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Hallo conlangers!

I wish to talk about a matter that currently does somersaults in my
head, and that are Paleo-European languages - languages that were spoken
in Europe before the spread of IE and Uralic.

More concretely, I am trying to nail down what the unit I call
"Razaric", the language of the "British Dwarves", should belong to - the
language spoken in Neolithic Britain.

The Neolithicization of Europe was mostly a "demic" affair - farmers
moved in, settled and gradually absorbed the local hunter-gatherer
populations. This means that they probably also brought in their
languages. The first Neolithic farmers of Europe moved into the Balkan
Peninsula from Anatolia around 7000 BC or so. From there, they followed
two routes: one along the Mediterranean coast, founding the Cardial and
related cultures; one up the Danube, founding along their way first the
Starčevo (from which later grew Vinča) and then the Central European
Linearbandkeramik (LBK) cultures.

Now to my conlang projects connected with all this. I have been fancying
that the LBK people spoke a language related to Kartvelian (I admit that
this is nothing but speculation, fueled by genetic similarities between
LBK and Georgians), but what did the Cardial people speak? This ties up
with the question of the origin of Basque, because the most parsimonious
idea is that Basque is a surviving Cardial language (genetics have shown
that they descend from Neolithic farmers rather than hunter-gatherers).
In such a scenario, Basque would probably be related to Iberian. But
there are other possibilities:

1. Basque is, as said above, the last surviving Cardial language. Plain
and simple. In this case, one would expect Iberian to be related, which
has not been demonstrated yet, though there is some evidence for that.

2. Basque is a language that came to the Iberian Peninsula as the
language of a tribe allied to the Proto-Indo-Europeans, kind of like the
mottled retinues of Attila and Genghis Khan. I consider this rather
unlikely: the Proto-Indo-Europeans were nothing like Huns or Mongols, so
those can't be used as a model.

3. Basque was the language of a surviving Mesolithic tribe in the
Pyrenees who turned from hunters to warriors (not really such a giant
leap), conquered the local farmers and imposed their language. Seems
plausible at first, but there is a problem with this, see below.

4. Basque and Iberian were brought in by immigrants from Northwestern
Africa, for which there appears to be genetic evidence. But the problem
laid out below applies to this, too.

And this is: There is some evidence of the Paleo-Sardinian language,
which we know only from ancient place names, was related to Basque and
Iberian, as there are similar name elements in both regions. Now the
Sardinians are considered the purest Cardial stock, so they probably
spoke a Cardial language. However, there is an objection. The very name
of the island is reminiscent of _Šrdŝ_, the name of one of the "Sea
Peoples" mentioned in Egyptian chronicles who probably originated in the
Aegean region. And as the controversy about the Old European hydronymy
(Krahe said it was IE; Vennemann says it was Vasconic; some others say
it's just the linguistic equivalent of ley lines, i.e. an illusion
falling out of the sheer number of data points) shows, onomastic
evidence is very much open to interpretation. We simply don't know the
original meanings of the names! On the other hand, the same thing that
happened to the Franks in Gaul or the Turkic Bulgars in the Balkan may
have happened to the _Šrdŝ_ as well: they conquered the land, gave it
their name, but adopted the language of their subjects and thereby lost
their own.

The bottom line is that the idea that Basque was a Cardial language
seems most likely.

This would also mean that Razaric ought to be related to Basque. The
British Isles apparently were Neolithicized from the south, so one would
expect a Cardial language there. But if the Cardial languages were
related to Basque, can then the LBK language have been related to
Kartvelian? Cardial and LBK, AFAIK, were genetically very similar, but
that does not entirely exclude the possibility that they still spoke
different languages. Perhaps the Anatolian farmers brought a
Para-Kartvelian language from Anatolia, but in the south of their new
homeland, a language ancestral to Basque prevailed, while in the north,
the Para-Kartvelian language dominated. Or should the LBK language also
be related to Basque?

Maybe Kartvelian is even the last residue of the language family of the
original Neolithic farmers in the Near East at the end of the last ice
age! But that is of course speculation. I have to admit at this point
that I am a Kartvelophile: those languages are just rocking cool. Yet, I
should rein in my Kartvelophilia and not overdo the Para-Kartvelian
thing. A model where the Neolithic Mediterranean spoke languages related
to Basque and the Neolithic north of the Alps spoke languages related to
Kartvelian is perhaps quite workable.

What do you think?

--
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