Hallow XIII wrote:That said, an effort by somebody who isn't a Starostin to identify cognates and propose sound correspondences might yet prove fruitful. Sadly, I don't think anybody has been doing that sort of thing, and if they have, I am not aware of it.
You will have to go back to the mid-1900s to find work that's entirely independent of Starostin (in the sense that pretty much everyone seriously working with the Altaic families' connections recognizes that some
of his work is valid), but this stuff definitely is there. Try Poppe, Ramstead, or maybe Räsänen for starters.
Hallow XIII wrote:There are still a lot of shared features between all three Core Altaic features, and of course the 1s pronouns are tantalizing, but any sort of cognates remain in scarce supply.
Nope; and that's my cue to suggest some reading: Georg, Michalove, Manaster Ramen & Sidwell (1998), "Telling general linguists about Altaic
". A key quote:
Vinogradov’s and Nichols’ work actually misrepresents the very substance of the Altaic debate as it has been framed since the mid-1950’s and actually earlier. Pace Vinogradov and Nichols, there is no dearth of good potential cognates. Rather, it is precisely the exuberant abundance of shared vocabulary (some obviously and universally recognized, some more subtle and hence controversial) that has led to the two fundamentally opposed points of view that are widely held: either that this vocabulary is inherited from a common ancestor, Proto-Altaic; or that it involves extensive borrowing in remote prehistory (cf. also the compromise possibilities suggested by Róna-Tas 1974, 1976, 1991 and passim). If putative cognates really were in short supply, or, for that matter, if most of the available resemblances were the sort of superficial similarities to which most linguists give little credence, it would be incomprehensible why the Altaic theory has enjoyed such a long life without sharing the fate of such linguistic seven-day wonders as ‘Maya-Altaic’, ‘Korean as Indo-European’, or ‘the Dravidian and Manding substratum in Tocharian’.
Even those well-known scholars who deny the validity of Altaic, notably Clauson (1956 and passim), Doerfer (1963 and passim) and Janhunen (1992, 1994a, b) or express some skepticism about it, notably Ro! na-Tas (e.g., 1974 and passim) and Sinor (e.g., 1962, 1988), do not maintain that there is a shortage of putative cognates. Rather what they claim is that most (or all) of these are not cognates but borrowings. It is usually held, both by the supporters and the opponents of the Altaic theory, that the Altaic languages (or at least Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic) are best studied together, precisely because specialists in the individual languages know that the abundance of shared vocabulary among the languages called Altaic are an important tool for the proper understanding of the (pre-)history of these languages, and of the peoples who spoke them. Regardless of whether one explains all (most, some, few) of these shared items as due to inheritance or to borrowing, the Altaic debate has never been about the existence of truly shared items, but about the proper interpretation of their very abundance.
(Or you could simply look at the EDAL. It's got crud in it, but so did e.g. any 1800s work on IE or Uralic etymology, and yet only a handful of kooks would think that therefore everything
about those families is crud and safely ignorable.)
The big structural problem in Altaistics is IMO not the Starostins & co. (they're maybe more of a symptom), it is that old-timey Altaistics grew out of what was left of even old-timeier Uralo-Altaistics, after Uralistics went off as its own thing. As you may know, what we call "Ural-Altaic" today was even called just "Altaic" originally. I'm not sure if there has ever been a solid motive to suspect that either Micro- or Macro-Altaic is its own thing entirely. The idea seems to remain around basically as a convention out of inertia. I was reading one of the original "is Samoyedic related to Finno-Ugric" papers earlier this year (Halász, 1893), and it interestingly prefaces itself as a "partial investigation into Ural-Altaic" — taken already as established, not as a hypothesis to look into! The author takes himself to be merely looking into the possibility of reconstructing
Ural-Altaic, starting from this one apparent sub-node, just as linguists today would do with any currently underworked family (say, Austroasiatic or Niger-Congo).
For that matter, about 10 years later in the early 1900s, you had people like Paasonen meanwhile considering Indo-Uralic to be instead basically established and just in need of a similar final bit of further comparative work. And, of course, then enter one H. Pedersen to tie up a few strings
… at which point we'd perhaps expect the narrower and not quite established Altaic hypothesis to be put on hold, but for some reason it keeps instead dragging on.
This is not to slag on the people actually doing comparative Altaic work a few decades later (or today), but once we do weed out anything that's conceivably rather loanwords, the work is still really not qualitatively too different from what gets done with variations on Nostratic.
Hallow XIII wrote:Part of the problem here is assuredly the difficulty of reconstructing the history of any of these three families very far back, especially Mongolic (whose last common ancestor language is probably at a time depth of not much more than a thousand years).
For Mongolic proper, most likely less
than a thousand years (= younger than various "single languages" such as Danish, Latvian or Komi), but there are people plugging away at Khitan & stuff for more insights. (Here's one hot-off-the-press paper about the "& stuff": Andreas Höltz, New evidence on Para-Mongolic numerals