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Thread: E-M35 and Afro-Asiatic proto-language

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    E-M35 and Afro-Asiatic proto-language

    Approximate divergence of subclades of the E-M35 and the main branches of the Afro-Asiatic macro family:
    - Semitic E-PF1962
    - Cushitic E-V32
    - Egyptian E-V22
    - Berbero-Libyan E-L19
    - Omotic E-Y17750
    - Chadic E-V5933

    The separation is purely regional, some subclades are distributed outside one family. The ages of most subclades exceed 10 thousand years and it goes beyond the age of the Pre-Nostratic macro family.

    All this leads to two different thoughts:
    - Afro-Asiatic has an age of ~ 20 thousand years and its separation is associated with migrations oE-M35 subclades.
    - the carriers of the E-M35 subclades settled over the Northern Africa in the Paleolithic times, but Afro-Asiatic languages ​​were adopted by them not earlier than 5 thousand years ago from other assimilator peoples.

    Both theories have their own inconsistencies. Dispute is welcome.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Farroukh View Post
    - Afro-Asiatic has an age of ~ 20 thousand years
    This is highly unlikely, but I'd like to read what Aga has to say about it
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    Global25 PCA West Eurasia dataset Hidden Content
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    Proto-Afrasan dated as 8-10 Kya, too late for E-M35 subclades divergence. That is the question.
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    You can't make sense of Afroasiatic without removing outliers i.e. Chadic speakers and most Semitic speakers. Once this is done, all Afroasiatic speakers belong to E-M35, formed circa 35k BC, and are roughly split into Libyco-Semitic speakers (E-Z827) and Cushito-Egypto-Omotic speakers (E-L539), both formed circa 24k BC. Only one culture matches this timeline: the Dabban culture of Libya.

    The Dabban culture dates back to 38k BC and its industry also forms the "missing link" between the Iberomaurusian industry of Northwest Africa and the Halfan industry of Northeast Africa. It also includes Haua Fteah, an (the earliest) Iberomaurusian site dating back to 24k BC. PAA speakers may have originally lived in Libya and later split into Proto-Libyco-Semitic speakers who expanded westwards and Proto-Cushito-Egypto-Omotic speakers who expanded eastwards. Proto-Semitic speakers may have diverged from Proto-Libyc speakers and migrated eastwards into the Levant and created the Mushabian culture which shows affinities with North African backed bladelet industries.
    Last edited by Shamayim; 02-19-2019 at 03:21 PM.

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    Dear Shamayim,
    I can't be agree with you due to some linguistic reasons. PAA has some terms related to Neolithic reality, but we see no so old Neolithic cultures in our homeland Northern Africa. Also PAA has relations with Caucasian and other Eurasian languages, which is the evidence of it's early location in Eurasia.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shamayim View Post
    You can't make sense of Afroasiatic without removing outliers i.e. Chadic speakers and most Semitic speakers. Once this is done, all Afroasiatic speakers belong to E-M35, formed circa 35k BC, and are roughly split into Libyco-Semitic speakers (E-Z827) and Cushito-Egypto-Omotic speakers (E-L539), both formed circa 24k BC. Only one culture matches this timeline: the Dabban culture of Libya.

    The Dabban culture dates back to 38k BC and its industry also forms the "missing link" between the Iberomaurusian industry of Northwest Africa and the Halfan industry of Northeast Africa. It also includes Haua Fteah, an (the earliest) Iberomaurusian site dating back to 24k BC. PAA speakers may have originally lived in Libya and later split into Proto-Libyco-Semitic speakers who expanded westwards and Proto-Cushito-Egypto-Omotic speakers who expanded eastwards. Proto-Semitic speakers may have diverged from Proto-Libyc speakers and migrated eastwards into the Levant and created the Mushabian culture which shows affinities with North African backed bladelet industries.
    This scenario seems compelling for the formation and origin of M35 (or a spread from the Nile area). But I can't really find support for Haua Fteah having the earliest Iberomaursian site, these (known locally as Eastern Oranian) seem to be found later in Libya than in areas farther west. The first Iberomaurusian sites AFAIK are found in the western parts of the Maghreb.

    Then again, it is plausible that the ultimate roots of the Iberomaurusian, along with E-M35, are to be found in early Upper Paleolithic industries of eastern North Africa, which include but are not limited to the Dabban, e.g. the Upper Paleolithic industries of the Nile Valley.

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    I don't think there's much agreement on Afroasiatic's cultural vocabulary or external relationships - or time depth or internal branching or exact membership or much of anything else really. Still fun to speculate though.

    When trying to link linguistic history with population history (and cultural history), what we're looking for is sociolinguistic conditions that line up (Malcolm Ross has written about this regarding Austronesian languages). When a population expands over a large area, that may correlate with the formation of a language family. When daughter populations remain next to each other and in contact, that may correlate with the development of a dialect continuum (linkage), with innovations spreading unevenly across the area. When daughter populations become geographically separated, that may correlate with a language breaking into distinct branches with unique innovations. When you have admixture, that may correlate with language convergence, or with language shift. Problem is there are a lot of relevant sociolinguistic factors beyond genetic relatedness. Maybe with a combination of detailed archaeological and genetic and linguistic information this is doable, but even Indo-European history is far from certain, and it is much more solid in all those aspects than Afroasiatic is.

    Branching of a Y haplogroup need not, and usually does not, coincide with a population splitting up. Rapid growth, especially star-like, means something notable demographically.

    Quote Originally Posted by Farroukh
    Approximate divergence of subclades of the E-M35 and the main branches of the Afro-Asiatic macro family:
    - Semitic E-PF1962
    - Cushitic E-V32
    - Egyptian E-V22
    - Berbero-Libyan E-L19
    - Omotic E-Y17750
    - Chadic E-V5933
    That would make Chadic, Omotic, and Cushitic all much more closely related to each other than the rest. Why not Berber with E-V65, Chadic with E-V259, Cushitic with E-V1515, etc? (BTW is there any Semitic-specific E-V22?)

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    Even though I agree that E-M35 and its branches are bound to be tied to Afroasiatic since the earliest stages, there are many issues with the scenarios mentioned here. I'll try to be as concise as possible:

    • Temporally, the estimates are simply too great. The caveats are numerous. To make things short, I'd say the most reliable estimates place Common Afroasiatic unity between 13,000 and 14,000 years BP.

    • It is generally assumed that the comparative method is valid only for time depths of up to ~10,000 years. I'd say Afroasiatic strengthens this assumption, indeed its validity is almost entirely based on morphological grounds, very few elements of Proto-Afroasiatic vocabulary can be reconstructed (apart from terms relating to body parts, bodily fluids, death, life, birth and other basic concepts) which is exactly what you'd expect from a language spoken more than 10,000 years ago. That being said, if PAA was spoken 20,000 years ago, it's doubtful AA morphology would be as uniform as it is (in other words, we wouldn't be able to establish the validity of an AA macrofamily of languages).

    • More importantly, we know that PAA was spoken by foragers and early grain collectors. The earliest AA dispersals were due to groups of hunter-gatherers, not farmers.

    • In terms of structure, your initial post infers a clean split between all branches at roughly the same stage. In reality, there is a good deal of evidence pointing to the existence of several nodes, with Omotic being the most basal split, Cushitic, Semitic and Libyco-Berber forming a node and Chadic and Egyptian being the last to branch off (I'd argue these two also form a node). These nodes share common innovations.

    • The homeland remains an open question. That being said, and you're free to disregard my opinion, I see no evidence of a high-level relationship (let alone contact) between PAA and Caucasian/Sumerian/Eurasian languages. At least not beyond some typological elements, which are also found in Niger-Congo (more on that below). There is however some evidence of contact between AA and Niger-Congo, and this is mainly morphological in nature (so it could even be used to argue in favour of a genetic relationship). So I favour the African shores of the Red Sea as the most likely contender for the PAA homeland, and view the Nile valley as a corridor through which the earliest AA dispersals took place, an area largely congruent with the green area on this map:



      In my view, the potential archeological correlates would be the Qadan and Sebilian and probably even the Halfan cultures. The homeland debate is one of the areas where ancient genomics can provide very helpful hints. I could of course be completely wrong, Central Arabia might be the homeland for all I know, or even NW Africa. Personally, I think it makes little difference as Arabia and much of North Africa were essentially one ecozone 14,000 years ago, this should not be understood as a "Eurasia vs Africa" contest. Without Epipaleolithic data from NE Africa, I'll always get the impression we're missing something big.

    • I would argue that PAA had a complex noun class system that has left traces in several of the AA branches. This is similar both to Niger-Congo (Bantu in particular) and North Caucasian languages. The fossilised remnants of this system can probably prove useful in reconstructing PAA vocabulary, it would be in my view a good alternative to the comparative method. One of the markers seems to be the suffix -b which seems to denote dangerous animals (there are of course exceptions), compare for instance Proto-Semitic *ḏiʾb- "wolf" and Egyptian zꜣb "jackal". If we take sound changes into account, words such as PS *kalb- "dog" can be compared to Egyptian ṯzm "dog". There are other suffixes which fit the bill here (such as liquid consonants for non-threatening animals). This could explain the derivation of several triliteral roots from biliteral ones in several branches of PAA. There are, however, problems with this approach. The main problem as I see it is that the strongest evidence for this comes from Semitic, this is no mistake because this branch is both extremely well studied and happens to be phonologically-archaic in an AA context, another problem is that there is evidence of contact with a language that had noun classes in the early stages of Semitic (Pre-Proto-Semitic) and so this too is bound to have had an impact on the formation of triliteral roots.


    So where does this leave us? Well, first off I'd say the Proto-Afroasiatic speech community already carried several distinct branches of E-M35, and not just one. There's also the distinct possibility that early para-AA dialects spread out and reached Northwest Africa and SW Asia, I'm thinking about the Iberomaurusians and the Natufians here in particular. We could be looking at a very ancient occurrence of dialect levelling too. So while an association between, say, E-M81 + E-V65 and Libyco-Berber, or between E-V22 and Egyptian is fairly sound, some of the lineages might have had nothing to do with the initial spread of AA and merely adopted the language (to be sure, the language they would have spoken before would've been fairly similar). What is also clear is that this isn't going to be as simple as "E-M35 = AA". Some branches of Y-DNA haplogroup T (and possibly E1a) are likely to have been present during the early stages of AA. And for at least two of the branches, Semitic and Chadic, lineages other than E-M35 were present at proto-stage and had an important role in the spread of these branches.
    Last edited by Agamemnon; 02-19-2019 at 11:43 PM.
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    @Farroukh

    E-V1515 and some subtypes of E-V22 and E-V12 are also definitely Cushitic-associated.

    Just like Indo-Europeans had both R1b and R1a, different E-M35s types can exist in the same language family.

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    Sure, there is the mixture of subclades. I just noted basic prevailed directions.
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