Talk:Afroasiatic languages

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Coptic prefixing verb conjugation[edit]

I believe Coptic should be removed from the table illustrating prefixing verb conjugations. Coptic's prefixes are proclitic pronouns, not inherited verbal inflections, and don't follow the pattern described. In Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs, James P. Allen only describes suffixing verb conjugations. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Criminy1 (talkcontribs) 03:48, 9 April 2019 (UTC)

Agree, and done. – Austronesier (talk) 15:50, 10 April 2019 (UTC)

Map of Urheimat[edit]

User:Wadaad has repeatedly removed the map illustrating one of the hypotheses for the Afroasiatic Urheimat, giving the following rationales in the edit summaries: "Removed misleading map, the Omo Valley was populated by Mota-like HGs of the E-M329 subclade not found elsewhere in Afro-Asiatic communities. Afro-Asiatic in the Horn has been suggested to come from a more northern population (Egypt, North Sudan, Red Sea see 10.1126/science.aaw6275", "Unlikely Urheimat, extremely erroneous map" and "It is extremely unlikely given the many latest genetic studies + moreover, there are many AA urheimat theories, it is not a settled matter, therefore this map is not encyclopedic." But it needs to be noted that a) this map is based on a reliable secondary source which is quoted in the map's metadata, and b) that Wadaad so far has given no better reason for this removal than that he thinks that the map is erroneous, misleading and unencyclopedic. Such statements, going against a reliable secondary source, amount to Wikipedia:Original research, particularly as the evidence brought against this map is Wadaad's personal opinion that bio-genetic evidence trumps linguistic evidence when it comes to the history of language families. I hereby declare that I have no strong opinion on whether Blench's Urheimat hypothesis is more likely to be true than other researchers' hypotheses, but on a topic such as African language history a hypothesis by Blench, one of the leading figures in the field, has as much weight as any other hypothesis, and there is no reason to remove material that is based on that hypothesis, as it does not violate any of Wikipedia's policies - it is certainly not unencyclopedic. The article of course would be better served by balancing the map with other maps illustrating the other hypotheses, but as long as these do not exist, the Urheimat map based on Blench will have to stand alone. With this understanding I will now re-insert the map into the article, and I call on Wadaad to not remove it without further discussing it here. To just state that he thinks that Blench must be wrong is not sufficient for removing this clearly sourced material. Landroving Linguist (talk) 21:19, 21 August 2019 (UTC)

@Landroving Linguist: I totally agree with you that the edit summaries by Wadaad are characterized by giving emphasis to a single POV, and bordering to OR when it comes to his opinion that "bio-genetic evidence trumps linguistic evidence" as you aptly summarize it. And the map is definitely not "unencyclopedic". Thanks for restoring the "stable version" and bringing this to the talk page.
Yet, I also have doubts about whether the map should be kept. If Wadaad had written in his edit summary "a single map gives too much emphasis on one out of two hypotheses (WP:NPOV)", we would have little to argue in defense of keeping the map, in spite of its crystal-clear legend "Map showing one of the proposed Afroasiatic Urheimat (Eastern Sahara theory.)". Maps are iconic and stick to the readers memory, so just having one map is imbalanced and indeed somehow misleading. So even though is is still a discussion and not a vote, I would suggest to delete the map unless it is complemented by another map illustrating the competing hypothesis. – Austronesier (talk) 05:33, 22 August 2019 (UTC)
Thanks for weighing in! Yes, I agree that the map should be balanced by maps illustrating other hypotheses, but as long as these maps are not created (and I'm not in the habit of creating maps) I believe that the inclusion of this map is defendable as a visual illustration of the concept of Afroasiatic Urheimat - by displaying one of the several hypotheses floating around in the academic discussion of the subject. As you say, the caption of the map makes it very clear that there are other ideas. Then again, if there is a consensus that the map should stay out, I will not resist it. Landroving Linguist (talk) 06:31, 22 August 2019 (UTC)
@Austronesier: & @Landroving Linguist: genetic evidence is important as it reveals more fine-grained information than linguistics can ever achieve. For example, recently the Indo-European Urheimat (linked the genetics section of that page) has been identified through the help of ancient DNA and modern population genetics (bolstering the Kurgan hypothesis (Ukraine) and dismissing the Anatolian one). So, I would not dismiss this claim so easily. About why I think this map is very misleading and extremely unlikely: Haplogroup E-M329 is prominent in Southwest Ethiopia where this map points to as the so-called urheimat of the Afrasian language family, yet this tens-of-thousands of year old paternal lineage (much older than Afro-Asiatic language family) is largely restricted to Southwest Ethiopia and not found anywhere else (excluding a handful of Peninsular Arabians who may have acquired it through the Arab slave trade). This clearly dismisses the claim that Southwest Ethiopia can be the urheimat, possibly even Ethiopia at large. Secondly, ancient DNA from Southwest Ethiopia reveals that populations existed there only 4,500 years ago that completely lacked Afrasian related autosomal components, such as the ancient sample from the Mota cave.[1] This strongly points to Southwest Ethiopia not being the Afrasian urheimat. Additionally, more recently an ancient genetics study that sampled likely ancient South Cushitic pastoralists from Kenya and North Tanzania showed that they carry Northeast African/Red Sea genetic markers and autosomal components.[2] The researchers from that study point to a northern population movement. Their paternal haplogroup E-V1515 originated along the Red Sea coast and spread southwards more recently long after the creation of the Afro-Asiatic language family.[3] Lastly, a population genetics study focused on the Horn of Africa shows an epipaleolithic back-migration from the Middle East to the Horn region affecting most of the Afro-Asiatic speaking populations there. The Ethio-Somali autosomal component in that study was found to be related to the Maghrebi autosomal component and the researchers suggested a population split somewhere in Egypt.[4] This all strongly points to a more northerly origin for the Afro-Asiatic language family (likely the Red Sea region - anywhere between Egypt and Eritrea). Wadaad (talk) 17:38, 23 August 2019 (UTC)


  1. ^ Manica, A.; Pinhasi, R.; Bhak, J.; Bradley, D. G.; Hofreiter, M.; Park, Y.; Higham, T.; Brock, F.; Stretton, S. (2015-11-13). "Ancient Ethiopian genome reveals extensive Eurasian admixture in Eastern Africa". Science. 350 (6262): 820–822. doi:10.1126/science.aad2879. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 26449472.
  2. ^ Reich, David; Manthi, Fredrick K.; Kennett, Douglas J.; Robertshaw, Peter; Nelson, Charles; Ndiema, Emmanuel K.; Mudenda, George S.; Mabulla, Audax Z. P.; Kwekason, Amandus (2019-07-05). "Ancient DNA reveals a multistep spread of the first herders into sub-Saharan Africa". Science. 365 (6448): eaaw6275. doi:10.1126/science.aaw6275. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 31147405.
  3. ^ Trombetta, Beniamino; D’Atanasio, Eugenia; Massaia, Andrea; Ippoliti, Marco; Coppa, Alfredo; Candilio, Francesca; Coia, Valentina; Russo, Gianluca; Dugoujon, Jean-Michel (2015-06-24). "Phylogeographic Refinement and Large Scale Genotyping of Human Y Chromosome Haplogroup E Provide New Insights into the Dispersal of Early Pastoralists in the African Continent". Genome Biology and Evolution. 7 (7): 1940–1950. doi:10.1093/gbe/evv118. ISSN 1759-6653. PMC 4524485. PMID 26108492.
  4. ^ Raaum, Ryan L.; Al-Meeri, Ali; Mulligan, Connie J.; Hodgson, Jason A. (2014-06-12). "Early Back-to-Africa Migration into the Horn of Africa". PLOS Genetics. 10 (6): e1004393. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004393. ISSN 1553-7404. PMC 4055572. PMID 24921250.CS1 maint: PMC format (link)
@Wadaad: This is not a forum. We could discuss at length about which method is the most adequate to learn about prehistorical population movements. Genes, languages, and material culture each spread in different ways; pots don't talk, genes don't talk, languages are not passed on by genetic inheritance, traded goods can move around for thousands of kilometers with little actual population movement involved. Input from each discipline needs to be considered to solve the puzzle.
But again, this is not a forum. You need not convince us about your POV, neither should I convince you to share mine. Out task here is not to prove which hypothesis or method is the best, most adequate, or whatever. Our task is to present the consensus view about a subject matter from the current state of research. And if there is no consensus, as in this case, we have to present a balanced overview of the currently existing proposals. No cherry-picking, no personal preferences. Even if your preferred POV happens to be the most plausible and most appropriate, wait for peer-consensus to settle the matter. And of course: no synthesis. E.g. articles A and B which do not explicitly address the Afroasiatic question do not belong here, even if they happen to discuss the same genetic signatures as articles C and D, which explicitly identify these genetic signatures with (Proto-)Afroasiatic speakers.
So only the question is: does this map adequately represent the variety of current Urheimat proposals? As I have said before, visually presented information has a strong impact on our readers, so a visual presentation has to be as neutral, inclusive, and balanced as possible. That said, I would welcome input from other editors, too. Maybe someone could even volunteer and draw the other maps; like Landroving Linguist, I have to admit that I am not good at creating maps either :) – Austronesier (talk) 19:57, 23 August 2019 (UTC)
@Austronesier: about the consensus issue, the problem is there are many competing AA urheimat theories and there is no clear consensus on the matter. Some support North Africa, others the Red Sea, others Ethiopia, and some even the Levant or the Middle East. I provided you genetic evidence why Southwest Ethiopia in particular can be pretty much ruled out. This map provides unduly emphasis on the Southwest Ethiopian hypothesis, which I find to be both misleading and not encyclopedic. When I get the time I might look into updating it using other sources like Christopher Ehret whose AA urheimat is more realistic. Wadaad (talk) 04:33, 24 August 2019 (UTC)
@Wadaad: It appears as if you are not getting Austronesier's main point. None of the four articles you quote come to the conclusions you present here; only article 4 talks about the Afroasiatic Urheimat and allows for it to be located in the Horn of Africa, among other places. So your judgment that "Southwest Ethiopia in particular can be ruled out" sounds like a strong statement, but it appears as if there is no academic source actually sharing your view in these strong terms. In other words, the evidence that you shared here, impressive as it sounds, amounts to original research, and that cannot guide us to change the content of wikipedia pages. There are countless pages on Wikipedia that I know to contain incorrect information, but since I don't have a reliable secondary source to back up my knowledge, I refrain from changing these pages, as all edits must only be guided by such sources. Again, I appreciate that in the end your conclusions may prove to be true (I really don't have a strong opinion about the Afroasiatic Urheimat). But if the HOA-hypothesis could really be so easily ruled out, then Blench would probably not have proposed it, or would have retracted it by now. In the same way, just as Ehret has many followers, there are other just as credible linguists who don't agree with his statements. As Austronesier says, the academic debate is still going on, and it is not for us Wikipedia editors to act as if this debate is already settled, or to even settle it in advance. Landroving Linguist (talk) 21:20, 24 August 2019 (UTC)

Shared Vocabulary Table[edit]

Many of the terms listed are marked as reconstructed (*) even when an example in a language is given. 2600:1700:7A20:5900:54AE:D452:5FF6:9E3E (talk) 00:05, 17 October 2019 (UTC)

Only apparently so. For example, when it says Agaw, it refers to a proto-language that is reconstructed from the documented knowledge of a number of currently spoken languages. So as far as I can see, the reconstruction stars are correctly assigned to these examples. Landroving Linguist (talk) 08:20, 17 October 2019 (UTC)

Missing info on what Afroasiatic languages have in common[edit]

To persons who have some familiarity with an Indo-European language such as English or Spanish, and an Afroasiatic language such as Arabic or Hebrew, there are some striking differences. I know more about Hebrew than Arabic, so for some of these points I don't mention Arabic due to lack of knowledge.

  • Hebrew and Arabic are written in abjads (or impure abjads), in contrast to most or all Indo-European languages that are written in "normal" alphabets.
  • Hebrew and Arabic have verbs with typically three root letters, in contrast to Indo-European languages, which have roots of arbitrary length.
  • Hebrew has binyanim, and Arabic has something analogous, which have mostly predictable meaning shifts such as intensification, passivity, causality, and reflexiveness; there is nothing analogous to binyanim in Indo-European languages.
  • Hebrew and Arabic have certain patterns by which verb roots often become nouns. Indo-European languages also have patterns for making verbs into nouns, but they work completely differently.
  • Hebrew has only a very small number of verb tenses (past, present, future, and imperative), in contrast to the much larger number of verb tenses of most Indo-European languages.
  • Hebrew and Arabic lack the present tense of the verb "to be".
  • Hebrew lacks a verb for "to have" and uses a workaround to express possession.
  • Hebrew lacks a word for "same" and coaxes the "et" indicator of a definite direct object to denote sameness.

The article should explain which of these and other patterns that are strongly different from Indo-European patterns are common to all Afroasiatic languages and which ones apply to only some branches. (The articles on the main branches of Afroasiatic languages should do the same.) For example, if all Afroasiatic languages have mostly 3-letter verb roots, the article should say so. Also, if any of these properties are found only in Afroasiatic languages and not in any other language groups, the article should say so. —Anomalocaris (talk) 02:34, 31 March 2020 (UTC)

Short answer: none of these points are common to all branches of Afroasiatic languages. They may be appropriate to the article on Semitic languages. Landroving Linguist (talk) 07:37, 31 March 2020 (UTC)
Agree with Landroving Linguist. I will comment hwoever that there is nothing "normal" about Indo-European alphabets. The Indo-European alphabets are derived from the Phoenician alphabet (or abjad) which was a Semitic language. In many Semitic systems vowels are usually not needed as they are easily inferred.--Bob not snob (talk) 06:47, 2 April 2020 (UTC)