Weed-smoking drug dealers rolling across Eurasia in a cannabis-induced haze?
Aggressive patriarchal Kurgan horsemen, sweeping aside the peaceful civilizations of Old Europe?
Or slow-moving but inexorable farmers from Anatolia?
These are just some of the many possibilities discussed in the scholarly literature.
But in 2012, a New York Times article announced that the problem had been solved, by a team of innovative biologists applying computational tools to language change.
In an article published in Science, they claimed to have found decisive support for the Anatolian hypothesis.
In their book, (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Asya Pereltsvaig and Martin Lewis make the case that this conclusion is premature, and based on unwarranted assumptions. Perhaps an intermediate stage *hr, from earlier *sr, is the reason why “rh” was generalized to every morpheme-initial r; but the fact is that both *sr- and *wr- ended up in Greek as “rh-“, and that loans with truly initial r also did.
In this interview, Asya and Martin talk to me about the history of the Indo-European homeland question, the problems they see in the Science article, and the form that a good theory of Indo-European origins needs to take. Morpheme-initially, *sr wasn’t allowed to become r in Greek. In short, we cannot distinguish *sr But we do need to check the hypothesis against other phonetic environments.
And we indeed find support for it in Gk hippos ‘horse’ (Lat equus), which I compare not just with Skrt asva but also with Skrt sapho- ‘hoof’ (Slav kopyto, with an ending just like in Gk hipotes).
Not only do we have Gk h ~ Satem *s again, but also centum kw p in Satem languages!
Not only does the 19th century belief in satem languages disappears under a 21 century methodological scrutiny, but so does the 19th century belief in kentum languages!
Instead, what we have is a positional conversion of velars into palatalovelars or into labiovelars on the PIE level (!