Following up on recent discussion of the peopling of the Americas, The University of Alaska at Fairbanks is hosting a conference about the possible link between Siberian (Yeniseic) and Na-Dene language families. The conference, titled Dene-Yeniseic Symposium, will be held on February 26, 27 and 29, 2008, and will feature a lecture from Edward Vajda, Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Director for the Center for East Asian Studies at Western Washington University. Vajda will be discussing several linguistic parameters connecting the Siberian and Na-Dene families and providing new insights to the question of the origin of human presence in the Americas.
All known Yeniseic languages seem to be related at a time depth of about 2,500 years. The large number of cognates between them permits the reconstruction of much basic vocabulary, suggesting a proto-language spoken by mobile bands of hunter-gatherer-fishers in the boreal forests of northern Inner Asia.
The reconstruction of proto-languages by way of the comparative method has always been an excellent support to migration theories. Comparison with recent biological and archaeological studies should turn some interesting conversation. When Vajda publishes, it should stir up some controversy in the anthropology community as a whole.