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Materials and Language: Pre-Semitic Root Structure Change Concomitant with Transition to Agriculture

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image of Brill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics

Materials and language have evolved together. Thus the archaeological dating of materials possibly also dates the words which name them. Analysis of Proto-Semitic (PS) material terms reveals that materials discovered during the Neolithic are uniquely triconsonantal (3c) whereas biconsonantal (2c) names were utilized for materials of the Old Stone-Age. This establishes a major transition in pre-Semitic language structure, concomitant with the transition to agriculture. Associations of material names with other words in the PS lexicon reveal the original context of material utilization. In particular, monosyllabic 2c names are associated with a pre-Natufian cultural background, more than 16,500 years ago. Various augments introduced during the Natufian, and perhaps even more intensively during the Early Neolithic, were absorbed into the roots, tilting the equilibrium from 2c toward 3c roots, and culminating in an agricultural society with strictly triconsonantal language morphology.


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