Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

English language 'began in Turkey'

A map shows the distribution of words across Europe for 'mother' (Quentin Atkinson/PA)

English is descended from a language that emerged in Turkey 8,000 and 9,500 years ago, new research has suggested.

Scientists traced the origin of all Indo-European languages to Anatolia, an ancient region of western Asia which covers most of modern Turkey.

Indo-European languages span a wide linguistic spectrum including English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Persian, Hindi and ancient Greek.

All evolved from a common ancestor, scientists believe.

Experts think Indo-European languages spread out from the Middle East along with agriculture.

Scientists led by Remco Bouckaert, from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, traced the origins of Indo-European languages using a method borrowed from evolutionary biologists.

Instead of comparing DNA from different species, the researchers looked at "cognates" which are words with a common origin. One example is "mother", "mutter" (German) and "madre" (Spanish).

Such similar words could not plausibly have occurred by chance. By modelling the evolution of hundreds of such words through time, the researchers were able to pinpoint their birthplace in what is now modern Turkey.

The research is published in the journal Science.

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