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Born in Paris in 1951, he earned his Ph.D. in 1977 at the University of Paris 7 and his doctorat d'État in 1990 at University of Aix-Marseille 1. His early work focused on Chinese dialectology. He then turned his attention to Old Chinese, attempting a reconstruction of Old Chinese that separated word roots and affixes. His recent work, in collaboration with William H. Baxter, is a reconstruction of Old Chinese that builds on earlier scholarship and in addition takes into account paleography, phonological distinctions in conservative Chinese dialects (Min, Waxiang) as well as the early layers of Chinese loanwords to Vietnamese, Hmong-Mien and to a lesser extent, Tai-Kadai. A reconstruction of 4000 Chinese characters has been published online. Their 2014 book has been awarded the Bloomfield prize of the Linguistic Society of America.
Laurent Sagart also contributed to Indo-European studies. He co-authored a proposal that the ability to digest milk played an important role in the Indo-European expansion (Garnier et al. 2017), and took part in a controversy in French academia concerning Indo-European studies (Pellard et al. 2018).
^Sagart, L. (2005) Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian: an updated and improved argument. In L. Sagart, R. Blench and A. Sanchez-Mazas (eds) The peopling of East Asia: Putting together Archaeology, Linguistics and Genetics 161-176. London: RoutledgeCurzon.