Photo by mikearther
The many dialects of the Japanese language were not inherited from indigenous hunters already present on the land for millennia, as it was widely believed, but from a migration of farmers from the Korean Peninsula, some 2,200 years ago, a study claims.
Researchers at The University of Tokyo traced dozens of separate dialects back to their earliest common ancestor. They applied a similar technique as evolutionary biologists use when examining DNA fragments from fossils to recreate family trees. The technique was first used a decade ago at the University of Auckland and is still controversial.
"Accumulating empirical evidence suggests that languages have, astonishingly, gene-like properties, and they also evolve by a process of descent," Sean Lee, one of the leading researchers, said.
He and another colleague created a list of 210 essential vocabulary words – basic verbs, body parts, numbers – that they considered as “resistant to change” (unlikely to have been borrowed across dialects) and followed them back through time in 59 distinct dialects.
Computer analysis showed that all of these dialects were born from the same ancestor, some 2,182 years ago. It is exactly then when a major wave of migration from the Korean Peninsula took place.
It is still unknown if the migrating farmers from Korean Peninsula also brought with them a writing system, Lee added. [AFP]