Eideard

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd nations – and may be too complex to enjoy

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By now you’ve probably read about the paper which reports that there seem to have been three waves of humans migrating into the New World prior to the arrival of Europeans. A major aspect of this result is that it does not emerge out of a vacuum, but rather comes close to settling an old question in linguistics…

The late Joseph Greenberg generated a series of audacious phylogenies of languages of the world. Greenberg’s attempts received mixed reviews. It seems that there is little controversy about some of his classifications of African languages, but linguists of American native dialects rejected his division of the languages of the New World into three broad families, Eskimo-Aleut, Na-Dene, and Amerind…The linguistic trichotomy also lent itself to a narrative of three migrations…

Despite all this drama, the scientific isn’t too hard to understand. Aside from the nifty statistics one problem is that many of these native groups have European and African admixture, but there are workarounds to that (e.g., just pull out genomic segments which are indigenous, and use those)…

On a big picture note this puts the lie to the idea that before agriculture hunter-gatherer societies were subject purely to differentiation in situ. The Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene erupted into a settled landscape, and dispossessed the indigenous groups of their lands…The First Americans “struck back” in this case, shoving aside the pioneers of northern living who had likely originated more recently from the margins of eastern Asia. Of course, the Eskimo-Aleut and related peoples were not First Americans only, rather, it was the old (First American) and new (Asian) ganging up upon the not so old or new (Asian).

At which point I will leave it up to more diligent readers to wander through this article – and/or the slightly deeper stuff – to sort it out to your own satisfaction.

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Written by Ed Campbell

July 14, 2012 at 6:00 am

One Response

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  1. Yes, people always have sex with each other – even when the Elders frown upon it.

    keaneo

    July 14, 2012 at 6:06 am


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