, i, u)".
(p. 726): "al pretender, como se ha hecho tradicionalmente, explicar la supuesta lengua común como un sistema cerrado en sí mismo, sin un origen y un devenir, se ha incurrido en simplificaciones, distorsiones e invenciones tendentes a buscar regularidades artificiales en terreno de la fonética, la morfología y la semántica".
The authors use cautious language, but this is actually a complete demolition of the many aspects of traditional PIE reconstruction, including laryngeals and other inventions.
NOTE (Apr 22, 2012): I have translated the quotes into English. See comments.References:
- VILLAR, Francisco (2000). Indoeuropeos y No-Indoeuropeos en la Hispania Prerromana. Salamanca, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca.
- VILLAR, F., B. PRÓSPER, C. JORDÁN, and M.P. FERNÁNDEZ ÁLVAREZ (2011). Lenguas, genes y culturas en la prehistoria de Europa y Asia suroccidental. Salamanca, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca.