Paleolinguistics is a term used by some linguists for the study of the distant human past by linguistic means. For most historical linguists there is no separate field of paleolinguistics. Those who use the term are generally advocates of hypotheses not generally accepted by mainstream historical linguists, a group colloquially referred to as "long-rangers".
The controversial hypotheses in question fall into two categories. Some of them involve the application of standard historical linguistic methodology in ways that raise doubts as to the validity of the hypothesis. A good example of this sort is the Moscow school of Nostraticists, founded by Vladislav Illich-Svitych and including Aharon Dolgopolsky, Sergei Starostin, and Vitaly Shevoroshkin, who have argued for the existence of Nostratic, a language family including the Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic, Altaic, Dravidian, and Kartvelian language families and sometimes other languages. They have established regular phonological correspondences, observed morphological similarities, and reconstructed a proto-language in accordance with the accepted methodology. Nostratic is not generally accepted because critics have doubts about the specifics of the correspondences and reconstruction.
Other hypotheses are controversial because the methods used to support them are considered by mainstream historical linguists to be invalid in principle. Into this category fall proposals based on mass comparison, a technique in which relationships are postulated on basis of sets of words resembling each other in sound and meaning, without establishing phonological correspondences or carrying out a reconstruction. Prominent examples are the work of Joseph Greenberg and Merritt Ruhlen. Most linguists reject this method as unable to distinguish similarities due to common ancestry from those due to borrowing or chance.
Other linguists who may be considered paleolinguists due to their advocacy of long-range hypotheses include: John Bengtson, Knut Bergsland, Derek Bickerton, Václav Blažek, Robert Caldwell, Matthias Castrén, Björn Collinder, Albert Cuny, Igor Diakonov, Vladimir Dybo, Harold Fleming, Eugene Helimski, Otto Jespersen, Frederik Kortlandt, Samuel E. Martin, Roy Andrew Miller, Hermann Möller, Susumu Ōno, Holger Pedersen, Alexis Manaster Ramer, G.J. Ramstedt, Rasmus Rask, Jochem Schindler, Wilhelm Schmidt, Georgiy Starostin, Morris Swadesh, Henry Sweet, Vilhelm Thomsen, Vladimir N. Toporov, Alfredo Trombetti, C.C. Uhlenbeck.
The mystery novel The Ekkos Clan written by Sudipto Das and released in July 2013 used Linguistic Paleontology, perhaps for the first time in popular fiction, as the tool to decipher, supposedly, the Proto Indo-European Language, linguistic fossils of which were shown to be preserved in the folk-tales in a family through generations for thousands of years.
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