Chapter published in:Language Dispersal Beyond Farming
Edited by Martine Robbeets and Alexander Savelyev
[Not in series 215] 2017
► pp. 259–274
Expanding the methodology of lexical examination in the investigation of the intersection of early agriculture and language dispersal
Analysis of agricultural vocabulary remains one of the most compelling methodologies bearing on Renfrew’s Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis, by which the reconstructed lexicon for a proto-language of a well-dispersed language family is predicted to contain several agricultural items. Mostly, though, this methodology has involved noting the presence or absence of particular lexical items for a given proto-language and drawing inferences from that, or working out root derivations and drawing appropriate inferences. I propose here two new types of lexically based argument, by way of expanding the methodology of lexical examination and analysis, looking first at derivational processes involved in the creation of relevant words and the meaning that such processes add to the derivative, and then at religious rituals and mythology to examine the embedding of agricultural vocabulary into the religious practices and mythological tales associated with early Indo-European culture. Ultimately, then, I argue that it is not enough to just look at the meanings of particular words and to try to develop a sense of what they originally meant, nor is it enough to determine the source of the words (derivation, etymology). Rather, one also has to look at how the words were used, what is reconstructible about the use and form of the word, and what the cultural context was for the words. Only then can insights derived from lexical examination be used in developing a sense of prehistory.
Keywords: Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis, lexical analysis, derivation, etymology, Indo-European, religious ritual, mythology
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Published online: 21 December 2017
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