In the last post I made, I gave some of my thoughts on Quentin Atkinson’s Science paper earlier this year, where he demonstrates that evidence of human migration patterns is still available in the world’s languages if you squint right. His mechanism works on something called the founder effect, which, in terms of evolutionary genetics, provides that new, small offshoot populations will exhibit less genetic diversity than large populations. He assumes the same thing applies to language, and I disagreed. Instead I argued that mechanisms of language contact (which have been observed reducing phoneme counts) would better account for his results, with some possibility that Homo sapiens may have had simplifying linguistic contact with other hominids.
Wellll… it turns out I might have been wrong on both counts. Continue reading “I was wrong”