|Northern Eurasia, the Arctic|
Uralo-Siberian is a hypothetical language family consisting of Uralic, Yukaghir, Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Eskimo–Aleut. It was proposed in 1998 by Michael Fortescue, an expert in Eskimo–Aleut and Chukotko-Kamchatkan, in his book Language Relations across Bering Strait. The theory has yet to win wide acceptance.
Structural similarities between Uralic and Eskimo–Aleut languages were observed early. In 1746, the Danish theologian Marcus Wöldike compared Greenlandic to Hungarian. In 1818, Rasmus Rask considered Greenlandic to be related to the Uralic languages, Finnish in particular, and presented a list of lexical correspondences. (Rask also considered Uralic and Altaic to be related to each other.) In 1959, Knut Bergsland published the paper The Eskimo–Uralic Hypothesis, in which he, like other authors before him, presented a number of grammatical similarities and a small number of lexical correspondences. In 1962, Morris Swadesh proposed a relationship between the Eskimo–Aleut and Chukotko-Kamchatkan language families. In 1998, Michael Fortescue presented more detailed arguments in his book, Language Relations across Bering Strait. His title evokes Morris Swadesh's 1962 article, "Linguistic relations across the Bering Strait".
The consonant inventories of the reconstructed proto-languages of the four Uralo-Siberian families are very similar to each other. A common feature is that there are only voiceless and no voiced stops, while there is a set of voiced (but no voiceless) non-sibilant fricatives with the same places of articulation (labial, dental, palatal, and velar; in Yukaghir, Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Eskimo–Aleut also uvular). There are also nasals in the same places of articulation. In addition, there are three sibilants, as well as liquids and semivowels.
Apparently shared elements of Uralo-Siberian morphology include the following:
Proponents of the Nostratic hypothesis consider these apparent correspondences to be evidence in support of the proposed larger Nostratic family.
Fortescue (1998) lists 94 lexical correspondence sets with reflexes in at least three of the four language families, and even more shared by two of the language families. Examples are *ap(p)a 'grandfather', *kað'a 'mountain' and many others.
Below are some lexical items reconstructed to Proto-Uralo-Siberian, along with their reflexes in Proto-Uralic, Proto-Chukotko-Kamchatkan (sometimes Proto-Chukchi), and Proto-Eskimo–Aleut (sometimes Proto-Eskimo or Aleut). (Source: Fortescue 1998:152-158.)
|aj(aɣ)- 'push forward'||aja- 'drive, chase'||aj-tat- 'chase, herd' (PC)||ajaɣ- 'push, thrust at with pole'|
|ap(p)a 'grandfather'||appe 'father in law'||æpæ 'grandfather'||ap(p)a 'grandfather'|
|el(l)ä 'not'||elä 'not'||ællæ 'not' (PC)||-la(ɣ)- 'not' (A)|
|pit(uɣ)- 'tie up'||pitV- 'tie' (FU)||pət- 'tie up'||pətuɣ- 'tie up'|
|toɣə- 'take'||toɣe- 'bring, take, give' (FU)||teɣiŋrə- 'pull out'||teɣu- 'take' (PE)|
Fortescue argues that the Uralo-Siberian proto-language (or a complex of related proto-languages) may have been spoken by Mesolithic hunting and fishing people in south-central Siberia (roughly, from the upper Yenisei river to Lake Baikal) between 8000 and 6000 BC, and that the proto-languages of the derived families may have been carried northward out of this homeland in several successive waves down to about 4000 BC, leaving the Samoyedic branch of Uralic in occupation of the Urheimat thereafter.
Some or all of the four Uralo-Siberian families have been included in more extensive groupings of languages (see links below). Fortescue's hypothesis does not oppose or exclude these various proposals. In particular, he considers that a remote relationship between Uralo-Siberian and Altaic (or some part of Altaic) is likely. However, Fortescue holds that Uralo-Siberian lies within the bounds of the provable, whereas Nostratic may be too remote a grouping to ever be convincingly demonstrated.
The University of Leiden linguist Frederik Kortlandt (2006:1) asserts that Indo-Uralic (a proposed language family consisting of Uralic and Indo-European) is itself a branch of Uralo-Siberian and that, furthermore, the Nivkh language also belongs to Uralo-Siberian. This would make Uralo-Siberian the proto-language of a much vaster language family. Kortlandt (2006:3) considers that Uralo-Siberian and Altaic (defined by him as consisting of Turkic, Mongolian, Tungusic, Korean, and Japanese) may be coordinate branches of the Eurasiatic language family proposed by Joseph Greenberg.
 Works cited
- Bergsland, Knut. 1959. "The Eskimo–Uralic hypothesis." Journal de la Societé finno-ougrienne 61, 1-29.
- Fortescue, Michael. 1998. Language Relations across Bering Strait: Reappraising the Archaeological and Linguistic Evidence. London and New York: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-70330-3.
- Kortlandt, Frederik. 2006. "Indo-Uralic and Altaic".
- Swadesh, Morris. 1962. "Linguistic relations across the Bering Strait." American Anthropologist 64, 1262-1291.
 Further reading
- Greenberg, Joseph H. 2000. Review of Michael Fortescue, Language Relations across Bering Strait: Reappraising the Archaeological and Linguistic Evidence. Review of Archaeology 21.2, 23-24.
- Künnap, A. 1999. Indo-European-Uralic-Siberian Linguistic and Cultural Contacts. Tartu, Estonia: University of Tartu, Division of Uralic Languages.
- Seefloth, Uwe. 2000. "Die Entstehung polypersonaler Paradigmen im Uralo-Siberischen." Zentralasiatische Studien 30, 163-191.
 See also
- Proto-Chukotko-Kamchatkan language
- Proto-Uralic language
- Classification schemes for indigenous languages of the Americas
- Linguistic areas of the Americas
 Related language family proposals
- Eskimo–Uralic languages
- Eurasiatic languages
- Indo-Uralic languages
- Nostratic languages
- Ural–Altaic languages
- Uralic–Yukaghir languages
- Linguistlist post about Uralo-Eskimo grammar as reconstructed by Uwe Seefloth, who finds Uralic and Eskimo–Aleut to be each other's closest relatives within Uralo-Siberian
- "Nivkh as a Uralo-Siberian language" by Frederik Kortlandt (2004)
- "Chukcho-Kamchatkan and Uralic: Evidence of their genetic relationship" by Václav Blažek (2006)