Atkinson’s theory of language origins
In a number of earlier posts, I’ve discussed the recent work by Quentin D. Atkinson from the University of Auckland on the origin and spread of language. In an article published in Science, Atkinson shows that by applying mathematical methods used in genetics to linguistic data from 504 languages around the world, one can trace the origin of language to West Africa. His main observation is this: a language area uses fewer phonemes the farther that early humans had to travel from Africa to reach it.
You can read some of my objections to Atkinson’s work in these posts:
- Where was human language born?
- Where was human language born? — part 2
- Adding apples and oranges?
- Linguistic diversity and time
These and other objections are also discussed in some more detail in a Technical Comment response, co-authored with Rory van Tuyl and published today in Science. Dr. Atkinson’s reponse to our response can be found there as well.