Some Old World experience of linguistic dating

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This paper addresses the problem concerning linguistic depth and its measurement on the basis of empirical knowledge from selected Eurasian language families and areal complexes, including Indo-European, Ural-Altaic, and Palaeo-Siberian. There are clear differences between language families and their individual members with regard to the speed of evolution (innovative vs. conservative languages) and lexical openness (open vs. closed languages). Even so, the change of natural languages takes place within certain limits determined by extralinguistic factors, and for assessing these limits the methods of glottochronology and linguistic paleontology retain their relevance. The differentiation of the modern language families of Eurasia is the result of splits which correspond to actual prehistorical and protohistorical periods of cultural innovation, including the Neolithic and the Iron Age. Prospects of identifying deeper-level genetic affiliations are diminished by the relatively restricted comparative corpus available from the oldest reconstructable protolanguages, such as Uralic.


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