The international team, led by Quentin Atkinson, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, used computational methods analyzing words from more than 100 ancient and contemporary languages, as well as geographical and historical data. By doing so, the scientists say they have pinned down the origin, about 8,000 years ago, of the largest global language to the region of Anatolia.
“Archeologists and linguists have had different favorite theories on the language origins,” said Dunn, a co-author of the recent paper. “But now, new research like ours provides linguistic support for the Anatolian hypothesis.”
The present study builds upon previous work from Atkinson that came to similar conclusions in 2003. It did not, however, include geographical data, as the new study does.
The study is the first to use the novel methods on the Indo-European languages, a family of more than 400 tongues including English, Persian and Hindi. The languages are spoken on every continent by a total of 3 billion people.
“This paper provides strong statistical evidence that unequivocally supports the Anatolian hypothesis,” said Andrew Kitchen, a postdoctoral scholar at Pennsylvania State University, who uses similar research methods.
Yet Dunn does not expect the controversy to be settled, as supporters of the Steppe hypothesis continue collecting evidence strengthening their line of thought. “These things take a lot of time in science, but in the long run, I would bet on our theory,” Dunn said. “You just can’t explain away the data.”