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Abstract

Abstract

(PLoS ONE 9:3, e91722) use computational phylogenetics to argue that linguistic data from the putative, but likely, Dene-Yeniseian macro-family are better compatible with a homeland in Beringia (i.e., northeastern Siberia plus northwestern Alaska) than with one in central Siberia or deeper Asia. I show that a more careful examination of the data invalidates this conclusion: in fact, linguistic data do not support Beringia as the homeland. In the course of showing this, I discuss, without requiring a deep mathematical background, a number of methodological issues concerning computational phylogenetic analyses of linguistic data and drawing inferences from them. The aim is to contribute to making computational phylogenetics less of a black box for historical linguists. I conclude with a brief overview of the current evidence bearing on the Dene-Yeniseian homeland from linguistics, archaeology, folklore studies and genetics, and suggest current best practice for linguistic phylogenetics, the use of which would have helped to avoid some of the problems in Sicoli and Holton’s Dene-Yeniseian study, and in turn the percolation of those problems into subsequent synthetic interdisciplinary research.

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/content/journals/10.1075/dia.17038.yan
2020-07-15
2020-08-07
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