Corded Ware substrate


It has been argued that similarities found in Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages – like the peculiar phonetic ruki development, a similar satem trend in both groups[Meier-Brügger 2003] – suggest a sort of west-east continuum between both languages, with certain features running through them[Mallory and Adams 2007].

Since both Únětice (ca. 2300-1600) and Sintashta (ca. 2100-1800 BC) potential language expansions into populations with Corded Ware lineage happened at the same time, it could be argued that both communities happened to speak similar dialects that could have influenced both languages – a North-West Indo-European and a Graeco-Aryan dialect already developed quite differently – in a similar manner, and thus their similarities could be explained as a common language substrate, whether non-Indo-European, Pre-Indo-European, or even Indo-European.

It has been classically proposed that the Mesolithic language of the Narva and Combed Pit Ware cultures is to be identified with a Uralic community, and dates ca. 4000 have been proposed for the common reconstructible Proto-Uralic language[Parpola 2012][Kortlandt 2002]. Finno-Ugric has also been shown to have developed in close contact with Proto-Indo-Iranian[Kallio 2002].

According to the theory presented in this paper, the R1a1a1-M417 population of the Combed Pit Ware culture expanded to the east, and then from the Contact Zone – mostly as R1a1a1b-Z645 lineages – with the Corded Ware culture to west and east Europe, so it is possible that their language was indeed Proto-Uralic.

From a linguistic point of view, the characteristic palatalization of the consonant system in Proto-Uralic is compatible with the similarly transposed velar system adopted for Late Indo-European dialects by Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian speakers, thus explaining the strongest phonetic connection between these dialectally diverse Indo-European languages. Differences in the Baltic and Slavic satemization processes might point to an early split of the North-West Indo-European dialect ancestral to both, before or during its assimilation by different Uralic-speaking communities of late Corded Ware cultures. A potential connection with the Balkans Chalcolithic, the origin of the Corded Ware horizon, could also explain the potential satem influence found in Anatolian and Paleo-Balkan languages.

This model supports thus the reconstruction of two series of velars: the traditional reconstruction of dorsovelars and labiovelars[Lehmann 1952], which is usually ignored in common textbooks in favour of the older reconstruction of a third series of palatovelars[Bomhard 2015]; and Martinet’s glottalic consonants[Gamkrelidze and Ivanov 1995].

A western Corded Ware substratum could also be argued to be the origin of certain common isoglosses found between Germanic and Balto-Slavic. In terms of the “Temematic hypothesis”, Germanic and Temematic would share common western Corded Ware isoglosses, and only later would Proto-Balto-Slavic – already separated from Proto-Indo-Iranian – absorb Temematic as a substratum language[Kortlandt 2016].

To further complicate the dialectal nature of Balto-Slavic, ancient samples show R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 lineages in western Yamna migrants in Vučedol, and in east Bell Beaker populations. Also, modern populations in central Europe, in regions previously occupied by the Únětice and Lusatian cultures, also show R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 subclades. Assuming that Yamna lineages corresponded to separated clans that kept a Graeco-Aryan dialect during the western migration, their integration into a common Únětice culture could also explain the Graeco-Aryan features of Balto-Slavic that have been associated with Indo-Iranian.

On the special position of Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian, regarding their rather conservative nominal case system compared to other Indo-European languages, it has been argued that languages with more second language speakers lose nominal cases[Bentz et al. 2015], which would explain the higher simplification of Late Indo-European dialects in west and south-east Europe, compared with the conservation of the original system by speakers of Uralic dialects, known for their large set of grammatical cases. On the other hand, this could also give support to the theory that Late Proto-Indo-European had in fact a simpler nominal system, derived from a still simpler one of Middle Proto-Indo-European[Adrados, Bernabé, and Mendoza 2016], whereas the Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic ones would be later innovations; however, that would need an explanation as to how Uralic speakers adopting Late Proto-Indo-European added complexity to the language, instead of simplifying it.


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