March 20, 2012

Synthesis of Roslyn Frank's conference Bergara 2011

Peripheral Europeans are high in blood type O, low in B and A
I just got notice that the Power Point presentation of the conference by Dr. Roslyn M. Frank (Iowa University) in Bergara (Gipuzkoa, Basque Country) last year is available for download at her page (you need an account, which is free and easy to make).

The document is in Basque and Spanish but she makes a nice synthesis in English at her page:
The talk is an overview of the data, genetic, archaeological and linguistic, which support the Paleolithic Continuity Refuguim Theory (PCRT) of European prehistory. More specifically, based on the findings of genetics (studies of Y-chromosome and mtDNA), the following hypothesis has been brought forward for testing. It argues that during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the hunter-gatherers of Europe retreated to the south of Europe, settling into three refugia, one in the Balkans, one in the Ukraine and a third in the Franco-Cantabrian zone, a geographic location where the Basque people and their language have survived.

According to the results of various teams of geneticists, at the end of the LGM along with the warming of the climate that ensued, the hunter-gatherers inhabiting this refuge slowly moved north and westward to take advantage of the food resources in the newly opened territories. Studies of Basque DNA (paternally transmitted Y-chromosome and maternally transmitted mtDNA) have shown significant similarities between Basques and populations inhabiting present and former Celtic-speaking zones along the Atlantic Façade. Furthermore, various haplogroups found among the Basques show up in other populations of European descent, leading the geneticists to argue that this situation might best be explained by positing out-migration from this zone over a period of several thousands of years, starting at the end of the LGM.

Moreover, it follows that members of Basque-speaking population of this zone might well trace their descent from the same populations that began to move out of this geographical region as the ice sheets retreated. 
Frequencies of the d allele of Rh-, a typical European marker
In 2006, a multidisciplinary team of researchers –composed of geographers, archaeologists and geneticists, namely, Dr. William Davies, Dr. Paul Pettitt, Dr. Lee Hazelwood and Dr. Martin Richards coordinated by Dr. Clive Gamble– described the situation this way:
“A major population expansion occurred in Western Europe during the Late Glacial (15-11.5ka CAL PB) as the OIS2 ice sheets retreated and unglaciated areas in the north became available for re-settlement. Phlylogeographic analysis using molecular evidence assigns 60% of the European mitochondrial DNA lineages (Richards et al. 2000), and an even higher proportion of West European Y-chromosome lineages (Semino et al. 2000), to a population bottleneck prior to an expansion from southwest to northern Europe (Torroni et al. 1998; Torroni et al. 2001; Achilli et al. 2004; Rootsi et al. 2004; Pereira et al. 2005)” (Gamble et al. 2006: 1-2).

The key question posed by the research concerns the language that was being spoken by the hunter-gatherer populations when they moved out of this refuge. Gamble et al. was the first team of researchers to pose this question explicitly:

“The growing evidence that the major signal in European genetic lineages predates the Neolithic, however, creates serious problems for the agriculturalist perspective. If western Europe was, to a large extent, repopulated from northeast Iberia [Franco-Cantabrian zone] then, since place-name evidence suggests that people in this source region spoke languages related to Basque before the advent of Indo-European, the obvious corollary would seem to be that the expanding human groups should have been Basque speakers” (Gamble et al. 2005: 209).

The presentation lays out the methodology has been developed to test the validity of the corollary that Gamble et al. set forth in 2005. The latter section of the .pdf discusses the methodology and applies it to a concrete data set. The approach is a comparative one. It takes morpho-syntactic elements classified as Proto-Indo-European and compares them to what appear to be their counterparts in Euskara. Tests are then applied to determine the nature of the lineage of the two sets of morphemes in question. The PIE elements are ones recognized as common across IE languages and, therefore, as constituting the most archaic strata of these languages. However, until now IE research model has not sought to explain the origin of the elements themselves.

Keeping in mind the results of the genetic studies cited above, the Basque language becomes a possible candidate for additional comparative work. Moreover, by focusing on reconstructing morphemic lineages, not languages, the PCRT approach to the data allows for a more fine-grained analysis of the linguistic evidence. 
Besides, the presentation also mentions the constitution of a PCRT academic working group composed by some 18 people, mostly academic specialists. By country:
  • Basque Country: Dr. M. Martínez de Pancorbo, Dr. S. Cardoso, Dr. J. Mejuto, Dr. J.M. Elexpuru, Dr. K. Van Den Driessche, Dr. J. Artiñano, Jon Maia, Fredi Paia and X. Agote.
  • Portugal: Dr. L. Pereira and Dr. F. Silva
  • Britain: Dr. C. Gamble and Dr. C. Ruggles
  • Belgium: Dr. N. Gontier, Dr. M. Germanpré
  • Australia: Dr. Andrew Smith, Dr. Joanne Paddick
  • USA: Dr. Roslyn M. Frank
But honestly, while I do agree with most of what she says and I find the constitution of the PCRT working group most interesting, I also thought it was a nice occasion to copy-paste some of those old maps of the proto-genetics era of blood groups that adorn this entry as well as the original document. They are still relevant, mind you.


  1. Maju,

    Is it worthwhile to download this file for the Basque-PIE comparison?

    I wonder why they mention only three refugia - omitting Italy/Adriatic and Moravia/West Carpathian. The former may not have contributed much to northern resettlement, but the latter surely would have.

  2. Basically she discuss briefly and not too clearly about the suffix -(s)ko/-go. I did not understand well, specially because all the examples used were in Spanish, so I asked her and she sent me a longer explanation. It's private correspondence but I can synthesize and quote a couple of sentences, I guess:

    "Hence, in the case of the morpheme –ko, all IE linguists agree that it needs to be classed as PIE for it is found in all IE languages except perhaps Hittite".

    That was my greatest doubt because her Spanish examples were confusing me (they could be areal influences only in SW Europe, right?)

    Later she explains that -sko is also consensually admitted as a variant of -ko. Her whole point in the presentation is that both -ko and -sko can be best explained as Basque influence into PIE (but how?!)

    In any case she cites Antonio Tovar (a major mid-20th century Spanish linguist):

    “[L]a comparación del sufijo indoeuropeo con el vasco -ko es muy reveladora: se trata en esta lengua en primer lugar de una postposición de genitivo, y más precisamente de genitivo atributivo…”

    ("The comparison of Indoeuropean suffix with Basque -ko is very revealing: it is firstly in this language a genitive postposition and more specifically an attributive genitive one"...)

    In other words: -ko means from, natural of: Bilboko = from Bilbao (natural of Bilbao), etxeko = from home (residents, usually relatives or assimilated, also that what is produced at home like "etxeko patxarana": the patxaran from home). This can be easily transposed in IE as adjective: Pacific (pertaining to peace < pace), cryptic (encrypted), archaic (pertaining to arkhe: the essence), etc.

    However I'd like a more extensive exposition of this matter with examples in many languages, which I have no doubt they do exist.

    She then argues that the variant -sko is even more easily identified in Basque, where it's used as (-(e)z-ko) to mean made of: plastiko (plastic) > plastikozko (made of plastic), burdin (iron) > burdinezko (made of iron). This -ko suffix is the same as before but as such, in Basque can't be used but with localities, places, so to use it with materials, you need a more complex diction, in this case using the other declension or suffix -(e)z, which means "of which material". It exists alone but it's almost always used with -ko when indicating some specific constitution.

    Hence it's natural that -(z)ko is used as result to imply adjectivization of nouns.

    Anyhow, it took me just 5 seconds to download it.

    I'm more fond of the -ari > -er transformation (Basque > West IE, not sure in the East), which is very transparent to my eyes, but that one is not discussed.

  3. "I wonder why they mention only three refugia"...

    That's surely a misinterpretation. The Balcans are not demonstrated to have acted as refugia at all, as far as I can tell. The Moravian refuge is not well known however and Italy most likely did not play a role in recolonization, separated as it was from the mainland by a huge mountain massif, then thickly covered in ice (exception: towards the Adriatic basin).


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