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Wayfarer
Monday, January 16th, 2006, 12:00 AM
By Frederik Kortlandt


The publication of Mallory’s book (1989) has rendered much of what I had to say in the present contribution superfluous. The author presents a carefully argued and very well written account of a balanced view on almost every aspect of the problem. Against this background, I shall limit myself to a few points which have not received sufficient attention in the discussion.

First of all, the relation between archaeology and linguistics is a precarious and asymmetrical one (cf. already Schmitt 1974). Mallory’s lucid discussion of the problem (1989: 164-168) should be required reading for anybody who ventures into this realm of shadows. It is a methodologically legitimate activity to look for archaeological traces of a linguistic group, but the converse does not hold.

Speculations about the linguistic affinity of a prehistoric culture are futile because it is reasonable to assume that the vast majority of prehistoric linguistic groups have vanished without leaving a trace. Thus, it is certainly attractive to assign the ancestors of the speakers of Proto-Tocharian to the Afanasievo culture (cf. Mallory 1989: 62 and 225), but we must never forget that the very existence of the Tocharian texts which have survived is a purely accidental fact of history, due to a number of factors which happened to concur thousands of years after the eastward migrations of the Indo-Europeans. It is not merely possible, but very probable that many groups of Indo-Europeans migrated eastward before the ancestors of the Indo-Iranians, and that the distinguishing feature of the Tocharians is merely the preservation of their historical records...


Source: http://www.kortlandt.nl/publications/art111e.pdf (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kort landt.nl%2Fpublications%2Fart111e.pdf)