Matthew Baker (Hunter)

May 16, 2018 @ 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Hunter West 1537 (Economics Dept. Seminar Room)
912 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10065
Karna Basu

Matthew Baker is an Associate Professor of Economics at Hunter College and The Gradiate Center, CUNY.

Topic: “Foundations of the Age Area Hypothesis”

Abstract: A commonly-used tool in explaining the origins, geographical dispersion, and degree of relatedness between cultures is the Age-Area Hypothesis developed by Sapir (1916). The hypothesis posits that the origin point of a group of related cultures or a linguistic stock is most likely where the languages comprising the stock are most divergent. While compelling and often-corroborated, the Age-Area Hypothesis has never been founded in basic principles, and this lack of structure limits its use. I describe a micro-founded model of the Age-Area Hypothesis based on mass migration, develop a measure of divergence between cultures based on phylogenetic trees, and develop an Age-Area Theorem. The model allows computation of probabilities that different locations are the origin points for the constituents of a group of related cultures. The model also provides a probabilistic explanation of Occam’s razor: migratory paths explaining the geographical dispersion of related cultures that are simpler are  more likely. The paper concludes with applications to the origins of the Na-Dene and Afro-Asiatic Ethno-linguistic groups.