Harold C. Fleming

Harold C. Fleming

Harold C. Fleming is an anthropologist and historical linguist. As an adherent of the "Four Field School of American Anthropology" he stresses the integration of physical anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, and cultural anthropology in solving anthropological problems.


Since 1965 Fleming has been affiliated with Boston University, continuing to the present as Research Fellow in the African Studies Center and Emeritus Professor of Anthropology. He has conducted extensive field work in the northeastern regions of Africa, mostly in Ethiopia.

Early in his career Fleming published a paper (Fleming 1969) that outlined an important taxonomic proposal, claiming that what had up to then been known as the "Western Cushitic" language family was not a part of Cushitic at all, but instead makes up a sixth primary branch of Afro-Asiatic, for which he coined the name Omotic. The proposal has since been widely but not universally accepted. He has since continued in the vein of solving taxonomic problems involving African languages, and worldwide (Fleming 1976, 1987, 1988, 1991, 2002, 2006, et al).

Fleming has been a vocal advocate of, and practitioner in, the effort to extend the application of historical linguistic methods as far as possible into the past, and to integrate its results with those of physical anthropology, genetics, and archaeology, to produce a unified view of human prehistory. Fleming is a strong supporter of the sometimes controversial proposals of Joseph Greenberg, emphasizing the success of Greenberg's classification of "1500 [African] languages into four large taxa where almost all have stayed ever since" (Fleming 2000-2001). In 1986 Fleming met the young members of the "Moscow Circle" of historical linguists. Fleming was deeply impressed by the long range linguistic probing of scholars in Moscow who were trying to extend genetic taxonomy of human languages beyond the levels achieved in the 1950s and 1960s. In the fall of 1986 Fleming began circulating letters to linguists and anthropologists outside of Russia. By the fourth issue (November 1987) the newsletter had acquired a more formal appearance and the name "Mother Tongue".

In 1989 what had been the "Long Range Comparison Club" was legally incorporated as the "Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory" (ASLIP). [http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/%7Ewitzel/aslip.html Mother Tongue / Long Ranger ] ] Fleming has served as President of ASLIP (1988-1996), Secretary-Treasurer (1996-98), Vice-President and Acting Treasurer (2004-present). ASLIP's mission is "to encourage international, interdisciplinary information sharing, discussion, and debate among biogeneticists, paleoanthropologists, archaeologists, and historical linguists on questions relating to the emerging synthesis on language origins and ancestral human spoken languages." Since 1995 ASLIP has edited and published the journal Mother Tongue.


*Fleming, Harold C., 2006. Ongota: A Decisive Language in African Prehistory. Wiesbaden. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.
*Fleming, Harold C., 2002. “Shabo: A New African Phylum or a Special Relic of Old Nilo-Saharan?” Mother Tongue: The Journal, Issue VII, 1-38.
*Fleming, Harold C., 2000-2001. “Joseph H. Greenberg: A Tribute and an Appraisal.” Mother Tongue: The Journal, Issue VI, 9-28.
*Fleming, Harold C., 2000. “Glottalization in Eastern Armenian.” Journal of Indo-European Studies. Vol.28, Number 1 & 2: 155-196
*Fleming, Harold C., 1991. “A New Taxonomic Hypothesis: Borean or Boralean.” Mother Tongue 14 [Newsletter of ASLIP] . 16pp.
*Fleming, Harold C., 1988. “Towards a Definitive Classification of Human Languages”, Review Article of Guide to the World’s Languages by Merritt Ruhlen. Diachronica IV, 159 223.
*Fleming, Harold C., 1987. “Hadza and Sandawe Genetic Relations.” In Franz Rottland, ed., Proceedings of the International Symposium on African Hunters and Gatherers. Published as monograph by Sprache und Geschichte in Africa, Band 7, 2: 157 189.
*Fleming, Harold C., 1982. "Kuliak external relations: step one." In Nilotic Studes (Proceedings of the international symposium on languages and history of the Nilotic Peoples, Cologne, January 4-6), Vol 2, 423-478.
*Fleming, Harold C., 1978. “Microtaxonomy: Language and Blood Groups in the Horn of Africa.” In Robert Hess, ed., Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies Session B. April 13 16, 1978. 25 49.
*Fleming, Harold C., 1976. “Cushitic and Omotic.” In M. Lionel Bender, et al, eds., Language in Ethiopia: 34 53.
*Fleming, Harold C., 1969. “The Classification of West Cushitic within Hamito Semitic.” In Daniel McCall, Norman Bennett, and Jeffrey Butler, eds., Eastern African History. Boston University Studies in African History, III: 3 27.

ee also

*Afro-Asiatic languages
*Cushitic languages
*Joseph Greenberg
*Kuliak languages
*Mother Tongue (journal)
*Omotic languages
*Ongota language
*Oropom language
*Shabo language

External links

* [http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/aslip.html Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory (ASLIP)]

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