Joseph Greenburg’s 1987 theory proposed that all Native American languages fit into one of three overarching groups. In addition to the previously established Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene groups, in 1960 Greenburg had proposed the existence of another broad language group that he termed ‘Amerind’ and in his 1987 work he classified all other North American Native American languages as such. Greenburg’s theory was highly contentious amongst the linguistic community, with many scholars rejecting it outright on the basis that much of Greenburg’s data was inaccurate, misinterpreted or in some cases even contained non-existent words or languages. Greenburg favoured ‘lumping’ and therefore was not as rigorous in his pursuit of detailed linguistic reconstruction in his proposal. He instead hypothesized that the three Native American linguistic stocks arose from three separate migration events from Asia. This aspect of Greenburg’s theory at least, appears to be backed up by more recent DNA analysis, which supports three early waves of migration to North America.
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