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Talking Turkey

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Sep 30, 2012 | From the print edition

Language>> Research • New Zealand

imageIn a rare collaboration, linguists from New Zealand used methods deployed by virologists to study origins of epidemics, to validate a theory that traced the roots of Indo-European languages to Turkey. The theory suggests the languages originated in Turkey.

But an older theory suggesting an origin in Russia has held sway. To pin down which theory was most likely researchers used phylogenetic analyses, which works on the fact that like DNA, language is passed down generation to generation.

Although it changes, cognates describing the fundamentals of life—kinship, body parts and verbs—resist change. The researchers built a database of 207 cognate words. It contained 103 Indo-European languages, including 20 ancient tongues like Latin and Greek.

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