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2001: 227–8, 315) may have led to alterations in interaction patterns which stimulated linguistic changes. Presumably, any large-scale changes in the composition of the speech community (or in small societies, even small-scale changes) have the potential of triggering language change. The task of correlating linguistic and social changes in a crosscultural and historical framework is vital for linguistic archaeology, and work on this task has barely started. 42. Inferences from sociolinguistics The relevance of sociolinguistics to linguistic prehistory is manifest with regard to two areas: (A) the social background of linguistic change, and (B) the social contexts of linguistic convergence.

No powerful ground for the assumption of a unitary Indogerman protolanguage . . It is just as plausible that the ancestors of the Indogerman language groups were originally quite dissimilar, and that through continuing contact, mutual influence and word borrowing became significantly closer to each other, without however going so far as to become identical” (Troubetskoy 1939, quoted in Renfrew 1987: 108). Though Troubetskoy perhaps represents the minority view, it is difficult to deny the possibility that some cases of accepted proto-languages may be as he has described.

In most cases, however, these linguistic inferences have remained nothing more than inferences, unsupported by any kind of data from the real world. For example, attempts to identify particular archaeological complexes with particular languages have not met with wide success – in part because there have often been competing, mutually exclusive hypotheses. The following quote from an archaeologist, Lamberg-Karlovsky, illustrates the problem: Russian scholars working in the Eurasiatic steppes are nearly unanimous in their belief that the Andronovo culture and its variant expressions are Indo-Iranian.

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