Proto-Uralic homeland hypotheses

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Current distribution of the Uralic languages

Various Proto-Uralic homeland hypotheses, hypotheses on the origin of the Uralic languages and the location (Urheimat or homeland) and the period in which the Proto-Uralic language was spoken, have been advocated over the years.

Homeland hypotheses[edit]

Europe versus Siberia[edit]

It has been suggested that the Proto-Uralic homeland was located near the Ural Mountains, either on the European or the Siberian side. The main reason to suppose that there was a Siberian homeland has been the traditional taxonomic model that sees the Samoyed branch as splitting off first. Because the present border between the Samoyed and the Ugric branch is in Western Siberia, the original split was seen to have occurred there too.

However, because the Ugric languages are known to have been spoken earlier on the European side of the Urals, a European homeland would be equally possible. In recent years, it has also been argued on the basis of phonology that the oldest split was not between the Samoyed and the Finno-Ugric but between the Finno-Permic and the Ugro-Samoyedic language groups.[1] The lexical level is argued to be less reliable, and lexical innovativeness (a small number of shared cognates) can be confused because of the great age of the division. For a long time, no new arguments for a Siberian homeland have been presented.

Both European and Siberian homeland proposals have been supported by palaeolinguistic evidence, but only those cases in which the semantic reconstructions are certain are valid. A Siberian homeland has been claimed on the basis of two coniferous tree names in Proto-Uralic, but the trees (Abies sibirica and Pinus cembra) have for a long time been present also in the far east of Europe. A European homeland is supported by words for 'bee', 'honey', 'elm' etc.[2] They can be reconstructed already in Proto-Uralic, when Samoyed is no more the first entity to split off.[3]

More recently, loanword evidence has also been used to support a European homeland. Proto-Uralic has been seen as borrowing words from Proto-Indo-European,[4][5] and the Proto-Indo-European homeland has rarely been located east of the Urals. Proto-Uralic even seems to have developed in close contact with Proto-Aryan,[6] which is seen as having arisen in the Poltavka culture of the Caspian steppes before its spread to Asia.[7]

The Ljalovo Culture (5000-3650 cal BC) has been equated with the Proto-Uralic urheimat, and the following Volosovo Culture (3650-1900 cal BC) with the Proto-Finno-Urgic urheimat. [8] Some scholars believe that the culture of Ljalovo was in fact the Proto-Uralic urheimat and that its inhabitants spread Uralic languages to north-eastern Europe. [9] The Volosovo culture has been named the Bronze Age Successor Culture, a textile-ceramic culture that developed in the region between Upper Volga and Ladoga and Ääninen. It was distinguished from other groups based on the traces of textile used for the production of ceramics, and spread southeast all the way to central Volga, south to the entire river valley of Oka, southwest to the northern shore of the Baltic River Väinjoki and northwest of Fennoscandia to Karelia, Finland and northern Sweden and Norway. [10] Known as the Seima-Turbino phenomenon, it was a culturally unified, extensive network of trade in copper and bronze. The traces of the Seima-Turbino phenomenon are found in a wide area that begins in Sweden and ends in the Altai Mountains. [11] [12] [13]

The Volosovo region was invaded by the Abashevo cultural groups at about 2,300 BC. The latter buried their deceased in kurgans, and they are thought to have spoken Indo-Aryan languages and to have influenced the Volosovian vocabulary by introducing Aryan loan words. The Abashevo contributed to the fact that livestock farming and small-scale farming began to be practiced in the southern parts of the forest zone of Taiga. [14] [15]

It has been hypothesized that Pre-Proto-Uralic was spoken in Asia, on the basis of early contacts with the Yukaghir languages [16] and typological similarity with the Altaic (in the typological meaning) language families.[17]

Continuity theories[edit]

Archaeological continuity has long been used as the basis of an argument for linguistic continuity. The argument was advanced by Estonians Paul Ariste and Harri Moora in 1956.[18] Just as long, this kind of argumentation has also been heavily criticised. The oldest version of the continuity theory can be called the moderate or shallow continuity theory. It claims that linguistic continuity in Estonia and Finland can be traced back to the arrival of Typical Combed Ware, about 6,000 years ago. This view became mainstream in the multidisciplinary Tvärminne symposium in 1980.[19] At the time, there seemed to be no serious linguistic results to contradict this archaeological view.

The continuity argumentation in the Uralic studies gained greater visibility in the 1990s, when the next step of the continuity theory was popularised (even though this line of reasoning had occasionally received airing). In the radical or deep continuity theory, it is claimed that the linguistic continuity in Finland could be traced back to the Mesolithic initial colonization, beyond 10,000 years.[20][21]

However, in Indo-European studies, J. P. Mallory had already thoroughly scrutinized the methodological weaknesses of the continuity argumentation in 1989.[22] In Uralic studies, it was also soon noted that the same argument (archaeological continuity) was used to support contradicting views, which revealed the method's unreliability.[23][24][25][26]

At the same time, new linguistic results appeared to contradict the continuity theories: the datings of Proto-Saami [27][28] and Proto-Finnic[29] and of Proto-Uralic (Kallio 2006; Häkkinen 2009)[3][30] are both clearly younger than it was thought in the framework of the continuity theories.

Nowadays linguists rarely believe in the continuity theories because of their shown methodological flaws and their incompatibility with the new linguistic results, but some archaeologists and laymen may still advance such arguments.[31][32]

Modern view[edit]

Recent linguistic arguments have placed the Proto-Uralic homeland possibly around the Kama River or, more generally, close to the Great Volga Bend and the Ural Mountains. The expansion of Proto-Uralic has been dated to about 2000 BC (4000 years ago), and its earlier stages go back at least one or two millennia earlier. Either way, this is considerably later than the earlier views of the continuity theories, which would place Proto-Uralic deep into Europe.[3][30]

Juha Janhunen, and others, suggest a homeland in South-Central Siberia, near Lake Baikal and the Sayan Mountains in the Russian-Mongolian border region.[33][34]

Evidence from population genetics[edit]

The characteristic genetic marker of Uralic-speaking peoples is haplogroup N1c-Tat (Y-DNA), also known as N-M46. 63% of Finns,[35] and 47% of Saami [36] and 41% of Estonians [35] belong to this haplogroup. Samoyedic peoples mainly have more N1b-P43 than N1c.[37] Haplogroup N originated in the northern part of China in 20,000 -25,000 years BP[38] and spread to north Eurasia, through Siberia to Northern Europe. Subgroup N1c1 is frequently seen in Finno-Ugric people, N1c2 in Samoyedic peoples. In addition, haplogroup Z (mtDNA), found with low frequency in Saami, Finns, and Siberians, is related to the migration of Uralic peoples.

In recent genetic analysis of ancient human bones excavated from the remains of Liao civilization, haplogroup N1 (Y-DNA) is found with a high frequency, of 60-100%.[39] Therefore, a new possibility arises that the origin of Uralic languages (and perhaps also of the Yukaghir languages) may be Liao River region. The oldest Pit–Comb Ceramic, related to Finno-Ugric peoples, is also found in Liao civilization. That is also corroborated by the works of Vladimir Napolskikh, who studied the origins of the "earth-diver" creation myths and concluded that a certain variety of those myths, which is found in the folklore of Uralic peoples and other N1(Y-DNA) populations, originated in Northern Asia, possibly in the northeastern regions of today's China.[40]

See also[edit]


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