Thursday, July 8, 2010

Linguists Find Ancient Language Links

Section of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve where migration occurred.

Linguists are finding ancient-language connections between remote Asian tribes and native peoples in North America, providing more evidence of an ancient migration across the Bering Land Bridge.

The work of Western Washington University linguistics professor Edward Vajda with the isolated Ket people of Central Siberia is revealing more and more examples of an ancient language connection with the language family of Na-Dene, which includes Tlingit, Gwich'in, Dena'ina, Koyukon, Navajo, Carrier, Hupa, Apache and about 45 other languages.

Of the 1,200 Ket people, only about 100, all older than 55, still speak the language. The importance of studying a disappearing language goes far beyond a personal linguistic interest, Vajda explained.

According to
"It's a new way to understand human prehistory before there were historians to write it down,” he told “Isolated languages like Ket have developed features that are very unusual and interesting, and they help us to understand the human mind and human language ability."
"We linguists should not be the focus of attention here," Vajda added. "What is important are the languages and especially the Native communities themselves."
Vajda takes no credit for coming up with the Asian language connection.
"People developed the beginnings of these ideas even 300 years ago, and in 1923 someone made the specific claim I am arguing for," he said. "My work builds on vocabulary comparisons made by other linguists in the late 1990s as well."

Click here for the complete article.
Photo shows re-created Na-Dene woman.
Thanks to Christopher Hileman for forwarding the article.

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