Western's Ed Vajda publishes new book on the language links between Siberia and North America

Edward Vajda, professor of linguistics, Russian, and Eurasian Studies in Western’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, along with his long-time colleague Michael Fortescue (professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen), have published a new book, Mid-Holocene Language Connections between Asia and North America.

Each author wrote a separate portion of the book, with Fortescue discussing the Asian origin of the language ancestral to the modern Aleut, Yupik, and Inuit languages. The second half, by Vajda, discusses the Siberian origin of the Na-Dene language family and its entrance into Alaska, thought to have occurred around the same time, about 5,000 years ago in the Mid-Holocene period during a period of relatively warm climate in the North American Arctic.

This volume presents the up-to-date results of investigations into the Asian origins of the only two language families of North America that are widely acknowledged as having likely genetic links in northern Asia.

It brings together all that has been proposed to date under the respective rubrics of the Uralo-Siberian (Eskaleut-Yukaghir-Uralic) hypothesis and the Dene-Yeniseian hypothesis (Siberia's Ket language and North America's Tlingit and the widespread Dene subgroup of languages). The book compares and contrasts the evolution of the two parallel research strategies for fleshing out these linguistic links between North America and Asia. Although focusing on stringently controlled linguistic reconstructions, the volume draws upon recent findings from archaeological and human genetic data, as well.

Learn more about Vajda's research here in this story in Window magazine.

cover of Ed Vajda's new book