In the beginning was the word -- yes, but where exactly? Last year, Quentin Atkinson, a cultural anthropologist at Auckland University in New Zealand, proposed that the cradle of language could be localized in the southwest of Africa. The report, which appeared in Science, was seized upon by the media and caused something of a sensation. Now however, LMU linguist Michael Cysouw has published a commentary in Science which argues that this neat “Out-of-Africa” hypothesis for the origin of language is not adequately supported by the data presented. The search for the site of origin of language remains very much alive.Cysouw argues that the methods that Atkinson used, borrowed from population genetics, are not directly applicable to linguistics research. He argues that language origins can only be traced back around 1o,ooo years.
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