Dravidian language family origins

19 April 2018
Remco Bouckaert, CCE Senior Research Fellow, Department of Computer Science
Remco Bouckaert, CCE Senior Research Fellow

Remco Bouckaert and his colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have worked out the origin of the Dravidian language family which consists of about 80 varieties spoken by 220 million people across South Asia.

This has contributed greatly to the understanding of the history of human dispersal into and within Eurasia. 

A list 100 basic words were carefully collected first hand from native speakers of a diverse sample of Dravidian languages, ensuring the correct context of each word/concept. These comparative concepts were then coded to cognates, words that have a common ancestral language.

Using BEAST 2 bayesian phylogenetic analyses, they estimated the age and subgrouping of the Dravidian language family at about 4,500 years old.

This estimate is consistent with majority of the different statistical models tested in the study and matches well with inferences from archaeology, as well as being in line with suggestions from previous liguistic studies. 

Their findings have been published in Royal Society Open Science journal.

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