01.07.2015 - 08:32
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Paul Heggarty

See my main webpage on academia.edu.

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

tel.: +49 (341) 3550 - 347

tel.:  +44 1223 969 949
(Skype number, works like UK landline, but I can take calls anywhere)
SkypeName:  paulheggarty

fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 333
e-mail: heggarty@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de

Office: U1.15

Blog post on Ancient DNA and the Indo-European Question
(comment on two genetics papers in Nature, 11th June 2015)


My research focuses on how our languages can contribute to our understanding of the human past. My approach is explicitly cross-disciplinary, working closely with geneticists, anthropologists, historians, and above all archaeologists. For like all of those disciplines, linguistics too opens up its own ‘window on the past’ — although that linguistic record can itself only safely be read when set into the broader contexts of human population prehistory. [See research theme 1.]

I come to this cross-disciplinary goal from a background most directly in comparative linguistics, with a foot in both branches of that field, i.e. historical linguistics and language typology/universals. I look to both of these, though, above all as rich and complementary mines of information (or at least inference) on population (pre)history. To this end, within linguistics I have focused in particular on developing new quantitative approaches to the key issue of language relatedness. [See research theme 2.]

My route to MPI‑EVA began with an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Cambridge (2001), on quantitative approaches to comparing languages and how they diverge through time. I continued to develop this theme in research posts at the universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, though increasingly broadening my scope towards applications to linguistic (pre)history. This led me to ever more direct and intense collaboration with other disciplines, especially since my time as ‘resident linguist’ at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, again in Cambridge from 2006 to 2009.

Interspersed with those posts have been many other years spent learning languages, conducting fieldwork, and seeking to understand the (pre)histories of various parts of the globe. My interests in language and prehistory range worldwide, although I do have two particular foci. Across ‘Old Europe’ I research the origins of our myriad but fast vanishing regional languages and dialects, and back further still to the enigma of Indo-European. In the New World, I focus on the independent hearth of civilisation in the Central Andes. It is home too to what is on many measures our greatest surviving link to the speech of the Americas before European conquest, and another key target of my comparative linguistic research: the Quechua language family. I explore Quechua’s origins though both the rich diversity within the family, and its place within Andean linguistic prehistory more widely, alongside other key language lineages of the Andes, and always set within our rich multi-disciplinary record of the fascinating Andean past.


My particular teaching interest is in how linguistics can contribute to a cross-disciplinary approach to the human past, alongside genetics, history, and above all archaeology. (See also my research theme on this.)

Examples of current teaching include:

In previous posts I have been a lecturer and examiner in Morphology, and supervisor for papers in Linguistic Theory and Historical Linguistics for the Dept. of Linguistics, University of Cambridge. I also taught the Indigenous Languages of the Americas component of the former course on Language in the Americas at the Dept. of English Language and Linguistics, University of Sheffield.

Research Projects

  • Towards a Cross-Disciplinary Prehistory: Converging Perspectives from Language, Archaeology and Genes
  • Language Relatedness and Divergence: Quantitative and Phylogenetic Approaches
  • 'Sound Comparisons': New Tools and Resources for Exploring Language Family Diversity on the Web
  • Sounds of the Andean Languages