Mark Sicoli graduated from Michigan with a joint PhD in Linguistics and Anthropology and is now an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. He has been conducting joint research on the historical relationship between Na-Dene languages and Yeniseian (Siberian) languages with Gary Holton, the Director of the Alaska Native Language Archive. Their work, Linguistic Phylogenies Support Back-Migration from Beringia to Asia , has been reported on in the New York Times and the Huffington Post.
Abstract: Recent arguments connecting Na-Dene languages of North America with Yeniseian languages of Siberia have been used to assert proof for the origin of Native Americans in central or western Asia. We apply phylogenetic methods to test support for this hypothesis against an alternative hypothesis that Yeniseian represents a back-migration to Asia from a Beringian ancestral population. We coded a linguistic dataset of typological features and used neighbor-joining network algorithms and Bayesian model comparison based on Bayes factors to test the fit between the data and the linguistic phylogenies modeling two dispersal hypotheses. Our results support that a Dene-Yeniseian connection more likely represents radiation out of Beringia with back-migration into central Asia than a migration from central or western Asia to North America.