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Thread: The mixed genetic origin of the first farmers of Europe

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    Quote Originally Posted by JRD View Post
    We have no autosomal ancient DNA from the Sahara..
    That's true. Once the Sahara was green by the way. There may be much interesting information in human remains buried there so far not located and not tested, information about many different layers and even possibly the first modern human beings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmana View Post
    There's hardly a consensus on Omotic among linguists. They can't even decide whether it's a valid node within AA even when assuming that it should belong to AA.
    Agamemnon (our resident expert) says this is a fringe position, and I believe his appraisal.

    Quote Originally Posted by dmana View Post
    I mean, it's not more unlikely than a group of east african proto-AA migrating into west asia and getting completely absorbed by the local population, which i assume is the theory you support?
    Nope, I don't support any theory. I'm agnostic about what kind of people spoke Proto-AA. Ramses might very well be right, but like Keneki said in his excellent post, it's not a cut-and-dried case. I think a strong West Eurasian element is undoubtedly the case for the post-Omotic nodes of AA (Cushitic-Berber-Semitic, Chadic-Egyptian), but for Omotic and Proto-AA itself, I don't think anybody can claim to know for sure what happened there.
    Ελευθερία ή θάνατος.

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    Where is the East African admixture in non-Muslim Middle Easterners? Is there even any in Berbers? I must've missed something or are some people here just arguing for their usual agenda?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michalis Moriopoulos View Post
    Am I right to assume you think all the AEA (Dinka)-like ancestry in Omotics also came from the Cushitic gene flow? That would leave only the Mota-like component. So now you have an AA-speaking Mota-like people to explain. How exactly does that work with your theory that Proto-AAs were West Eurasian? Am I to assume you think an early Proto-AA group migrated into the Omo Valley and was totally absorbed by Mota-like people, leaving no trace of themselves autosomally?
    Just playing it out, there could be a specific, however very much thinned out trace left. An early AA expansion would have been unlikely, even if starting quite WEA, to have ended that way in the region, even less so after thousands of years. Not saying it was like that, but what speaks against such a scenario? If it wouldn't be about R1b in Chadic speakers, the argument there would be even weaker, but its a clear signal.

    Besides, I think there is hardly a way around Natufian or a descendant of it for PAA.
    Last edited by Riverman; 11-26-2020 at 09:28 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Riverman View Post
    Just playing it out, there could be a specific, however very much thinned out trace left. An early AA expansion would have been unlikely, even if starting quite WEA, to have ended that way in the region, even less so after thousands of years. Not saying it was like that, but what speaks against such a scenario?
    Indeed, but that's exactly the point I want to illustrate in order to underline my cautious approach here. We know these unlikely scenarios have happened in Africa before (e.g., the Hausa). And since AA is very old, it deserves even more consideration. So if it's possible for Omotic to have been brought to the Omo Valley by West Eurasian Proto-AA-bearers early on (certainly possible), we'd also have to acknowledge the reverse possibility that Proto-AA was originally spoken by an AEA forager population in Northeast Africa, but that admixture with Mota-like people in the Omo Valley and West Eurasian people in the Nile Valley diluted this ancestry to low/negligible percentages. If we can acknowledge one unlikely scenario, we can acknowledge the other.
    Ελευθερία ή θάνατος.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michalis Moriopoulos View Post
    Indeed, but that's exactly the point I want to illustrate in order to underline my cautious approach here. We know these unlikely scenarios have happened in Africa before (e.g., the Hausa). And since AA is very old, it deserves even more consideration. So if it's possible for Omotic to have been brought to the Omo Valley by West Eurasian Proto-AA-bearers early on (certainly possible), we'd also have to acknowledge the reverse possibility that Proto-AA was originally spoken by an AEA forager population in Northeast Africa, but that admixture with Mota-like people in the Omo Valley and West Eurasian people in the Nile Valley diluted this ancestry to low/negligible percentages. If we can acknowledge one unlikely scenario, we can acknowledge the other.
    Agreed on that part, but there is something which makes the proposed PAA spread more likely, which is technological and cultural leverage, among other things. There is a clear pathway from the Near East and the Nile Valley down, but there is none as obvious one, in the other direction. That doesn't there couldn't have been one, but it changes the probabilities drastically. Because every spread is usually associated with a push factor and an advantage of the newcomers. Its also about population dynamics: Which population outside of the Nile Valley, even further South and East, could have taken the central hub of early mankind, the Nile Valley, and move on from there into the Near East, in the proposed (by linguists) timeframe? With a leverage that big, that a small minority group could spread patrilineages, language and culture?

    I think Omotic people have sufficient traces of more WEA ancestry, more so than the other way around too. If we look at the Chadic speakers, you mentioned Haussa, they really played out their cultural advantages in the region. They wouldn't have made it otherwise. But its not like the Nile Valley and the Levante was behind around 12.000-9.000 BC, not at all. But of course, we don't even know for sure who inhabited the Nile Valley at this point in time, also distinguising Upper and Lower part. A lot of uncertainties indeed, but chances for the opposite direction are much better imho. Can't exclude anything though.

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    What are the estimates for the coalescence and dissemination of proto-Berbers, proto-Cushites, and proto-Chadics?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmana View Post
    There's hardly a consensus on Omotic among linguists.
    While I would personally say that some linguists' view of Omotic as not Afro-Asiatic is not necessarily "fringe" (again, my personal view), I would say the consensus on its Afro-Asiatic membership actually fares far better than the consensus on the membership of some conventional members of, for example, "Niger-Congo," such as Mande and Ijoid, which themselves had had their memberships brought into question. That's part of the reason why I put quotation marks on Niger-Congo. Anyway, bear in mind that, until a few months ago, I thought Omotic's Afro-Asiatic membership was rather unlikely.

    However, I was also being significantly influenced by very splitter-like literature, which itself was buttressed by the expressed opinions of the linguists I know, who, while believing that the Afro-Asiatic Urhemat was in Africa, doesn't believe that Omotic languages are Afro-Asiatic. That's all useful, particularly when looking at the context of Africa, which has seen too much lumping overall, but the virtues of splitting can be overstated; there are still limitations to being on that side of the spectrum.

    First, the assumption that existing similarities between neighboring languages that are otherwise very different almost must be the result of contact-induced change is problematic. To quote Agamemnon again, he gave the following example with respect to the extent of Cushitic influence, namely phonological, on Ethiosemitic languages:

    While there is an obvious Cushitic (and even Omotic) substratum in most Ethiosemitic languages, the nature of this substratum isn't by any means easy to identify, for example many have claimed that the ejective realisation of the emphatic phonemes in Ethiosemitic languages is due to Cushitic influence, we now know that this claim doesn't withstand scrutiny since the emphatics were originally realised as ejectives in Proto-Semitic (unlike modern-day Arabic emphatics which are pharyngealised) and that it is extremely likely that they were also realised as ejectives in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Classical Hebrew and so on and so forth. In turn, the presence of ejective phonemes in other branches of the AA family such as Cushitic and Chadic suggests that PAA had a set of ejective phonemes as well... This is just an example, but it still does a fine job highlighting how misconceptions can arise without systematic comparison and analysis, even today linguists abusively invoke contact-induced change as if it were the only valuable explanation available, I find this approach both misleading and irritating as it requires a considerable amount of intellectual laziness.
    This wasn't something I, or even the linguist I know, had considered when looking at Omotic languages, even though I was well aware that influences of one language onto another can often be significantly overstated even in relevant literature (e.g., the assertion that English and Swahili are "mixed" languages, or that Persian lacks grammatical gender now due to influence from Arabic (i.e., Arabic somehow "simplifying" the grammar of Persian)).

    Now, there are influences of Cushitic languages on Omotic languages, but there are also some significant influences of Omotic languages on neighboring Cushitic languages. Then, at least from what I've seen so far, this contact seems to be much later than one may think. Below is an example from Omotic Peoples and the Early History of Agriculture in Southern Ethiopia:


    A pattern of heavy general or intensive general borrowing--the defining feature of which is the presence of several loanwords belonging to the portions of the lexicon most resistant to borrowing--shows that a great deal of shifting of ethnic identities and extensive bilingualism accompanied the encounters of the intruding early Ometo with the Highland East Cushites during the first millennium BCE. The initial period of interactions began at the Proto-Highland Eastern Cushitic period, before 1000 BCE. At this stage a strong Omotic influence on the evolution of the Proto-Highland society is evident, some but not all of it coming from the society speaking the immediate ancestor form of Proto-Ometo. Despite this influence there is no indication of ensete cultivation spreading this early to the Highland Eastern Cushites. Ometo expansion in the first millennium CE into the middle of the Highland Last Cushitic lands near the Rift Valley greatly shifted the course of history. It brought about multidirectional mixing of peoples of the two cultural backgrounds. An intensive general word-borrowing set passed from early Highland Eastern Cushitic into Proto-Ometo. This period was followed by similar word borrowing in the opposite direction, separately from Ometo languages into the lexicons of both Proto-North Highland East Cushitic and ancestral Burji. During this period ensete became an established crop among highland East Cushitic speaking peoples.
    Likewise, Omotic languages have a broadly shared pronominal set that is clearly Afro-Asiatic-like even when allowing for language-internal pronominal innovations and possible borrowings from some non-Afro-Asiatic languages. One could readily say that some languages borrow pronouns and even pronominal affixes from other languages given intense contact. At the same time, some other independent phyla have conspicuously similar pronouns even while appearing very obviously different.

    So, to give some examples, Pirahã has borrowed its entire pronominal set from the Nheengatu language, the pronominal similarities amongst other similarities between Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Uralic still don't speak to a definitive shared ancestor, and some Aromanian dialects have borrowed pronominal affixes from neighboring Slavic languages.

    However, for Omotic languages, their proximity to Cushitic languages cannot comfortably explain the pronominal similarities. If looking at the age of even some Omotic subgroups (e.g., North Omotic/ Ta-Ne), the age of common unity precedes the presence of Cushitic in Ethiopia. The pronominal set of Omotic languages is still somewhat distinct from the pronominal sets of other conventional Afro-Asiatic branches, but it's clearly far more Afro-Asiatic-like than un-Afro-Asiatic-like. I recognized this even while thinking that Omotic's Afro-Asiatic membership was unlikely.

    Additionally, while relying on pronominal similarities would not be enough to establish a link with Afro-Asiatic, one would have to consider that Omotic languages still share features with other Afro-Asiatic branches beyond this. For example, there is the widespread use of sibilant causatives just like most other Afro-Asiatic branches, a genitive connector with /n/ in some Omotic languages (also seen in Chadic, Egyptian, and Berber), and some noticeable similarities in case-marking systems between Omotic and Afro-Asiatic at large that don't appear to be [entirely] attributable to Cushitic influence even if assuming that there has been some influence).

    Then, for Omotic languages, they appear to show at least some meaningful cognates for words in other Afro-Asiatic branches that are not shared with Cushitic at all. While the cognates are fewer in number, one shouldn't assume that all the lexical similarities have to be due to contact. That's important to consider when taking into account that Omotic languages, as varied as they are, show words that point to wild grain collection with many of them having broader Afro-Asiatic cognates. That's even more important to consider when taking into account that their agricultural vocabulary isn't shared with other Afro-Asiatic branches or even between some of the Omotic subgroups.

    Now, one should consider that there can be false cognates even in basic vocabulary or borrowing, and that the establishment of clear sound correspondences doesn't seem to have been satisfactorily done for Omotic vis-à-vis other Afro-Asiatic branches. But then, there are still ways of lessening the likelihood of the aforementioned. Again, for example, if the Omotic similarities are down to contact with Cushitic, then why would words tied to wild grass collection have cognates across Afro-Asiatic if the agricultural words don't have a relationship with other Afro-Asiatic branches? Likewise, why should one assume that the significant amount of shared words for wild grass collection are down to borrowing if words for wild grass collection don't appear to have cognates outside the Afro-Asiatic-speaking domain? Likewise, if one assumes that the shared grass collection words are due to borrowing, then that suspicion would need to be extended to other Afro-Asiatic branches, which is not the conventional approach.

    Another thing to consider is that some isoglosses between Afro-Asiatic subgroups, which are also lacking in Omotic, seem to be overstated, which can give others a problematic understanding of diagnostic information. For instance, the feminine marker /t/ is routinely considered to be the Afro-Asiatic feminine marker. However, it seems that it's ostensible that it was the original feminine marker. That marker is seen throughout Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian, Berber, and Cushitic, but then another, now considered largely defunct, feminine marker was *-H̥ ~ *-i̥ or *-Vi.

    While I haven't been able to find sources that state this marker exists in Omotic languages yet, I've so far been able to identify this particular older feminine marker alongside the current feminine marker /t/ in Berber and Semitic, and with one at least one source stating that this exists in Egyptian/Coptic, albeit without clearly demonstrating it. If that is indeed the case, then that is similarly important to consider, especially since Egyptian is not closely related to either Berber or Semitic. This may exist in other Afro-Asiatic branches as well, but I haven't been able to identify sources that state that. Now, for the /t/ feminine marker, many linguists strongly posit that it was originally an inactive nominal class marker, which eventually gained the semantic association of the feminine and supplanted the original feminine marker.

    Anyway, the main point of my mentioning that information is that one may not be looking at the right features as truly diagnostic or at least very strongly suggestive of Afro-Asiatic membership, which, again, Agamemnon has brought up. Of course, that's not without its potential problems. One can’t necessarily work off the assumption that Omotic has somehow preserved a feature of Proto-Afro-Asiatic that other branches haven't. But ultimately, what proof does one have that Omotic couldn't have preserved some features that other conventional Afro-Asiatic branches haven't? It's always worth a shot, even if that action doesn't yield positive results.

    They can't even decide whether it's a valid node within AA even when assuming that it should belong to AA.
    From the information on Omotic and Cushitic languages I have so far, I simply can't see how one could comfortably think in this day and age that, for example, Omotic or even part of it could be classified under Cushitic, which is what it used to be grouped under as a constituent decades ago. The distinctiveness of Omotic relative to all other Afro-Asiatic branches, even with my somewhat limited information on Omotic languages, is very clear. Their grammatical repertoires are very different. Omotic, for example, lacks both prefix and suffix conjugations (the latter surprises me more) and even lacks grammatical gender (natural gender with verbal agreement, however, exists).

    Now, I haven't amassed a comprehensive list of features that make its Afro-Asiatic membership unquestionable, I still haven't had the chance to look at extensive information on South Omotic languages, which, from what I've seen, are generally even less clearly Afro-Asiatic, and, in general, I feel like I need just a tiny bit more information to be unquestionably convinced of Omotic's Afro-Asiatic membership in the same way that others are (information on Omotic or its relationship to Afro-Asiatic isn't the easiest to find), but in the last few months, I've found information that easily makes Omotic's Afro-Asiatic membership too promising to simply denounce as down to borrowing or one being too accustomed to lumping.
    Last edited by Keneki20; 11-26-2020 at 10:11 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helves View Post
    Where is the East African admixture in non-Muslim Middle Easterners? Is there even any in Berbers? I must've missed something or are some people here just arguing for their usual agenda?
    What is "East African" admixture? Mota-like hunter-gatherers? And what agenda?

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    From what I've been privy to, AEA (varyingly an acronym for "Ancestral East African" or "Ancient East African") is pretty much what constitutes the ancestry of, for example, the Dinka, when not paying attention to the significant minority of their West-African-related ancestry (~20% IIRC) or other minor ancestries in Dinkas.

    Since this hypothetical East African composite ancestry is generally localized to and widespread within East Africa and is seen in, for example, Nilotic, Surmic, Northern East Sudanic, and Cushitic populations at large amongst other populations, it is thus referred to as AEA and is treated like ANA or ANE are, even though this ancestral component seems to not be so well understood or recognized in relevant genetic studies. Although, who knows. Maybe it has been recognized and I just haven't seen the studies yet.

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