Archive for January, 2011

Next Seminar: “Linguistics and Archaeology”

This TASA session aims at examining recent approaches on the interdisciplinary studies which combine linguistics and archaeology. Admittedly, the collaboration between these two very diverse fields has not always been fruitful in the past. In the last century, and to a certain extent even today, family tree models of historical linguistics have often been inaccurately applied to archaeological “cultures”. These linguistic models have been often utilized to associate a certain population group with a certain language family, in order to explain cultural changes in the archaeological record caused by an invading culture, which also brought a new language. This out-dated culture historical approach presumed a direct connection between material culture, language, and ethnicity; anachronistically using modern concepts to analyse the past.

In the last decades, however, both disciplines have changed considerably. Today both linguists and archaeologists agree that i) there is no necessary connection between archaeological “cultures” and languages; ii) population replacement is only one of the possible causes of cultural change; iii) population replacement is only one of the possible causes of language dispersal. In both disciplines, many different models have been proposed to explain cultural change or language dispersal, e.g. peer polity interaction, acculturation, conspicuous consumption; language shift through exchange networks, extensive bilingualism, Sprachbund, influence of prestige languages, etc…

Since there is no necessary correlation between the subjects of these two disciplines, i.e. languages and material culture, is it still possible to have productive collaboration between linguists and archaeologists? The short answer seems to be “yes, but carefully”. For the long answer, you are kindly invited to the next TASA session, which will be chaired by Mr. Hüseyin Çınar Öztürk (University of Cincinnati).

Questions for discussion will include:

• Can modern language dispersal models be applied to archaeological cultures?
• Can universally acknowledged pre/proto-historic migrations be challenged by linguistic analysis? (see Parker 2008)
• Can linguistic characteristics of a language tell us about the social mechanisms or subsistence systems of the society that spoke it? If so, how can we make use of that information as archaeologists?

Seminar will take place at 7pm on Monday 17th January 2011 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (IIHSA) at 51a Odos Notara.

Numbers are limited, please RSVP by email ( to book a place and request the reading