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The Anatolian hypothesis asserts that people in Anatolia spoke Proto-Indo-European during the Neolithic era and that the language spread from there starting in 7000 BCE. On the other hand, the Kurgan hypothesis claims Proto-Indo-European spread from the Pontic steppe after developing around 4500 BCE.

According to those who reject the Anatolian hypothesis, what language or language family were people speaking in Anatolia between 7000-4500 BCE? What kinds of evidence support the usage of a non-Indo-European language in this area during this time period?

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    The earliest historically attested peoples in Anatolia were the Hattians, whom the Hittites absorbed and were named after, and the Hurrians. Both were non-IE, but it's hard to say for certain if they were there before the early Bronze Age. It's certainly not in doubt non-IE languages were spoken in Anatolia in the Neolithic, regardless of whether IE originated there or not. – Cairnarvon Feb 23 at 2:28
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    somewhat less definitively, and so not really worth putting in an answer, it seems likely from the presence of Lemnian on Lemnos in the 6th century bc that there was a Tyrsenian language in Ionia before that. Some people use this to argue the Tyrsenian languages are a divergent branch of Anatolian, but if non-Indo-European they'd be a good candidate for Western Anatolia – Tristan Feb 23 at 10:32
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It's hard to say what the situation would have been as far back as 4500 BCE, because that's well before the invention of writing. The best evidence we have for how language worked back then comes from comparative reconstruction (comparing descendant languages against each other and figuring out what they could have evolved from), and this technique has serious limitations—that's the whole reason why the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat is still in question!

But we know that several indigenous non-Indo-European languages were spoken in Anatolia in the early 2000s BCE, because once writing was invented, they were recorded. We can find distinctly Hurrian-looking place names in Akkadian texts, for example, or words and phrases identified as "Hattic" in Hittite rituals. Later on, some of these languages (like Hattic) died out, but others (like Hurrian) were recorded more thoroughly, to the point that we have ancient bilingual (or trilingual or quadrilingual) dictionaries to help scribes learn them.

These languages are generally considered indigenous to Anatolia, because we don't know of anything that came before them, but it's entirely possible the Hurrian-speaking and Hattic-speaking peoples arrived somewhere around 3000 BCE, displacing earlier peoples who spoke completely different languages. There's just no way to be sure.

The only thing we can say for certain is that there were definitely non-Indo-European languages spoken in Anatolia around the beginning of recorded history, and most of them aren't known to be related to any larger language family. Given the linguistic diversity of the Bronze Age, I'd say it's a statistical certainty that there have always been non-Indo-European languages spoken in the area, but there's no evidence of what they might have been before the third millennium BCE.

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  • "It's hard to say what the situation would have been as far back as 4500 BCE, because that's well before the invention of writing". So you are saying it's a matter of Archaeology, not linguistics. It should have been a comment, nothing more. "The only thing we can say for certain is that there were definitely non-Indo-European languages spoken in Anatolia" You cannot call Hattic a language for certain. Hurrian is afaic only later attested and with neo-hittite kingdom limited to Syria. References would help to improve this non-question. – vectory Feb 23 at 18:27
  • @vectory Hurro-Urartian was spoken throughout historic Armenia (which still isn't really Anatolia though, calling Western Armenia "Eastern Anatolia" is a post-genocide regime thing). – Adam Bittlingmayer Feb 24 at 18:52

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