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One of the most disputed issues in historical-comparative linguistics is the origin of the Japanese language and the question of whether it is related to the Transeurasian languages. MARTINE ROBBEETS has already shown in past research that it is possible to find a small core of evidence that relates Japanese as a daughter language of Transeurasian. This, she explains in this video, leads to new questions: How and why did the language family spread? And how did Japanese reach its present-day location? In order to find answers, Robbeets and her research team combined linguistic inferences from the reconstruction of proto-Transeurasian with findings from archeology and genetics. This process allowed them to locate and date the ancestor of Japanese and also to trace the path the language took before reaching the Japanese Islands. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the Horizon 2020 Program/ ERC Grant Agreement n. 646612 granted to Martine Robbeets.


Martine Robbeets is Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and Lecturer at the University of Mainz. Previous affiliations include that of Associate Professor of Japanese Linguistics at Leiden University and Visiting Professor at the University of Leuven. Her research interests include comparative and historical linguistics and linguistic evolution. Her languages of interest are, among others, Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic languages, Japanese and Korean. She is review editor of Studies in Language and member of the editorial board of Folia Linguistica, the Journal of Philology: Ural-Altaic Studies and Linguistica Brunensia.


Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology

The Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (MPI-GEA) focuses on the interrelationships between natural and human-made systems, looking into the deep past and distant future to examine how humanity has driven the emergence of the Anthropocene – the geological period in which human activities began significantly impacting our planet’s climate and ecosystems – and how we can still positively influence its course.

The transdisciplinary research at MPI-GEA will bring together research areas represented by all three scientific sections of the MPG: Biology & Medicine; Chemistry, Physics and Technology; and Human Sciences. Corresponding inter- and transdisciplinary research projects concern, for example, planetary urbanisation, the global food system, and global material, energy and information flows.

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Original publication

Language Farming Dispersal: Food for Thought

Robbeets Martine
Language Dispersal Beyond Farming
Published in 2017

The Language of the Transeurasian Farmers

Robbeets Martine
Language Dispersal Beyond Farming
Published in 2017

Austronesian Influence and Transeurasian Ancestry in Japanese: A Case of Farming/Language Dispersal

Robbeets Martine
Language Dynamics and Change
Published in 2017

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