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Book Review
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Review Of A Language Family Analysis From Farmers And Their Languages: The First Expansions (Book Review Sample)


Review of a language family analysis from
“Farmers and their languages: The first expansions”
In your last assignment, you were asked to give a summary of the Diamond and Bellwood article.
In this assignment, you are asked to give a review of one of the eleven language families they
discuss with respect to their general hypothesis. The distinction between a summary and a review
is that reviews are critical evaluations and, therefore, include well-supported commentary from the
reviewer as to whether or not a given argument is a good or bad one.
Your task: (1) Pick one of the eleven language families Diamond and Bellwood discuss in the
article. It will probably be easiest to pick one you already have some familiarity with, but this is
not required. (2) Summarize their basic claim as to how this family fits relates to their hypothesis.
The article can be pretty dense in places. So, a good summary might actually be considerably
longer than what you find in the article itself because you'll have to fill in some gaps in their
discussion—in particular you will probably need to discuss the distribution of some of the attested
languages in a given family. (3) Evaluate Diamond and Bellwood's claims. Do you think they have
the right explanation? Have they ignored some important facts? What explanation would you give
for the distribution of the family in question?
I encourage you, in evaluating Diamond and Bellwood's analyses, to use examples from other
language families to reinforce any claims you make for the language family you choose. For
example, if Diamond and Bellwood attribute some aspect of the spread of some family to language
shift, you may want to bring up an example of language shift from some other family that you
know about, if it has bearing on your general arguments.
This is the final assignment for the class (excepting the last exam). Therefore, it is designed to be
more challenging than some of the earlier assignments. The overarching goal here is to have you
evaluate claims about why the languages of the world are distributed the way they are.
You may feel free to do outside research for this paper, but this is not required. Information
from Guns, Germs, and Steel and class lectures will often be sufficient (except for those language
families we haven't covered yet). As always, make sure to properly cite any sources you use (if you
use your notes from lecture as a source for some specific information, please indicate this). Some
of the ideas in the article are also found in Guns, Germs, and Steel. So, if you want to reference
the book or the documentary, feel free to do so.
Given that you will need to summarize and expand aspects of Diamond and Bellwood's analyses
in order to do this assignment, as well as offer your own critique of them, I suspect a well-done
assignment will be around four pages in length.
Grades will be assessed on a 25 point total, and the following factors will be considered during
1. Clear summary of Diamond and Bellwood's account of the history of language family you
choose to discuss
2. Clear evaluation of Diamond and Bellwood's claims about the family, in particular with
respect to how well it supports their overall hypothesis
3. Insightful integration of information you have learned from lecture, Guns, Germs, and Steel,
or outside sources into your discussion


Review of a language family analysis from “farmers and their languages: the first expansions”
LIN 106: Homework 6

The Indo-European (IE) language family is one of the most studied one, yet there are disagreements on how the IE languages spread and the common source of these languages. Diamond and Bellwood highlighted two hypotheses that have been advanced to explain the Indo-European origin. The commonalities between the languages spoken in Europe and parts of the Near East indicate that there is likely a common source. The attested Indo-European territory spans from Europe to parts of Asia, and studies on the evolution of the IE language family would provide insights on how the languages are related. There are two explanations of the story of the Indo-European languages, where farmers from Anatolia and pastoralist herders from steppes are thought to have been the Proto- Indo-Europeans who migrated to different parts of Europe and Asia.
The first hypothesis focused on the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language speakers who supposedly were from the steppes, north of the Black Sea, they owned horses and invented the wheel, allowing them to expand to more territories from 4,000 B.C. (Diamond & Bellwood, 2003). However, critics of this explanation point out that horse riding became common later on, and there is no explanation how the steppes steppe influenced languages west of the steppes region, while the divergence among the languages is great that it could have occurred much earlier (Diamond & Bellwood, 2003). The second hypothesis focuses on the extinct Anatolian languages that were distinctive and one of the branches of the family tree, which are Proto-Indo European or Proto-Indo-Hittite (Diamond & Bellwood, 2003). The farmers are thought to have spread the language from the Fertile Crescent into Europe, Indus/Valley and the steppes in 7,000 to 6,000 B.C. However, the PIE lexicon focused more on domesticated animals and not crops and reconstructed PIE words associated with wheels and vehicles indicate there are late Indo-European origins (Diamond & Bellwood, 2003).
Focusing on archeology, the history of pastoralist and crop production as well as linguistic features provides clues on the spread of IE, but there are diverse theories explaining this that there is no agreement on which is the most plausible hypothesis. There are uneven distributions of the world languages, but the spread of agriculture can explain this disparity. Diamond and Bellwood argued that languages that spread were mostly spoken by farmers, and they even produced more food and their populations expanded compared to the hunter gatherers. Fa

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