The Dravidian language family consists of about 80 varieties
(Hammarström H. 2016 Glottolog 2.7) spoken by 220 million
people across southern and central India and surrounding
countries (Steever SB. 1998 In The Dravidian languages (ed. SB
Steever), pp. 1–39: 1). Neither the geographical origin of the
Dravidian language homeland nor its exact dispersal through
time are known. The history of these languages is crucial
for understanding prehistory in Eurasia, because despite their
current restricted range, these languages played a significant
role in influencing other language groups including IndoAryan
(Indo-European) and Munda (Austroasiatic) speakers.
Here, we report the results of a Bayesian phylogenetic analysis
of cognate-coded lexical data, elicited first hand from native
speakers, to investigate the subgrouping of the Dravidian
language family, and provide dates for the major points
of diversification. Our results indicate that the Dravidian
language family is approximately 4500 years old, a finding
that corresponds well with earlier linguistic and archaeological
studies. The main branches of the Dravidian language family
(North, Central, South I, South II) are recovered, although the
placement of languages within these main branches diverges from
previous classifications. We find considerable uncertainty with
regard to the relationships between the main branches.

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