3

What reconstructed languages were spoken around 7500 BCE and which of those was likely to have the most speakers?

I know nothing is concrete about this, but best guesses would be appreciated.

Also if you could include, which are "most accepted" and if possible a good place to see the reconstructions, that would be helpful, but if you can't I can try to find them ^.^

side question : why no proto-language tag?

5
  • 3
    Several thousand. You need to narrow your question down quite a bit. – lemontree Mar 16 '17 at 7:25
  • 1
    @lemontree sigh how bout take the implied that obviously you can't list the unknown so that limits it down to the few that have been attempted to be reconstructed. – Durakken Mar 16 '17 at 7:44
  • 3
    Reconstructed language is an abstraction. There were precisely zero speakers of any reconstructed language. Scientists see the tendencies of the recent evolution of languages and roll it back to the times when there were no written evidences existed, this is how the reconstructed languages are being "born". Also, since 10k years ago, a huge number of old languages have been extinct, leaving no traces of their existence. – bytebuster Mar 16 '17 at 8:59
  • @bytebuster not quite true... but I don't care to argue right now. I just want to know the reconstructed languages that are dated to around that date. That's it... – Durakken Mar 16 '17 at 9:19
  • 3
    7500 BCE, about 6 to 8 million people lived then. The languages spoken along the Tigris&Euphrates, Nile, Indus and Yellow and Yangtze rivers. – Alternative Transport Mar 16 '17 at 10:52
4

I'm interpreting your question literally in my answer, as I think you intended it: "Which actually reconstructable proto-languages languages are believed to have been spoken around 7500 BCE?". PIE might have been spoken around that time (so Hittite was not spoken, nor Germanic) – this could actually push PIE back too far, see below for discussion of dating. Bantu was not spoken then – that's a later development. Austronesian doesn't date back that far either (it's put more at the 3500 BCE). AFAIK, there is no reconstructed proto-language from which Austronesian descended, where we can say "at 7500 BCE the language that was spoken is Proto-Austronic", so Austronesian drops out of the count. Austro-Asiatic is also thought to reconstruct to much later than that period, so scratch that family. You should note that I'm not mentioning "Austric" which could be an ancestor of Austro-Asiatic and Austronesian, because Austric isn't a reconstructed language (which might have a time depth), it's a conjecture that certain proto-languages might be related.

For pre-Bantu, we would probably conclude that Niger-Congo was spoken around that time (whence Bantu and related languages). The difference between Bantu and Austronesian is that for Austronesian, we can only say "Something, which must have led to Austronesian, was spoken", but for Bantu we have to make a choice as to which specific level of reconstruction we are talking about. Likewise, Semitic probably reconstructs to 3500 BCE so that would not be a contender, but maybe Afro-Asiatic (but it may be that Afro-Asiatic actually is much older: yet we don't have a descendant branch in Afro-Asiatic that confidently reconstructs to 7500 BCE, in case Afro-Asiatic is too old).

Because of lack of time-depth in reconstructions, that lets out much of the New World, though Dené–Yeniseian could qualify. (A caveat: Dené–Yeniseian is not actually a reconstructed language, it's a family some parts of which are kind of reconstructable). We can probably add Uralic to the list. However, given the imprecision in dating reconstructed languages, it might be that Uralic and Austronesian have comparable time-depths (so Uralic should not be included?). Pama-Nyungan might reconstruct to that time depth.

Again, many languages will fall out of the count simply because there is no reconstructed language (viz. there are many language isolates) – Basque, Burushaski, Etruscan, Korean, Sumerian. I may have mentioned the entire set of proto-languages spoken at the target date, as long as you don't mean 7500 BCE plus or minus 4000. Clearly very many languages were spoken in 7500 BCE, but they mostly do not correspond to actually reconstructed languages.

One cannot look at structural changes from a proto-language and compute a time-depth based on a theory that languages change at a constant rate. Instead, you really need to look at archaeological and word-appearance facts (where a particular word referring to a significant cultural item, such as plant names or technology, correlates with language subgrouping, and this can be pinned to archaeological events like the emergence of Urewe ware maybe around 500 BCE). It may be that Indo-European archaeology is in a more advanced or, simply, lucky state compared to Niger-Congo. In fact, looking for "7500 BCE" is probably not reasonable, instead you should look for a range spanning at least 3 millenia, definitely not centered around 7500 BCE, since that is at the far limits of reconstructive technology.

6
  • 2
    It's very debatable that "PIE was probably spoken around that time" -- most specialists date it to around 4000-3500 BC, rejecting Renfrew's Anatolian hypothesis. I don't think many believe in such an early date for Uralic, either. – TKR Mar 16 '17 at 20:41
  • Proto-Trans New Guinea is probably about the right time depth, but reconstruction is in the early stages. – Gaston Ümlaut Mar 16 '17 at 20:44
  • @TKR, yeah, my modal was too strong. – user6726 Mar 16 '17 at 21:23
  • I need languages around 7500, the reconstructed there is simply because of comment... I don't care if it's reconstructed, but i don't care for pedantry about there being "thousands" of languages which we have no knowledge of ir inkling that it would exist around then. That should limit to a very few... I'm looking for a possible base to contruct a language from that originates from that time time period. – Durakken Mar 16 '17 at 22:30
  • 3
    Consider using Pirahã. It's "primitive" in that it doesn't have sentential recursion and it doesn't have numerals or counting; and information on it and its culture are easy to get. Dan Everett puts out new stuff every year. Certainly there were predecessor languages in the Amazon at -7500; but why bother reconstructing one when the existing well-documented ones are so weird nobody could ever tell anyway? – jlawler Mar 17 '17 at 0:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.