<<< LAST       LANGUAGE IN UIRALA         NEXT >>>




In the last half century, analysis of the surviving indigenous languages of northwest Eurasia has read to a determination of how these languages are related to one another and the results arranged in a tree diagram (a dendrogram). It is all too easy to turn a tree diagram into a family tree, but languages do not always develop like a family tree. Still, the linguists of a century ago, decided they had discovered a family tree and interpreted their results in terms of a common ancestral people near the Ural Mountains that - in stages - subdivided and moved away and diverged. However archeology has never been able to support this interpretation, because the model does not apply to the behaviour of highly nomadic peoples in the north, who both never migrate and always migrate, who are both in one place and everywhere at once. Since linguistics is only able to analyze relationships between languages, and interpreting the actual event-history, is actually speculation outside of linguistics, it has always been possible to advance new ways of interpreting the actual event-history that are in greater agreement with archeological and genetic knowledge available today, and not a century ago.


    Chapter 2. ORIGIN AND EXPANSION of the boat peoples, presented the picture of reindeer peoples being compromised by a rapidly warming climate, and being forced to quickly adapt to hunting a variety animals in the lands being flooded by glacial meltwater. They had to develop permanent boats, dugout canoes, to not just hunt and fish aquatic animals but also to simply move from place to place in their seasonal rounds similar to the behaviour of the Algonquian boat peoples (birch-bark canoes) of Canada before European contact.
    What we described was completely unknown a century ago, when linguists interpreted their analysis of the indigenous languages of northwest Eurasia in terms of a sequence of migrations and linguistic divergences. The model they used had been invented in Europe for linguistic evolution events among settled peoples - peoples who were tied to farmlands and who often never travelled more than 50km from their farms even once in their lifetime. The boat peoples moved through the water systems perhaps travelling 1000km a year, moving through family territory perhaps stopping at 5 family campsites, arriving back at  the same place only a year later, which may be marked by the gathering of all the families at a common time and place, to live together and affirm the tribe.
    The traditional interpretation, assumed as is the case for settled people, an original parent language, located in a specific location of the size of a settlement area, and then when daughter groups break away, that these daughter groups migrate away and also form tight settlements. The steps are repeated.
    But obviously this model; does not apply to highly mobile people who  belong to tribes that occupy an entire water system, even if they actually meet as a tribe only a few weeks a year at a common location.
    The following presents the correct interpretation of the event-history that agrees with not just the linguistic findings, and archeological story, but also the new field of historical population genetics. We assume the reader has already followed Chapter 2, and earlier, and has a good sense of the story told by archeology.
    We assume the same region covered by the linguists a century ago, as it is still the best one, but instead of assuming a tight "Uralic" origin, and movements from a tight location to a tight location, we basically assume a broad original distribution of the boat peoples, and over the millenia, in situ (no migrations) dialectic fragmentation. Note that a 'dialect' means the original language has not diverged far. But when the dialectic divergence becomes very large, the dialect is hard to understand, and is therefore a 'related language'. So the subdivisions given below, and in the diagram represent significant dialectic divergence according to natural boundaries like the Ural Mountains or the borders of water systems that tend to confine its boat peoples.


    The diagram below shows the original situation, which assumed boat peoples arrived into the waters to the west of the Urals, before crossing the Urals into the Ob River. We assume that the Ob River basin was uninhabited, but contained reindeer peoples identifiable with today's Samoyeds, everywhere that reindeer were located. (Which means the Ob River was still empty of boat peoples.


   Now we have boat peoples crossing the Urals, and entering the Ob River system and settling there.


    We keep the REINDEER PEOPLE LANGUAGE there as in stage 2, because the Samoyedic languages, from the Nenets north of the Urals to the Ngasani of the Tamir Peninsula have survived to today, and show evidence of a history of interractions with the boat peoples.
    But it is at this point that over time, the boat peoples on the west side of the Urals subdivides naturally as the millenia pass, from boat peoples being contained by  the waters flowing into the Baltic (FINNIC), the waters flowing down the Volga (VOLGIC) and the waters flowing down the Kama River. (PERMIC); Although the Pechora flows northward linguists have connect Pechora basin language with the Kama. The linguists of a century ago called the languages on the west side plus the Ugric,  "Finno-Ugric" languages. In other words, the Finno-Ugric languages are identifiable with t he expansions of the boat peoples from the lands released from glaciers and flooded, except for one detail: there appears to have been an influence from the reindeer peoples westward. This influence is what created the peculiarities in the languages closer to the Urals and the Samoyeds that caused linguists to see a component from the reindeer peoples.

Figure 1
dialectic subdivision


   Because the linguists saw elements in the Samoyedic languages in the nearby Finno-Ugric languages, and vice versa, they had to determine some way to explain how it came about.
    Today we see how common it is for one language to adopt a word from another language. For example, European languages adopt English words from the world of popular culture in the media. It depends on what is significant. If both languages are of equal importance, the borrowing will go both ways.
    However, historical linguistic methodology as developed a century ago, cannot deal with intensive borrowing that can be called convergence. Convergence means speakers of both languages do not like the differences that are impediments to communication, and seek to reduce these impediments. If the two languages are already similar, such as for example Finnic dialect versus Volgic dialect, then the two sides will simply choose, in practice to use mostly the words already in common. (I gave elsewhere the example in Canada of the Ojibwa language and Cree language meeting at Sioux Lookout and the natural developing of a language known today as "Oji-Cree"  We can imagine a similar development today if Finns and Estonians form a single community - the result being "Finnstonian".
    But if the two languages are significantly different, as would be the case between the European-originating boat peoples and the Asian-originating reindeer people?
    We can imagine what we would do easily. Each side learns the most commonly used words of the other language, and then both their languages are peppered with words of the other language, but of course twisted to the characteristics of their own language.
    Over a long period such developments would become internalized and today's linguists would not be able to determine which word came from which. More significantly, in constructing a sequence of events, linguistics would not be able to tell, whether the similar words in both languages developed from DIVERGENCE FROM A COMMON PARENT, or CONVERGENCE FROM DIFFERENT PARENTS.
    Thus the new wiser approach that agrees with the story from archeology, is TWO origins - one in Europe, one in Asia. The two meet at the Ural Mountains originally around 11,000-10,000 years ago and for several centuries there is this contact in which both sides adopt the most commonly used words from the other language, and in effect create a hybrid language.
However, since the contacts would occur only between the boat peoples closest to the reindeer people, and that these boat peoples also have contacts westwards (such as Kama River boat peoples having regular contacts with Volga River boat peoples, and Volga River boat peoples having contact with the Finnic in waters draining to the Baltic) any hybrid language developed from contact, is then passed on in decreasing degrees westward.
    So what the linguist sees is elements of the reindeer people language in decreasing amounts from the Ob to Kama, Kama to Volga, Volga to Baltic. But because at the same time there is in situ dialectic divergence going on, it SEEMS like there are jumps in language that look like migrations might.
    In the above two origins approach,
1) There never existed any common parent for the boat people language and the reindeer people language - (unless it was found in central Europe in a common Ice Age reindeer hunter language)
2)  There never was any 'migrations'  except for the initial rapid expansion from south of the glaciers to the Urals which established the original language in all the water geography. Dialectic divergence occurred more or less concurrently. There was no sequence of events. Thus the Finns were at the Baltic 12,000 years ago, but of course the language changed over time as a result of the reindeer people influences, to the degree the influence travelled so far west.
3)  There was no divergence by migration. It was all in situ divergence from original dialects becoming extreme, and subdialects also becoming extreme, resulting in the modern groupings of languages (Finnic, Volgic, Permic, Ob-Ugric) which include languages as well as further sub-sub-dialects in each group.
4) What there was was simply a hybrid language developing at points of contact between the boat peoples and reindeer peoples probably beginning in the central Urals location where four rivers meet and high mountains are found suitable for reindeer herds.. This hybrid language has secondary diffusion into the Volgic and Finnic languages, in diminishing amounts.
    If this is true, linguistics has gone about their analysis the wrong way. They should first recognise that Finnic languages will be the purest boat people languages, and that Finno-Ugric languages closer to the Urals, will have more of the influences from the reindeer people languages, bearing in mind the reindeer people languages too will have been influenced by the boat people langauges.


    In recent years, the new field of population genetics, has identified in todays Samoyedic reindeer people, high frequencies of the  N-haplogroup carried by men. It is as high as 98% in the Tamyr Peninsula. Geneticists have determined its origin
in China in the late Ice Age - some 20,000 years ago or more.  They trace it shift northward, mostly up through the Central Siberian Plateau by which it can arrive both at the Tamyr Peninsula and the lands of the Yakuts to the east. But another route had a variant of the N-haplogroup moving north through the Urals, beginning at the lower end, about 12,000 years ago and arriving at the north end about 10,000 years ago. Then at some point, it migrated west along the arctic coast to northern Finland, were we can presume it was  originally mostly in the Saami reindeer peoples.
   Since the advancing of this interpretation (by Rootsi et al), population geneticist have learned how to identify the smallest mutations of the N-haplogroup. and go so far as to try to match these mutations with the century old linguistic theory - in spite of it not agreeing with archeology - depicting a series of migrations. The issue is that the N-haplogroups spilled out of the reindeer peoples, into the boat peoples, and is found in Finno-Ugric men generally, although in lower frequencies.
    If we went by populations genetics and the century-old linguistic model, then that would mean Finno-Ugric men were Asiatic peoples in origins, who intermarried with Europeans in more recent times. But who were the Europeans. Did they migrate into Finno-Ugric peoples in relatively recent history? Or are we looking at Asiatic peoples who simply switched from being reindeer people to boat people during the period of climate warming that put reindeer and their hunters in peril.
    The idea of Asiatic genetics entering the boat peoples, and mixing with European genetics already established by the expansion of boat peoples, is probably the answer, because the y-DNA N-haplogroup can easily descend from the Urals, join the way of life of the boat peoples, and diffuse not just their N-haplogroup but also their language into the boat peoples.  By this scenario, the diffusion of both their language and N-haplogroup through the world of the boat people, is more direct.
    Thus during the entire period when the N-haplogroup reindeer people were moving north through the Urals, trying to keep their reindeer herds alive in the heat, this reindeer-based way of life was in peril. Reaching the middle Urals by 11,000 years ago, a miracle happens. They meet some boat peoples who have arrived, and they have the perfect way of life all figured out! So those reindeer people most stressed, learn how to make boats and hunt in the marshes, and join the world of the boat peoples.  There will be some issues, though, regarding territory, but I think that was solved by the fact that the Pechora basin was not inhabited by any boat peoples, so the former reindeer people assumed a boat oriented way of life in the Pechora. On the positive side, because it was in the north, draining into the arctic ocean, it was also possible to continue their reindeer-oriented way of life too. Population genetics has found a moderately high frequency of the N1c1 haplogroup - the same one that migrated to northern Finland - in the Pechora water basin area.  Thus, reindeer people became part of the boat people in the Pechora, and then became involved in the fur trade, and travelled south to the junction of the Kama and Volga where there must have been fur trade markets.
    That leaves the reindeer people who reached northern Finland.  If the reindeer people were successful, there was still those on the southern frontier, who were attracted to the way of life of the boat peoples towards the south. Once again, these reindeer people joined the boat peoples, particularly as traders, and spread their N-hapologroup towards the south, in diminishing amounts except that there would be a higher concentration at the southeast Baltic, because there was a fur trade market there where Elblag is found today.
    Thus, the diffusion of language and male genetics was not a simple domino-effect, but also more directly as a result of INDIVIDUAL MIGRATIONS of N-haplogroup men with ancestors who were Asian reindeer people, into the various water systems. Settle down with a local wife, have a male child, and the haplogroup gets passed on into the world of the boat peoples.


    The whole story is actually very simple, if we realize just how attractive it was for reindeer people to adopt the boat-oriented way of life already perfected, and become one of them. The finding of a common language, then, did not have to occur in one place, but could occur at every location, especially in the fur trade. So it was not a matter of an hybrid language being transmitted, but of hybrid languages producing new variations of hybrid languages. Let us say the Perchora boat people of reindeer people origins originally used their reindeer people language. They travel south to meet with Kama boat people often, and so a Pechora-Kama hybrid language develops . Then the Pechora man travels down the Kama and meets with Volgic boat people. The Pechora-Kama hybrid language picks up some Volgic elements and vice versa.  Repeat for fur trade going up the Volga to the Finnic world.  It can certainly end up looking like what linguists found, all being an accumulation of steps of influences and not of any divergence, other than the continuing hidden in situ divergence going on in general.
    This approach, finally agrees with the findings of archeology, genetics, and linguistics in its pure sense (without trying to interpret it.)
    It is worth noting that even though the century old theory of there being a "Uralic" parent, that "Uralic" parent has remained ambiguous. The is nothing pointing to its ever existing other than that the linguistics needed it to utilize the tree dialgram approach. There is a very good explanation, then, why linguistics has failed to identify an ultimate "Uralic" parent at any tight location - it never existed.
    The whole story is about the meeting of boat peoples expanding east out of Europe. with Asian reindeer people at the Urals, with the former causing much of the latter to capitulate and join the boat peoples, during a time when tundra reindeer were threatened by rapidly warming climate, that was as warm as today by 12,000 years ago, and even warmer, millenia later.  Reindeer can survive in warmer temperatures, but in the wild, they need to eat lichens, plants only found in the tundra or high elevations of mountains.
    Today, reindeer are only found in the polar section of the Urals. North of it are the Samoyedic peoples known as the Nenets. I have always wondered if the Nenets are descendants of these reindeer people - those who managed to reach the north with reindeer and did not abandon their original way of life.


Since this webpage has been constantly updated - edited and changed - sources and references are acknowledged where possible in the text or beside the picture. If a statement is made or picture shown, without a source, that means the image is either fully original by the author (A.Paabo)or significantly modified artistically. One book that has special  signifiance to this project is: Eesti Esiajalugu, Jaanits et al, 1982, Tallinn. 

<<< LAST        LANGUAGES IN UIRALA         NEXT >>>

author: A.Paabo, Box 478, Apsley, Ont., Canada


2013 (c) A. Pääbo.