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The Afroasiatic ''Urheimat'' is the hypothetical place where speakers of the
proto-Afroasiatic language Proto–Afroasiatic, sometimes referred to as Proto-Afrasian, is the reconstructed proto-language from which all modern Afroasiatic languages are descended. Though estimations vary widely, it is believed by scholars to have been spoken as a single ...
lived in a single linguistic community, or complex of communities, before this original language dispersed geographically and divided into separate distinct languages. This speech area is known as the ''
Urheimat In historical linguistics, the homeland or ''Urheimat'' (, from German ''ur-'' "original" and ''Heimat'', home) of a proto-language is the region in which it was spoken before splitting into different daughter languages. A proto-language is the r ...
'' ("original homeland" in
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language * Germanic peoples * Ger ...
).
Afroasiatic languages Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family of about 300 languages that are spoken predominantly in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and parts of the Sahel. W ...
are today distributed in parts of Africa and
Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the Greater Middle East. It includes Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Mesopotamia, the Levant region, the island of Cyprus, the Sinai Peninsula, and ...
. The contemporary Afroasiatic languages are spoken in the
Near East The Near East (Arabic: شرق أدنى, Hebrew: המזרח הקרוב, Aramaic: ܡܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, Persian: خاور نزدیک, Turkish: Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental region comprising Western A ...
,
North Africa North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in the west, to Egypt's Su ...
, the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜𐒈𐒏𐒖 𐒖𐒍𐒇𐒘𐒏𐒖, ti, ቀርኒ ኣፍሪቃ, q’ärnī afīrīqa, ar, القرن الأفريقي, al-qarn al ...

Horn of Africa
, and parts of the
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent. With an area of , it is the largest hot desert in the world and the third largest desert overall, smaller only than the deserts o ...
/
Sahel The Sahel (; ' , "coast, shore") is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic realm of transition in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian savanna to the south. Having a semi-arid climate, it stretches across the south-central latitude ...
. The various hypotheses for the Afroasiatic ''Urheimat'' are distributed throughout this territory; that is, it is generally assumed that proto-Afroasiatic was spoken in some region where Afroasiatic languages are still spoken today. However, there is argument as to which part of the contemporary Afroasiatic speech area corresponds with the original homeland.


Date of Afroasiatic

The earliest written evidence of an Afroasiatic language is an Egyptian language, Ancient Egyptian inscription dated c. 3400 BC (5,400 years ago). Symbols on Gerzeh culture, Gerzean pottery resembling Egyptian hieroglyphs#History and evolution, Egyptian hieroglyphs date back to c. 4000 BC, suggesting a still earlier possible date. This gives us a minimum date for the age of Afroasiatic. However, Ancient Egyptian is highly divergent from proto-Afroasiatic (Trombetti 1905: 1–2), and considerable time must have elapsed in between them. Estimates of the date at which the proto-Afroasiatic language was spoken vary widely. They fall within a range between approximately 7,500 BC (9,500 years ago) and approximately 16,000 BC (18,000 years ago). According to Igor M. Diakonoff (1988: 33n), proto-Afroasiatic was spoken circa, c. 10,000 BC. According to Christopher Ehret (2002: 35–36), proto-Afroasiatic was spoken c. 11,000 BC at the latest, and possibly as early as c. 16,000 BC. These dates are older than dates associated with most other protolanguages. Culturally this falls within the period of the Halfan culture which may have been proto-Afroasiatic.


Urheimat hypotheses


Levant theory

Supporters of a non-North or north East African origin for Afroasiatic are particularly common among those with a background in Semitic or Egyptological studies, or amongst archaeological proponents of the "farming/language dispersal hypothesis" according to which major language groups dispersed with early farming technology in the Neolithic. The leading linguistic proponent of this idea in recent times is Alexander Militarev. Arguments for and against this position depend upon the contested proposal that farming-related words can be reconstructed in Proto-Afroasiatic, with farming technology being widely thought to have spread from the Levant into
North Africa North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in the west, to Egypt's Su ...
and then the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜𐒈𐒏𐒖 𐒖𐒍𐒇𐒘𐒏𐒖, ti, ቀርኒ ኣፍሪቃ, q’ärnī afīrīqa, ar, القرن الأفريقي, al-qarn al ...

Horn of Africa
. Militarev, who linked proto-Afroasiatic to the Levantine Natufian culture, that preceded the spread of farming technology, believes the language family to be about 10,000 years old. He wrote (Militarev 2002, p. 135) that the "Proto-Afrasian language, on the verge of a split into daughter languages", meaning, in his scenario, into "Cushitic, Omotic, Egyptian, Semitic and Chadic-Berber", "should be roughly dated to the ninth millennium BC". But an Asiatic origin need not be associated exclusively with the migration of agricultural populations: according to linguists, words for dog (an Asian domesticate) reconstruct to Proto-Afroasiatic as well as words for bow and arrow, which according to some archaeologists spread rapidly across North Africa once they were introduced to North Africa from the Near East i.e. Ounan points.


Red Sea/Horn of Africa theory

The
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜𐒈𐒏𐒖 𐒖𐒍𐒇𐒘𐒏𐒖, ti, ቀርኒ ኣፍሪቃ, q’ärnī afīrīqa, ar, القرن الأفريقي, al-qarn al ...

Horn of Africa
, particularly the area of Ethiopia and Eritrea, has been proposed by some linguists as the origin of the language group because it includes the majority of the diversity of the Afroasiatic language family and has very diverse groups in close geographic proximity, sometimes considered a telltale sign for a linguistic geographic origin. Within this hypothesis there are competing variants.


Red Sea coast

Christopher Ehret has proposed the western Red Sea coast from Eritrea to southeastern Egypt. While Ehret disputes Militarev's proposal that Proto-Afroasiatic shows signs of a common farming lexicon, he suggests that early Afroasiatic languages were involved in the even earlier development of intensive food collection in the areas of Ethiopia and Sudan. In other words, he proposes an even older age for Afroasiatic than Militarev, at least 15,000 years old and possibly older, and believes farming lexicon can only be reconstructed for branches of Afroasiatic. But, it is argued, the appearance of linguistic terms such as dog, bow, and arrow in Proto-Afroasiatic makes a date earlier than 9,500 BC (coinciding with the end of the Younger Dryas) highly unlikely since dogs only appear at the earliest in the archaeological record after 12,000 BC in the Near East, and arrowheads only appear after 9,500 BC in North Africa and the Horn of Africa as a result of introduction from the Near East. However, microlithic arrowheads appear in southern Africa (71,000 BP) and possibly the Aterian culture (ca. 100-25,000 BP) suggesting that arrowheads ''may'' have been an invention originating in Africa and taken into the Near East by a pre-Afroasiatic late glacial migration. At the site of Nataruk in Turkana County, Kenya, obsidian bladelets found embedded in a skull and within the thoracic cavity of another skeleton dated to ca. 10,000 BP, may suggest the use of stone-tipped arrows as weapons. After the end of the last glacial period, use of the bow seems to have spread to every inhabited continent, including the New World, except for Australia. However, these finds predate by far any proposed date for the evolution of Afroasiatic. In the next phase, unlike many other authors Ehret proposed an initial split between northern, southern and Omotic. The northern group includes Semitic people, Semitic, Egyptians, Egyptian and Berber people, Berber (agreeing with others such as Diakonoff). He proposed that Chadic stems from Berber languages, Berber (some other authors group it with southern Afroasiatic languages such as Cushitic ones).


Ethiopia

Roger Blench has proposed Southwestern Ethiopia, in or around the Omo River (Ethiopia), Omo Valley. Compared to Militarev and Ehret he proposed a relatively young time-depth of approximately 7,500 years. Like Ehret he accepts that Omotic is Afroasiatic and sees the split of northern languages from Omotic as an important early development, but he did not group Egyptian or Chadic with any of these.


North Africa theory

Another proposal is that Semitic languages, Semitic is an offshoot of a northern family of Afroasiatic languages, including Berber languages, Berber, and possibly Egyptian language, Egyptian. It then entered the Levant and was possibly spread by what Juris Zarins calls the Syro-Arabian nomadic pastoralism complex, spreading south along the shores of the Red Sea and northeast around the edge of the "Fertile Crescent". It is thought that Semitic speakers then crossed from South Arabia back into Eritrea. In contrast, Bender proposed on linguistic grounds that Cushitic (found in the Horn of Africa) shares important innovations with Semitic languages, Semitic and Berber languages, Berber, and that these three split off early from the others, while still near an original homeland of all Afroasiatic.


Sahel/Sahara theory

Igor Diakonoff proposed the Eastern
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent. With an area of , it is the largest hot desert in the world and the third largest desert overall, smaller only than the deserts o ...
region, specifically the southern fringe of the
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent. With an area of , it is the largest hot desert in the world and the third largest desert overall, smaller only than the deserts o ...
. Lionel Bender (linguist), Lionel Bender proposed the area near Khartoum, Sudan, at the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile. The details of his theory are widely cited but controversial, as it involves the proposal that Semitic originated in Ethiopia and crossed to Asia directly from there over the Red Sea. This could also potentially solidify Bender's argument, in that scholars today believe that there is a relationship between the Cushitic branch and the Chadic Branch; arguing that perhaps Chadic descends from Cushitic.


Evidence from population genetics

The most commonly cited genetic marker in recent decades has been the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son along patrilineage, paternal lines in Genetic recombination, un-mixed form, and therefore gives a relatively clear definition of one human line of descent from common ancestors. There is a high frequency of haplogroup E1b1b in select Afro-Asiatic speakers. Several branches of humanity's Y-DNA family tree have been proposed as having an association with the spread of Afroasiatic languages. 1. Haplogroup E1b1b is thought to have originated in the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜𐒈𐒏𐒖 𐒖𐒍𐒇𐒘𐒏𐒖, ti, ቀርኒ ኣፍሪቃ, q’ärnī afīrīqa, ar, القرن الأفريقي, al-qarn al ...

Horn of Africa
and to have migrated out of Africa between 47,000 and 28,500 years ago. In general, Afroasiatic speaking populations have relatively high frequencies of this haplogroup, with the notable exception of Chadic speaking populations. Christopher Ehret and Shomarka Keita have suggested that the geography of the E1b1b lineage coincides with the distribution of Afroasiatic languages. 2. Haplogroup J1c3 (Y-DNA), previously known as "J1e", is actually a more common paternal lineage than E1b1b in most Semitic languages, Semitic speaking populations, but this is associated with Middle Eastern origins and has apparently been spread from there after the original dispersion of Afroasiatic. 3. Haplogroup R1b (Y-DNA)#R1b1a, Haplogroup R1b1a (R-V88), and specifically its sub-clade R-V69, has a very strong relationship with Chadic speaking populations, who unlike other Afroasiatic speakers have low frequencies of Haplogroup E1b1b. The majority of R-V88 was found in northern and central Africa, in Chadic-speaking populations. It is less common in neighbouring populations. The authors also found evidence of high concentration in Western Egypt and evidence that the closest related types of R1b are found in the Middle East in the Levant, and to a lesser extent southern Europe. They proposed that an Eastern Saharan languages, Saharan origin for Chadic R1b would agree with linguistic theories such as those of Christopher Ehret, that Chadic and Berber people, Berber form a related group within Afroasiatic, which originated in the area of the
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent. With an area of , it is the largest hot desert in the world and the third largest desert overall, smaller only than the deserts o ...
. R1b-V88 had probably entered Africa from
Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the Greater Middle East. It includes Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Mesopotamia, the Levant region, the island of Cyprus, the Sinai Peninsula, and ...
, via Egypt, and moved south along the Nile river and eventually crossing over to West Africa between 9,200 and 5,600 years ago. In contrast to the evidence from paternally inherited Y-DNA, a recent study has shown that a branch of mitochondrial haplogroup L3 links the maternal ancestry of Chadic-speakers from the Sahel with Cushitic-speakers from the
Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜𐒈𐒏𐒖 𐒖𐒍𐒇𐒘𐒏𐒖, ti, ቀርኒ ኣፍሪቃ, q’ärnī afīrīqa, ar, القرن الأفريقي, al-qarn al ...

Horn of Africa
. Other mitochondrial lineages that are associated with Afroasiatic include mitochondrial haplogroups haplogroup M1, M1 and haplogroup U6. Gonzalez et al. 2007 suggest that Afroasiatic speakers may have dispersed from the Horn of Africa carrying the subclades M1a and U6a1. According to an autosomal DNA study by Hodgson et al. (2014), the Afroasiatic languages were likely spread across Africa and the Near East by an ancestral population(s) carrying a newly identified non-African genetic component, which the researchers dub the "Ethio-Somali". This Ethio-Somali component is today most common among Afroasiatic-speaking populations in the Horn of Africa. It is most closely related to the Maghrebi non-African genetic component, and is believed to have diverged from all other non-African ancestries at least 23,000 years ago. On this basis, the researchers suggest that the original Ethio-Somali carrying population(s) probably arrived in the pre-agricultural period from the Near East, having crossed over into northeastern Africa via the Sinai peninsula. The population then likely split into two branches, with one group heading westward toward the Maghreb and the other moving south into the Horn. A related hypothesis that associates the origin of the ancestors of Afroasiatic speakers as the result of a reflux population from Southwest Asia during the Late Palaeolithic was previously put forward by Daniel McCall.


Nostratic hypothesis

The Nostratic languages, Nostratic language family is a proposed macrofamily grouping together a number of language families including Proto-Indo-European language, Indo-European, Uralic languages, Uralic, Altaic languages, Altaic, and even more controversially Afroasiatic. Following Pedersen, Illich-Svitych, and Dolgopolsky, most advocates of the theory have included Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic in Nostratic, though criticisms by Joseph Greenberg and others from the late 1980s onward suggested a reassessment of this position. Ilya Yabonovich and other linguists, in examining the differences between the various members of the Afroasiatic family have realised that all of the old etymologies for this group were inherently semitocentric. The differences between Chadic, Omotic, Cushitic and Semitic languages, Semitic, were wider than those seen between any members of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family and as wide as some of the differences seen within and between separate language families, for example, Indo-European languages, Indo-European and Altaic languages, Altaic. Certainly the exclusion of Afroasiatic from the controversial Nostratic family has simplified matters of phonemics, not having to include the complex patterns seen in Afroasiatic languages. Allan Bomhard (1994) retains Afroasiatic within Nostratic, despite his admission that Proto–Afroasiatic is very different from the other members of the proposed linguistic Nostratic superfamily. As a result, he suggests it was probably the first language to have split from the Nostratic linguistic superfamily. Recently, however, a consensus has been emerging among proponents of the Nostratic hypothesis. Greenberg in fact basically agreed with the Nostratic concept, though he stressed a deep internal division between its northern 'tier' (his Eurasiatic) and a southern 'tier' (principally Afroasiatic and Dravidian languages, Dravidian). The American Nostraticist Bomhard considers Eurasiatic a branch of Nostratic alongside other branches: Afroasiatic, Elamo-Dravidian, and Kartvelian languages, Kartvelian. Similarly, Georgiy Starostin (2002) arrives at a tripartite overall grouping: he considers Afroasiatic, Nostratic and Elamite language, Elamite to be roughly equidistant and more closely related to each other than to anything else. Sergei Starostin's school has now re-included Afroasiatic in a broadly defined Nostratic, while reserving the term Eurasiatic to designate the narrower subgrouping which comprises the rest of the macrofamily. Recent proposals thus differ mainly on the precise placement of Dravidian and Kartvelian.


See also

* African languages * Afroasiatic * Languages of Asia * Nostratic languages * Proto-Afroasiatic * Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses * Prehistory of the Middle East * Prehistory of North Africa


References


Bibliography

* Barnett, William and John Hoopes (editors). 1995. ''The Emergence of Pottery.'' Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. * Bender, Lionel et al. 2003. ''Selected Comparative-Historical Afro-Asiatic Studies in Memory of Igor M. Diakonoff.'' LINCOM. * Bomhard, Alan R. 1996. ''Indo-European and the Nostratic Hypothesis.'' Signum. * * * Dimmendaal, Gerrit, and Erhard Voeltz. 2007. "Africa". In Christopher Moseley, ed., ''Encyclopedia of the world's endangered languages''. * Ehret, Christopher. 1997
Abstract
of "The lessons of deep-time historical-comparative reconstruction in Afroasiatic: reflections on ''Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic: Vowels, Tone, Consonants, and Vocabulary'' (U.C. Press, 1995)", paper delivered at the Twenty-fifth Annual Meeting of the North American Conference on Afro-Asiatic Linguistics, held in Miami, Florida on March 21–23, 1997. * Finnegan, Ruth H. 1970. "Afro-Asiatic languages West Africa". ''Oral Literature in Africa'', pg 558. * Fleming, Harold C. 2006. ''Ongota: A Decisive Language in African Prehistory.'' Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. * * Greenberg, Joseph H. 1955. ''Studies in African Linguistic Classification.'' New Haven: Compass Publishing Company. (Photo-offset reprint of the ''SJA'' articles with minor corrections.) * Greenberg, Joseph H. 1963. ''The Languages of Africa''. Bloomington: Indiana University. (Heavily revised version of Greenberg 1955.) * Greenberg, Joseph H. 1966. ''The Languages of Africa'' (2nd ed. with additions and corrections). Bloomington: Indiana University. * Greenberg, Joseph H. 1981. "African linguistic classification." ''General History of Africa, Volume 1: Methodology and African Prehistory'', edited by Joseph Ki-Zerbo, 292–308. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. * Greenberg, Joseph H. 2000–2002. ''Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, Volume 1: Grammar, Volume 2: Lexicon.'' Stanford: Stanford University Press. * Hayward, R. J. 1995. "The challenge of Omotic: an inaugural lecture delivered on 17 February 1994". London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. * Heine, Bernd and Derek Nurse. 2000. ''African Languages'', Chapter 4. Cambridge University Press. * Hodge, Carleton T. (editor). 1971. ''Afroasiatic: A Survey.'' The Hague – Paris: Mouton. * Hodge, Carleton T. 1991. "Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic." In Sydney M. Lamb and E. Douglas Mitchell (editors), ''Sprung from Some Common Source: Investigations into the Prehistory of Languages'', Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 141–165. * Huehnergard, John. 2004. "Afro-Asiatic." In R.D. Woodard (editor), ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages'', Cambridge – New York, 2004, 138–159. * Militarev, Alexander. "Towards the genetic affiliation of Ongota, a nearly-extinct language of Ethiopia," 60 pp. In ''Orientalia et Classica: Papers of the Institute of Oriental and Classical Studies'', Issue 5. Moscow. (Forthcoming.) * Newman, Paul. 1980. ''The Classification of Chadic within Afroasiatic.'' Leiden: Universitaire Pers Leiden. * Ruhlen, Merritt. 1991. ''A Guide to the World's Languages.'' Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. * * Theil, R. 2006
Is Omotic Afro-Asiatic?
Proceedings from the David Dwyer retirement symposium, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 21 October 2006.


Further reading

*


External links


Map of Afro-Asiatic languages
from Roger Blench's website
Family tree of Afro-Asiatic
at Ethnologue.com

presented by Alexander Militarev at his talk "Genealogical classification of Afro-Asiatic languages according to the latest data" at the conference on the 70th anniversary of V.M. Illich-Svitych, Moscow, 2004
short annotations of the talks given there

A comparison of Orel-Stolbova's and Ehret's Afro-Asiatic reconstructions

NACAL
The North American Conference on Afroasiatic Linguistics. {{Language families Afroasiatic languages, * Origin hypotheses of ethnic groups Urheimat