Dené–Caucasian languages

Dené–Caucasian is a proposed broad language family that includes the Sino-Tibetan, North Caucasian, Na-Dené, Yeniseian, Vasconic (including Basque), and Burushaski language families. A connection specifically between Na-Dené and Yeniseian (Dené–Yeniseian languages hypothesis) was proposed by Edward Vajda in 2008, and has met with some acceptance.

The validity of the rest of the family, however, is controversial or viewed as doubtful by most historical linguists.

Classifications similar to Dené–Caucasian were put forward in the 20th century by Alfredo Trombetti, Edward Sapir, Robert Bleichsteiner, Karl Bouda, E. J. Furnée, René Lafon, Robert Shafer, Olivier Guy Tailleur, Morris Swadesh, Vladimir N. Toporov, and other scholars.

Morris Swadesh included all of the members of Dené–Caucasian in a family that he called "Basque-Dennean" (when writing in English, 2006/1971: 223) or "vascodene" (when writing in Spanish, 1959: 114). It was named for Basque and Navajo, the languages at its geographic extremes. According to Swadesh (1959: 114), it included "Vasconic, the Caucasian languages, Ural-Altaic, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Chinese, Austronesian, Japanese, Chukchi (Siberia), Eskimo-Aleut, Wakash, and Na-Dene", and possibly "Sumerian". Swadesh's Basque-Dennean thus differed from Dené-Caucasian in including (1) Uralic, Altaic, Japanese, Chukotian, and Eskimo-Aleut (languages which are classed as Eurasiatic by the followers of Sergei Starostin and those of Joseph Greenberg), (2) Dravidian, which is classed as Nostratic by Starostin's school, and (3) Austronesian (which according to Starostin is indeed related to Dené-Caucasian, but only at the next stage up, which he termed Dené-Daic, and only via Austric (see Borean languages)). Swadesh's colleague Mary Haas attributes the origin of the Basque-Dennean hypothesis to Edward Sapir.

In the 1980s, Sergei Starostin, using strict linguistic methods (proposing regular phonological correspondences, reconstructions, glottochronology, etc.), became the first to put the idea that the Caucasian, Yeniseian and Sino-Tibetan languages are related on firmer ground. In 1991, Sergei L. Nikolayev added the Na-Dené languages to Starostin's classification.

The inclusion of the Na-Dené languages has been somewhat complicated by the ongoing dispute over whether Haida belongs to the family. The proponents of the Dené–Caucasian hypothesis incline towards supporters of Haida's membership in Na-Dené, such as Heinz-Jürgen Pinnow or, most recently, John Enrico. Edward J. Vajda, who otherwise rejects the Dené–Caucasian hypothesis, has suggested that Tlingit, Eyak, and the Athabaskan languages are closely related to the Yeniseian languages, but he denies any genetic relationship of the former three to Haida. Vajda's ideas on the relationship of Athabaskan–Eyak–Tlingit and Yeniseian have found support independently in works of various authors, including Heinrich K. Werner or Merritt Ruhlen. DNA analyses have not shown any special connection between the modern Ket population and the modern speakers of the Na-Dené languages.

This page was last edited on 20 April 2018, at 22:27.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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