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Corded Ware substrate

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Corded Ware Substrate hypothesis

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. While Wiik’s concept of a Mesolithic European ‘Vasconic-Uralic harmony’[Wiik 2008] is not tenable, the proposed Uralic substratum for Germanic and Balto-Slavic may be[Wiik 1999].

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].

chalcolithic_early_CWC.jpg Diachronic map of Copper Age migrations ca. 3100-2600 BC [Anthony 2007][Harrison and Heyd 2007][Sjogren, Price, and Kristiansen 2016][Heyd 2012][Heyd 2014].

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.

Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian share a special position among Indo-European languages regarding their rather conservative nominal case system. 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]. In this case, Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic morphological differences 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.

Agricultural Substrate Hypothesis

A different proposal is found in Kroonen and Iversen’s Agricultural Substrate Hypothesis, which is based on vocabulary and especially noun inflection, in some cases common to Germanic, Balto-Slavic, and Greek. Their authors related it first to the advent of Middle Eastern farmers[Kroonen 2012], and now to the Funnelbeaker culture that was substituted in northern Europe by the Corded Ware culture[Kristiansen et al. 2017][Iversen and Kroonen 2017].

According to our model, this substrate language would correspond precisely with the language spoken by Corded Ware peoples, that was later substituted by Indo-European from Yamna or Bell Beaker cultures. Kroonen and Iversen’s proposal link the common substrate language to a Middle Eastern language, possibly related to Proto-Semitic. Given the many influences found in Trypillian samples (of which the Usatovo culture is partially the successor), it is unclear which language Corded Ware peoples would have spoken.

The Ice Age refugium of western hunter-gatherers in south-eastern Europe was only partially mixed with Middle Eastern Neolithic farmers up to the Danube. This suggests that the northern region – colonized mainly by R1b1a-L754 lineages (including R1b1a1a-P297 and R1b1a2-V88 subclades) – actually spoke Afroasiatic, or a language common to Afroasiatic and Indo-Uralic, that could have later evolved into the main language of the Old European culture.

eneolithic_forest.jpg Diachronic map of Eneolithic migrations ca. 4000-3100 BC [Anthony 2007][Szmyt 2013][Piezonka 2015], Uni-Köln.

References

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  • [Bentz et al. 2015] ^ Bentz, Christian, Annemarie Verkerk, Douwe Kiela, Felix Hill, and Paula Buttery. 2015. Adaptive Communication: Languages with More Non-Native Speakers Tend to Have Fewer Word Forms. PLOS ONE 10 (6):e0128254.
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