Loans and Reconstruction

Our project began with a test of the idea that hunter-gatherer and agriculturalist languages show different rates of loans. Claims are contradictory here; on the one hand, work from social network structure suggests that hunter-gatherer languages might be more resistant to borrowing than agriculturalist languages; on the other, there are claims (particularly regional ones) that because of hunter-gatherer interaction with their neighbours, their languages show higher loan rates. We tested this claim in basic vocabulary with a sample of just over 120 languages. We found that results were highly dependent on local factors; moreover, loans in the hunter-gatherer languages in the sample were, on average, no higher than for other languages.

Does Lateral Transmission Obscure Inheritance in Hunter-Gatherer Languages? PLoS ONE 6(9): e25195. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025195

© grant personnel 2012