21 April 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different: Proto-World!

In the next series of posts I am going to tackle the following questions:
  1. Was there a time when all humans spoke the same language? Or, in other words, was there a time when the total population of our species (presumably restricted to some part of Sub-Saharan Africa) constituted a single speech community?
    [Too Many to Communicate]
    Athanasius Kircher, Turris Babel
    Source: Heidelberg University Library
  2. Are all the recorded languages ultimately related? Note that this question is not a rephrasing of the previous one. In the past, there could have been any number of extinct languages unrelated to those known to us. The common ancestry of the known languages would be compatible with the multilingualism of early humans.
  3. If all the known language families are ultimately related, is it possible to reconstruct some features of their most recent common ancestor (variously referred to as Proto-World, Proto-Human or Proto-Sapiens)?
  4. What shall we make of the global family trees and global etymologies already proposed by some researchers? How plausible are they?
    [Related or Similar by Chance?]
    An excursus on Eurasiatic etc.
Stay tuned in, please. I’ll probably start tomorrow.


  1. Could more than one proto-language arise in different places of the world?

  2. Yes, in the somewhat unlikely case that the Homo sapiens populations migrating out of Africa had not yet developed fully-fledged languages. But it does not really matter for Question 1. Both such a multiregional language emergence scenario and "primordial multilingualism" in pre-migration Africa mean a negative answer.

  3. It might be a good idea to add links here to the posts as you make them, so that people can be sent here to follow the series rather than having to scroll through your main page looking for the successive posts.