Archaeology and Language: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations - Vol. 1

Archaeology and Language: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations - Vol. 1

Archaeology and Language: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations - Vol. 1

Archaeology and Language: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations - Vol. 1


Archaeology and Language I represents groundbreaking work in synthesizing two disciplines that are now seen as interlinked: linguistics and archaeology. This volume is the first of a three-part survey of innovative results emerging from their combination.Archaeology and historical linguistics have largely pursued separate tracks until recently, although their goals can be very similar. While there is a new awareness that these disciplines can be used to complement one another, both rigorous methodological awareness and detailed case-studies are still lacking in literature. Archaeology and Language I aims to fill this lacuna.Exploring a wide range of techniques developed by specialists in each discipline, this first volume deals with broad theoretical and methodological issues and provides an indispensable background to the detail of the studies presented in volumes II and III. This collection deals with the controversial question of the origin of language, the validity of deep-level reconstruction, the sociolinguistic modelling of prehistory and the use and value of oral tradition.


Theory plays a major role in modern archaeology, especially that practised in academic institutions. Indeed the growth of the heritage industry and the broader economic potential of antiquities and monuments has only acted to emphasize an already deep split between academic archaeology and excavation; in some cases these have become opposed to one another. However, in the area of language and prehistory the opposition of theory and practice has remained within the academy, since the interchange between language and prehistory rarely lures tourists.

Linguistics is a broadly defined discipline and it is worth noting that only small sub-areas of it regularly come into contact with prehistory. the major effort in the second half of the twentieth century has been in the development of syntactic theory, with Chomsky and other generativists setting the agenda. Even those who oppose generativism have allowed it to set the terms of the debate. Linguistic controversies are very much couched in specific jargons and have become so detailed that entire conferences may now be devoted to a small point of syntax. Little of this has made any impact on historical linguistics, and indeed the classificatory genetic enterprise has frequently been dismissed by generativists.

The other major theme of linguistics has been socio-linguistics; an enterprise that might be expected to have more impact on modelling past societies than has in fact been the case. Some authors (e.g. Ross, Ch. 13, this volume) have made extensive use of synchronic studies of sound-change, for example the works of Labov and Milroy. Work on creoles, bilingualism and language shift has important implications for modelling ethnic and cultural interaction and change. Too often, however, this work is written in a dense particularist language that outsiders find hard to interpret. As important, however, is that in many parts of the world, data-gathering and basic genetic work is still in progress; researchers often feel that socio-linguistic modelling is a second phase when a baseline has been laid down.

The balance between general articles on theory and actual practice remains strongly weighted in favour of data-oriented articles. the editors have encour-

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