15 October 2009

The Vasco-Caucasian hypothesis

Although the idea of a genetical relationship between Basque and Caucasian languages was envisaged by 20th century linguists like Alfredo Trombetti, René Lafon and Karl Bouda, it wasn't properly formulated until circa 1970, when the Polish geographer Bogdan Zaborski grouped Basque, Caucasian languages and Burushaski into an Asianitic family. 

In the 90's, the American linguist John Bengtson proposed a Macro-Caucasian (also called Vasco-Caucasian) phylum comprising Basque, North Caucasian1 and Burushaski (see his seminal paper), and being part of a larger Dene-Caucasian (also called Sino-Caucasian) phylum comprising Sino-Tibetan, Yenisseian and Na-Dené, first posited by the Russian linguists Sergei Starostin and Sergei Nikolayev2. Unfortunately, Bengtson's work is full of methodological and factual errors. This is why I have created an independent line of research, whose guidelines I'm going to explain in this blog.

In my view, the Vasco-Caucasian family spread through Europe in the Neolithic à la Renfrew, leaving substrate loanwords in the IE languages which superseded it in the Bronze Age. And although this might be correct as regarding the whole picture, it needs some corrections at a smaller scale. For example, Etruscan (possibly a Vasco-Caucasian language) was brought to Italy by seafaring invaders from the Aegean (one of the Sea Peoples) who gave rise to the Iron Age Villanovian culture.
1 A hypothetical language family comprising NWC (Abkhaz-Adyghe) + Hatti and NEC (Nakh-Daghestanian) + Hurro-Urartian.
2 Who in 1994 published their North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary. In addition to the etymological on-line dictionaries of Dene-Caucasian branches (except Na-Dené) and Bengtson's "Proto-Basque" at Starostin's site, there's a sound correspondence table at Wikipedia.

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