Milk and the Indo-Europeans

Abstract : the Yamnaya culture, ofen regarded as the bearer of the Proto-Indo-European language, underwent a strong population expansion in the late 4th and early 3rd millennia BCE. It suggests that the underlying reason for that expansion might be the then unique capacity to digest animal milk in adulthood. We examine the early Indo-European milk-related vocabulary to confrm the special role of animal milk in Indo-European expansions. We show that Proto-Indo-European did not have a specialized root for ‘to milk’ and argue that the IE root *h2melg̑- ‘to milk’ is secondary and post-Anatolian. We take this innovation as an indication of the novelty of animal milking in early Indo-European society. Together with a detailed study of language-specifc innovations in this semantic feld, we conclude that the ability to digest milk played an important role in boosting Proto-Indo-European demography.
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Romain Garnier, Laurent Sagart, Benoît Sagot. Milk and the Indo-Europeans. Martine Robeets; Alexander Savalyev Language Dispersal Beyond Farming, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.291-311, 2017, 978 90 272 1255 9. ⟨10.1075/z.215.13gar⟩. ⟨hal-01667476⟩

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