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Foragers are often portrayed as “others” standing outside the main trajectory of human social evolution, which began with the Neolithic Revolution. In some forms of this narrative, foragers are static, left behind in the tide of history by their dynamic cousins, the farmers.
In much of the study of the phenomenon of language spread the focus has been on attempting to explain the distribution of languages at a particular attested time in history based on events in the remote and largely historically unattested past based on inferences from archeological data alone. In recent work the present author and Johanna Nichols have been developing a broad-based approach to explaining language distribution by focusing first on language spreads attested within the historical period to inform our theorizing about spreads that took place in prehistory.
Hunter-gatherers are often portrayed as 'others' standing outside the main trajectory of human social evolution. But even after eleven millennia of agriculture and two centuries of widespread industrialization, hunter-gatherer societies continue to exist. This volume, using the lens of language, offers us a window into the inner workings of twenty-first-century hunter-gatherer societies - how they survive and how they interface with societies that produce more. It challenges long-held assumptions about the limits on social dynamism in hunter-gatherer societies to show that their languages are no different either typologically or sociolinguistically from other languages. With its worldwide coverage, this volume serves as a report on the state of hunter-gatherer societies at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and readers in all geographical areas will find arguments of relevance here.