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The Linguistic Origins of Native Americans

The Linguistic Origins of Native Americans

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Published by urbanom
In light of the now substantial archaeological, biological, and linguistic evidence,
the following scenario for the peopling of the Americas seems most
likely. The initial migration into the New World, some time before 12,000
bp (before present), gave rise to the Amerind family, whose vast geographic
spread and great linguistic diversity are indicative of its early arrival. Just
how early that arrival may have been is a bone of contention among archaeologists.
Many maintain that humans did not reach the Americas until the
Clovis culture appears in the archaeological record around 12,000 years ago,
and they dismiss alleged earlier dates as spurious. There are, however, other
archaeologists who claim to have evidence of earlier human habitation in the
Americas, with dates ranging from 13,000 bp (the Monte Verde site in Chile),
to 16,000 bp (the Meadowcroft site in Pennsylvania) to over 40,000 bp (the
Pedra Furada site in Brazil). I tend to share the views recently expressed
by Jared Diamond (1992: 345): “How could people have gotten from Alaska
to Pennsylvania or Chile, as if by helicopter, without leaving good evidence
of their presence in all the intervening territory? For these reasons, I find it
more plausible that the dates given for Meadowcroft and Monte Verde are
somehow wrong than that they are correct. The Clovis-first interpretation
makes good sense; the pre-Clovis interpretation just doesn’t make sense to
me.” Unfortunately, linguistic evidence, which is notoriously poor at providing
absolute dates, cannot resolve this controversy. Nor, so far, have studies
of blood types, gene pools, and such.
214 10. The Linguistic Origins of Native Americans
The precise date of the second migration is also uncertain, but we might
estimate 7,000 bp for the migration that brought the Na-Dene family into the
Americas. Finally, perhaps 4,000 years ago, a third migration gave rise to the
Eskimo-Aleut family, whose lesser linguistic divergence and marginal position
on the Northern periphery of the Americas both indicate late arrival.
In light of the now substantial archaeological, biological, and linguistic evidence,
the following scenario for the peopling of the Americas seems most
likely. The initial migration into the New World, some time before 12,000
bp (before present), gave rise to the Amerind family, whose vast geographic
spread and great linguistic diversity are indicative of its early arrival. Just
how early that arrival may have been is a bone of contention among archaeologists.
Many maintain that humans did not reach the Americas until the
Clovis culture appears in the archaeological record around 12,000 years ago,
and they dismiss alleged earlier dates as spurious. There are, however, other
archaeologists who claim to have evidence of earlier human habitation in the
Americas, with dates ranging from 13,000 bp (the Monte Verde site in Chile),
to 16,000 bp (the Meadowcroft site in Pennsylvania) to over 40,000 bp (the
Pedra Furada site in Brazil). I tend to share the views recently expressed
by Jared Diamond (1992: 345): “How could people have gotten from Alaska
to Pennsylvania or Chile, as if by helicopter, without leaving good evidence
of their presence in all the intervening territory? For these reasons, I find it
more plausible that the dates given for Meadowcroft and Monte Verde are
somehow wrong than that they are correct. The Clovis-first interpretation
makes good sense; the pre-Clovis interpretation just doesn’t make sense to
me.” Unfortunately, linguistic evidence, which is notoriously poor at providing
absolute dates, cannot resolve this controversy. Nor, so far, have studies
of blood types, gene pools, and such.
214 10. The Linguistic Origins of Native Americans
The precise date of the second migration is also uncertain, but we might
estimate 7,000 bp for the migration that brought the Na-Dene family into the
Americas. Finally, perhaps 4,000 years ago, a third migration gave rise to the
Eskimo-Aleut family, whose lesser linguistic divergence and marginal position
on the Northern periphery of the Americas both indicate late arrival.

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Published by: urbanom on Apr 13, 2010
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02/03/2013

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