Proto-Uralic homeland hypotheses

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Current distribution of the Uralic languages

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

Europe versus Siberia[edit]

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

However, the Ugric languages are known to have earlier been spoken on the European side of the Urals, so a European homeland would be equally possible. In recent years it has also been argued that on the phonological basis 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 with a 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, although only such cases are valid in which the semantic reconstructions are certain. A Siberian homeland has been claimed on the basis of two coniferous tree names in Proto-Uralic, although these trees (Abies sibirica and Pinus cembra) have for a long time been present also in easternmost Europe. A European homeland is supported by words for 'bee', 'honey', 'elm' etc.[2] These can be reconstructed already in Proto-Uralic, when Samoyed is no more the first entity to split off.[3]

More recently also the loanword evidence has been used to support a European homeland: Proto-Uralic has been seen 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 to have been born in the Poltavka culture of the Caspian steppes before its spread to Asia.[7]

Although Proto-Uralic is now located on the European side of the Urals, Pre-Proto-Uralic seems to have been spoken in Asia, as argued on the basis of early contacts with the Yukaghir languages [8] and typological similarity with the Altaic (in the typological meaning) language families.[9]

Continuity theories[edit]

Archaeological continuity has for a long time been applied as an argument for linguistic continuity, in the Uralic studies since the Estonians Paul Ariste and Harri Moora in 1956.[10] Just as long this kind of argumentation has also been heavily criticized. The oldest version of the continuity theories can be called the moderate or shallow continuity theory, and according to it the 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,[11] when there seemed to be nothing in the linguistic results to seriously contradict this archaeological view.

The continuity argumentation in the Uralic studies gained greater visibility during the 1990s, when the next step was popularized (even though already earlier this line of reasoning had been occasionally sported): in the radical or deep continuity theory it was claimed that the linguistic continuity in Finland could be traced back to the Mesolithic initial colonization, beyond 10,000 years.[12][13]

However, in the Indo-European studies J. P. Mallory had already thoroughly scrutinized the methodological weakness of the continuity argumentation in 1989.[14] In the Uralic studies it was also soon noted that the one and the same argument (archaeological continuity) was used to support contradicting views, thus revealing the unreliability of the method.[15][16][17][18]

At the same time new linguistic results appeared contradicting the continuity theories: both the datings of Proto-Saami [19][20] and Proto-Finnic[21] as well as Proto-Uralic (Kallio 2006; Häkkinen 2009)[3][22] were argued to be clearly younger than were thought in the framework of the continuity theories.

Nowadays linguists rarely believe in the continuity theories due to both their shown methodological flaws and incompatibility with the new linguistic results, although some archaeologists and laymen may still sport on such argumentation.

Modern view[edit]

After the rejection of the continuity theories, the recent linguistic arguments have placed the Proto-Uralic homeland 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), whereas its earlier stages go back at least one or two millennia further. Either way, this is considerably later than the earlier views of the continuity theories, which would place Proto-Uralic deep into Europe.[3][22]

So far no challenging views have been presented.[citation needed]

Evidence from population genetics[edit]

The characteristic genetics of Uralic speaking peoples is haplogroup N1c-Tat (Y-DNA). 63% of Finns,[23] 47% of Saami [24] and 41% of Estonians [23] belong to this haplogroup. Samoyedic peoples mainly have more N1b-P43 than N1c.[25] Haplogroup N originated in the northern part of China in 20,000 -25,000 years BP[26] and spread to the north Eurasia, through Siberia to Northern Europe. A 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 Siberia, is related to Uralic peoples’ migration.

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 71%, including old paragroups of N1.[27] So, a new possibility arises that the Urheimat of Uralic languages (and perhaps also Yukaghir languages) may be Liao river region. The oldest Pit–Comb Ceramic, related to Finno-Ugric peoples, is also found in Liao civilization. This 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 these myths, which is found in the folklore of Uralic peoples and other N1(Y-DNA) populations, originated in the Northern Asia, possibly in the northeastern regions of today's China.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Häkkinen, Jaakko 2007: Kantauralin murteutuminen vokaalivastaavuuksien valossa.
  2. ^ Sebestyén-Németh, Irene 1951–1952: Zur Frage des alten Wohngebietes der uralischen Völker.
  3. ^ a b c Häkkinen, Jaakko 2009: Kantauralin ajoitus ja paikannus: perustelut puntarissa. – Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Aikakauskirja 92, p. 9–56.
  4. ^ Rédei, Károly 1986: Zu den indogermanisch-uralischen Sprachkontakten. (Toim. Manfred Mayrhofer & Volfgang U. Dressler.) Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Linguistik und Kommunikationsforschung, Heft 16. Wien.
  5. ^ Koivulehto, Jorma 1991: Koivulehto, Jorma 1991: Uralische Evidenz für die Laryngaltheorie. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse. Sitzungsberichte, 566. Band. Wien 1991.
  6. ^ Häkkinen, Jaakko 2012: Uralic evidence for the Indo-European homeland.
  7. ^ Mallory, J. P. & Adams, D. Q. (editors) 1997: Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. p. 439
  8. ^ Häkkinen, Jaakko 2012: Early contacts between Uralic and Yukaghir. Tiina Hyytiäinen, Lotta Jalava, Janne Saarikivi & Erika Sandman (editors): Per Urales ad Orientem Iter polyphonicum multilingue Festskrift tillägnad Juha Janhunen på hans sextioårsdag den 12 februari 2012. Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia 264, p. 91–101. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  9. ^ Janhunen, Juha 2001: Indo-Uralic and Ural-Altaic: On the diachronic implications of areal typology. – Carpelan, Parpola & Koskikallio (editors): Early Contacts between Uralic and Indo-European: Linguistic and Archaeological Considerations, p. 207–220. Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia 242.
  10. ^ Moora, Harri (editor) 1956: Eesti rahva etnilisest ajaloost. Tallinn.
  11. ^ Gallén, Jarl (editor) 1984: Suomen väestön esihistorialliset juuret. Tvärminnen symposiumi 17.–19.1.1980. Bidrag till kännedom av Finlands natur och folk, 131. Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica.
  12. ^ Nuñez, Milton G. 1987: A Model for the Early Settlement of Finland. – Fennoscandia Archaeologica 4.
  13. ^ Wiik, Kalevi 2002: Eurooppalaisten juuret. Jyväskylä: Atena.
  14. ^ Mallory, J. P. 1989: In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Language, Archaeology and Myth. London: Thames and Hudson.
  15. ^ Mallory, J. P. 2001: Uralics and Indo-Europeans: Problems of time and space. Carpelan et al. (edited): Early Contacts between Uralic and Indo-European: Linguistic and Archaeological Considerations, p. 345–366. Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia 242.
  16. ^ Aikio, Ante & Aikio, Aslak 2001: Heimovaelluksista jatkuvuuteen. Suomalaisen väestöhistorian tutkimuksen pirstoutuminen. – Muinaistutkija 4/2001, p. 2–21. Helsinki: Suomen arkeologinen seura.
  17. ^ Häkkinen, Jaakko 2006: Studying the Uralic proto-language. [Translation from: Uralilaisen kantakielen tutkiminen. – Tieteessä tapahtuu 1 / 2006, p. 52–58.]
  18. ^ Häkkinen, Jaakko 2010: Jatkuvuusperustelut ja saamelaisen kielen leviäminen (OSA 1). – Muinaistutkija 1 / 2010, p. 19–36.
  19. ^ Aikio, Ante 2004: An essay on substrate studies and the origin of Saami. – Irma Hyvärinen, Petri Kallio & Jarmo Korhonen (toim.): Etymologie, Entlehnungen und Entwicklungen. Festschrift für Jorma Koivulehto zum 70. Geburtstag, s. 5–34. Mémoires de la Société Néophilologique de Helsinki, LXIII. Helsinki: Uusfilologinen yhdistys ry.
  20. ^ Aikio, Ante 2006: On Germanic-Saami contacts and Saami prehistory. – Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Aikakauskirja 91, p. 9–55. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  21. ^ Saarikivi, Janne & Grünthal, Riho 2005: Itämerensuomalaisten kielten uralilainen tausta. Muuttuva muoto. Kirjoituksia Tapani Lehtisen 60-vuotispäivän kunniaksi, s. 111–146. Kieli 16.
  22. ^ a b Kallio, Petri 2006: Suomen kantakielten absoluuttista kronologiaa. – Virittäjä 1 / 2006, p. 2–25.
  23. ^ a b Rosser ZH, Zerjal T, Hurles ME, Adojaan M, Alavantic D, Amorim A, Amos W, Armenteros M, Arroyo E, Barbujani G, Beckman G, Beckman L, Bertranpetit J, Bosch E, Bradley DG, Brede G, Cooper G, Côrte-Real H. B., De Knijff P, Decorte R, Dubrova YE, Evgrafov O, Gilissen A, Glisic S, Gölge M, Hill EW, Jeziorowska A, Kalaydjieva L, Kayser M et al. (2000). "Y-Chromosomal Diversity in Europe is Clinal and Influenced Primarily by Geography, Rather than by Language". The American Journal of Human Genetics 67 (6): 1526–1543. doi:10.1086/316890. PMC 1287948. PMID 11078479. Vancouver style error (help)
  24. ^ Tambets K, Rootsi S, Kivisild T, Help H, Serk P, Loogväli EL et al. (2004). "The western and eastern roots of the Saami--the story of genetic "outliers" told by mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 74 (4): 661–82. doi:10.1086/383203. PMC 1181943. PMID 15024688. Vancouver style error (help)
  25. ^ Tambets, Kristiina et al. 2004, The Western and Eastern Roots of the Saami—the Story of Genetic “Outliers” Told by Mitochondrial DNA and Y Chromosomes
  26. ^ Shi H, Qi X, Zhong H, Peng Y, Zhang X, et al. (2013) Genetic Evidence of an East Asian Origin and Paleolithic Northward Migration of Y-chromosome Haplogroup N. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66102. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066102
  27. ^ Yinqiu Cui, Hongjie Li, Chao Ning, Ye Zhang, Lu Chen, Xin Zhao, Erika Hagelberg and Hui Zhou (2013)"Y Chromosome analysis of prehistoric human populations in the West Liao River Valley, Northeast China. " BMC 13:216
  28. ^ Napolskikh V. V. (Izhevsk, Russia). Earth-Diver Myth (А812) in northern Eurasia and North America: twenty years later.