Some observations on typological features of hunter-gatherer languages

image of Some observations on typological features of hunter-gatherer languages

The introduction of agriculture is a major event in human history, and this article offers a preliminary investigation into whether there might be structural features of language correlating with the distinction between languages spoken by hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. A number of feature values treated in the <i>World Atlas of Language Structures</i> suggest promising results, in particular in relation to constituent order, phonology, and lexical typology. Hunter-gatherer languages favor (or agriculturalist languages disfavor) absence of a dominant order of major sentence constituents, absence of adpositions, absence of a dominant constituent order of noun and genitive, presence of subject clitics on a variable host, presence of initial interrogatives; a small vowel inventory, no tone, no voicing opposition in plosives and fricatives; and the lexicalization Finger = Hand &#8800; Arm.

  • Affiliations: 1: Deutscher Sprachatlas, Philipps-Universit√§t MarburgMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and University of California, Santa Barbara



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