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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:29 am 
Smeric
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KathTheDragon wrote:
Vlürch wrote:
Well, I'm not a scientist and am technically mentally ill, so anything I say should of course be rejected automatically.

What the actual fuck? Nobody said this! Moreover, I also fit that description.

I think he honestly believes that, though.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 9:14 am 
Sanci
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Vijay wrote:
KathTheDragon wrote:
Vlürch wrote:
Well, I'm not a scientist and am technically mentally ill, so anything I say should of course be rejected automatically.

What the actual fuck? Nobody said this! Moreover, I also fit that description.

I think he honestly believes that, though.

Well, no one said it but it's probably true... I mean, I have no education beyond primary school and although I haven't had any proper delusions or anything like that for years and am not even depressed at the moment, maybe nothing I say makes sense and I'm typing practical gibberish half of the time that's on the level of insane as Time Cube, without even realising it. In that case it should be ignored and rejected. And I do believe I'm spouting bullshit most of the time even if I don't understand why it's bullshit and believe that what I say has value.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 9:38 am 
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Vijay wrote:
maybe nothing I say makes sense and I'm typing practical gibberish half of the time that's on the level of insane as Time Cube, without even realising it.

This... isn't the case? Like, I don't even know how to respond to this.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:04 am 
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Vlürch wrote:
KathTheDragon wrote:
Quote:
without including at least Altaic as well.
You speak as if Altaic is a proven family.

While I personally do believe there is some kind of deeper connection between the Altaic languages (at least the Micro-Altaic ones), what I said doesn't necessitate that to be true. All the different Altaic languages (Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic) could be related to Uralic, Indo-European, etc. in the same way as they are to each other: it could go so far back in time that you'd have to go all the way to Proto-Eurasiatic or whatever, or they could be unrelated except by contact, but they'd still be related and as such "Altaic languages" makes sense as a grouping.


Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic all show clear signs of being Mitian languages, if that is a thing. They also seem to show some innovations at the exclusion of the other Mitian families, such as the bi ~ min alternation in the first person pronoun, so Altaic may be a valid node within Mitian. Yet, we don't know yet whether these seeming relationships are real or not; we may well be dealing with a Sprachbund here. Perhaps Mitian as a whole is a Sprachbund (though it looks more like a family to me); perhaps Altaic is a Sprachbund within a Mitian family.

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I get that my use of "related" in a way that includes mutual influence through extensive contact and whatnot is annoyingly lumpy to a lot of people, but I honestly just have never seen the point of excluding that stuff unless the focus is entirely on reconstructing proto-languages from before the contact (in cases where that's even possible).


The term "related", in historical linguistics, usually means "related by descent from a common ancestor", and any other usage is misleading and thus should be avoided. Yet, a term like "mesh" or "cluster" is useful to designate a group of languages that show resemblances that are hard to tell whether they are due to descent from a common ancestor, or due to contact, and Indo-Uralic, Altaic and Mitian are, at the current state of knowledge, examples of just this.

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Well, that is obviously ridiculous but in theory proto-languages can be (and AFAIK often are attempted to be as the ultimate goal) reconstructed to a time before they absorbed external influences.


There probably is no language that isn't influenced by other languages.

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Also, even a crackpot is right twice a day.


You are confusing crackpots and wound-down clocks ;) But I know what you mean: a hypothesis insufficiently backed up by evidence, arrived at by faulty reasoning, and therefore methodically invalid can still be right - it may hit the truth by accident. Yet, to show that it has hit the truth requires proper scholarship.

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Well, I'm not a scientist and am technically mentally ill, so anything I say should of course be rejected automatically.


No - I am an amateur in this field as well, and have a "mental" condition (a mild autism-spectrum disorder), but at least I try to adhere to proper method. That's what counts, not academic credentials (or at least, it should be like that; in practice, some good work is dismissed due to lack of academic credentials in the author, and some people get a large audience because of their academic credentials despite saying utter crap).

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I like doing it because it's just about the only thing I can do when it comes to languages that isn't 100% conlanging or learning a language. Besides, it's what Starostin does and his stuff was one of my first impressions of linguistics, giving me a much warmer and non-judgemental view of what it's like, like it's a field where people can suggest all kinds of unlikely scenarios and they're not flat-out rejected for being insane like in other fields.


As I've said earlier, the majority of historical linguists don't consider Starostin's work valid because of its methodological flaws. Sure, it is better than most of the crap one finds on various crackpots' personal home pages on the Web, and I wouldn't reject something like the Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages out of hand - some of the etymologies therein are probably right - but there are problems with it which need to be sorted out.

But there are also problems of similar kinds with more accepted works. For instance, there are two mutually incompatible reconstructions of Proto-Afroasiatic - one by Orel and Stolbova, and one by Ehret, both published in 1995 - on the market; they cannot both be right, which probably means that both are at least in part wrong.

As I've said earlier, too, that Afroasiatic is widely accepted while Mitian or Eurasiatic is not, is to a large part due to the different social dynamics of African and Eurasian historical linguistics - the latter seem to be more critical of macro-comparison than the former - rather than the different quality of evidence.

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kanejam wrote:
I don't know what you're trying to say here. Being related in a historical linguistics sense implies a shared ancestor - contact is the other option, with intense contact leading to mixed languages, which is probably the term you want rather than creole.

Yeah, but going with the family analogies, the relation doesn't end at blood. People from different ethnicities can have kids together, and their kids will be half of both, and thus related to both of the ancestral ethnicities. That would make the relatives of the parents related, but obviously not by blood. With languages, it would mean there are two "layers" of relation: genetic and influential ("blood" and "friendship"). However, if the influential relation affects the languages to the point where it becomes difficult to determine whether it's influence or genetic, it becomes "marriage", and as such makes the related languages related as well. That's how I view Eurasiatic and the various subdivisions. If that makes no sense, I don't really know how to explain it; that could be either because I suck at wording things in a way that makes sense or that I simply don't make sense. I can't tell which it is, but I think (and hope) it's the former.


Surely, language relationship operates differently than genetic relationships between people (or other organisms), and this "language family" thing is a metaphor. A language usually descends from one parent language, though it is influenced by others. Modern English, for instance, does not descend from Norman French and Old English equally; it is a lineal descendant of Old English but has borrowed extensively from Norman French. The common claim that English was a Romance language as much as it is a Germanic one is wrong. People who say such things confuse language and lexicon (a common error also among macro-comparison crackpots, BTW!). Things like the strong verbs are purely Germanic, there is nothing Romance in them.

But the languages we are talking about here don't look much like creoles. It is hardly an overstatement, for instance, that in PIE every verb was irregular - there are about 20 ways of forming the present tense, and four ways of forming the aorist; show me a creole that is like that!

Also, the "hourglass model" according to which multiple strains of language converged in a single point from which daughter languages branched out is a gross simplification. Apart from linguistic converge usually not leading to a single mixed language but a Sprachbund - a set of languages sharing some traits, but still distinct languages - there is both branching and influence all the time.

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Howl wrote:
I may be a (moderate) lumper, but I am still interested in the views of the splitters.

Even as a hypermegalumper, I agree. (Well, I'm not an enthusiastic lumper when it comes Indo-Uralic as a distinct branch within a larger family, but am with practically everything else... coincidences and holes make me uncomfortable.)


I am definitely not a "hypermegalumper"! I have some lumperist leanings, but to me, things like Indo-Uralic or Mitian look intriguing, yet I am not convinced that they are real yet. And I don't seriously expect to make meaningful contributions to their exploration. This is not something an enthusiastic amateur could cobble together in a few years - otherwise, it would have already been done long ago - but something which could support the entire careers of several academic linguists. See Tropylium's roadmap, originally posted to the late, lamented Nostratic-L mailing list. Sure, amateurs and students can achieve something in this discipline (as the examples of Linear B - deciphered by a young architect - and PIE laryngeals - first reconstructed by a university student - show), but I don't seriously expect to be the next Michael Ventris - yet, I try hard not to become yet another Octaviano!

Quote:
Anyway, reading this thread makes me warm up to Indo-Uralic. I still can't reject the relation to Altaic (regardless of whether Altaic is a genetic family or not) or other language families within/outside Eurasiatic (or whatever macrofamily), and I'm not fully convinced of anything but knowing that there was some contact between some Uralic and some Indo-Iranian means the relations could be really muddled in any direction. I still don't like it for all the political implications, but I guess I'll have to live with that... and if enough evidence points to it, accept it as something positive rather than something negative, something that connects us all as a big happy family rather than what it currently often seems to be pointing to justify.


Fine. As for me, I suspect both Indo-Uralic and (Micro-)Altaic to be valid nodes within a still larger enitity, which I call Mitian; yet, all this may turn out to be illusionary. What I am sceptical of is Uralic-Yukaghir, though: while Yukaghir shows all the hallmarks of a Mitian language, it is IMHO not particularly close to Uralic. The morphological resemblances between Uralic and Yukaghir are somewhat less than those between Uralic and Indo-European, and the Uralic-like words in Yukaghir look like borrowings from a Samoyedic language; while Yukaghir and Samoyedic are now about 2,000 km apart, they probably were closer in earlier times, as both the Yakut and Evenki languages which now occupy the space between them are fairly recent intruders.

Quote:
Also, again, since the "meshes" were discussed: that's what I mean literally every time I say anything lumpy.


Fair.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:33 pm 
Avisaru
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WeepingElf wrote:
Vlürch wrote:
However, if the influential relation affects the languages to the point where it becomes difficult to determine whether it's influence or genetic, it becomes "marriage", and as such makes the related languages related as well. That's how I view Eurasiatic and the various subdivisions. If that makes no sense, I don't really know how to explain it; that could be either because I suck at wording things in a way that makes sense or that I simply don't make sense. I can't tell which it is, but I think (and hope) it's the former.


Surely, language relationship operates differently than genetic relationships between people (or other organisms), and this "language family" thing is a metaphor. A language usually descends from one parent language, though it is influenced by others. Modern English, for instance, does not descend from Norman French and Old English equally; it is a lineal descendant of Old English but has borrowed extensively from Norman French. The common claim that English was a Romance language as much as it is a Germanic one is wrong. People who say such things confuse language and lexicon (a common error also among macro-comparison crackpots, BTW!). Things like the strong verbs are purely Germanic, there is nothing Romance in them.


If one is only interested in reconstructing linguistic family trees, that is a fair point. However, in so far as it is useful to ascribe a language to a family, Vlürch has a valid point. As a less extreme example, modern English seems to show enough North Germanic features that it may not be useful to classify it as a West Germanic language. And is it actually useful to describe Frisian as a member of the Anglo-Frisian group rather than as part of the West Germanic dialect continuum, which excludes English? Furthermore, English seems to have a rather strong dash of relexified Norman French.

At the very least, there may be some advantage to being able to describe a language as 'your average Eurasiatic language", regardless of the existence of a Proto-Eurasiatic language.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:27 pm 
Smeric
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Richard W wrote:
If one is only interested in reconstructing linguistic family trees, that is a fair point.

What else would you be interested in? Moreover, given this is a thread about reconstructing linguistic family trees, why shouldn't we only be interested in it?


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:32 pm 
Smeric
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Now I'm confused because it's impossible to reconstruct any of the proposed families in the title...


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:39 am 
Sanci
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Vijay wrote:
Now I'm confused because it's impossible to reconstruct any of the proposed families in the title...

And yet, there are people claiming that Nostratic has been reconstructed already by the likes of Illich-Svitych, Starostin, Dogopolsky and Bomhard. I think that is nonsense, and those macro-reconstructions are interesting conlangs at best. Another question is whether we need a reconstruction to assume a language family. There are certain parts of a language that are more resistant to borrowing, like morphology, basic vocabulary and pronouns. If we see a lot of commonality in those categories, we can at least say that these languages are possibly genetically related. And then we can investigate this relationship using the comparative method. And I think the best way to do this is bottom-up, by first looking at the language pairs/groups that may be more closely related, like Koreo-Japanese and Indo-Uralic.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:52 am 
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Vlürch wrote:
Well, I'm not a scientist

science is fake. nothing is true. everything is permitted. hth

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:29 am 
Avisaru
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KathTheDragon wrote:
Richard W wrote:
If one is only interested in reconstructing linguistic family trees, that is a fair point.

What else would you be interested in? Moreover, given this is a thread about reconstructing linguistic family trees, why shouldn't we only be interested in it?

Classificatory labels that predict many of the more conservative features of a language can also be of use. At least, I assume that it should be useful to know that a language is Afroasiatic, regardless of whether Afroasiatic is truly a genetic entity.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:52 am 
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Howl wrote:
And I think the best way to do this is bottom-up, by first looking at the language pairs/groups that may be more closely related, like Koreo-Japanese and Indo-Uralic.

Pair by pair reconstruction is the worst way to do it. For example, consider reconstructing the Swadesh list. Every time at least one of the pair has replaced a word, one can no longer reconstruct the word in the parent language. There's a good deal to be said for comparing the languages or groups four at time.

The argument for reconstructing Indo-Uralic is not that it is a valid node, but that there may be enough material attested across the Indo-European and Uralic groups to enable construction of reasonably likely features of the common ancestor. Many perfectly valid reconstructed items will I think formally be doubtful on the basis solely of Uralic and Indo-European. That is in the nature of history. We may then be able to add other groups as either relatives or Indo-Uralic, or as independent members of Indo-Uralic. Not knowing these independent members is a misfortune, not a benefit.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 11:25 am 
Smeric
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Howl wrote:
There are certain parts of a language that are more resistant to borrowing, like morphology, basic vocabulary and pronouns. If we see a lot of commonality in those categories, we can at least say that these languages are possibly genetically related.

But even then, you'd have to take language contact and chance (especially typological) similarities into account, too, since these can also help explain striking linguistic similarities.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 12:47 pm 
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Richard W wrote:
Howl wrote:
And I think the best way to do this is bottom-up, by first looking at the language pairs/groups that may be more closely related, like Koreo-Japanese and Indo-Uralic.

Pair by pair reconstruction is the worst way to do it. For example, consider reconstructing the Swadesh list. Every time at least one of the pair has replaced a word, one can no longer reconstruct the word in the parent language. There's a good deal to be said for comparing the languages or groups four at time.

The argument for reconstructing Indo-Uralic is not that it is a valid node, but that there may be enough material attested across the Indo-European and Uralic groups to enable construction of reasonably likely features of the common ancestor. Many perfectly valid reconstructed items will I think formally be doubtful on the basis solely of Uralic and Indo-European. That is in the nature of history. We may then be able to add other groups as either relatives or Indo-Uralic, or as independent members of Indo-Uralic. Not knowing these independent members is a misfortune, not a benefit.


You can't compare whole language families just based on proto-languages and be totally oblivious to the language branches down the tree. So when you are comparing IE and Uralic, you are actually comparing Finnic, Saamic, Volgaic, Permic, Ugric and Samoyedic against Hittite, Tocharian, Indo-Iranian, Hellenic, Italo-Celtic, Germanic, Balto-Slavic etc. Any approach that just takes a fixed Swadesh list from a proto-language and limits itself to that is bound to fail. So why would anyone want to do it that way? The big danger of macro-comparisons of more than 2-3 language families is that the set of language branches down the tree becomes to big. And then it does become just a comparison of the proto-languages themselves. And when a little later, a better reconstruction of one of the proto-language reshuffles some phonemes, your whole reconstruction comes crashing down. And you are left with arguing against progress, just like the Moscow school is doing with proto-Japonic *e and *o.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:28 pm 
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Richard W wrote:
However, in so far as it is useful to ascribe a language to a family, Vlürch has a valid point. As a less extreme example, modern English seems to show enough North Germanic features that it may not be useful to classify it as a West Germanic language. And is it actually useful to describe Frisian as a member of the Anglo-Frisian group rather than as part of the West Germanic dialect continuum, which excludes English?

I've seen pointed out that language classification is mostly "useful" as a taxonomy; and the people who need taxonomies (in the intro chapters to synchronic, typological or micro-comparative linguistic works) do not actually care if the taxonomy is historically accurate or not. So in this fashion it would be totally workable to treat English as a "North Germanic" offshoot.

History enters the picture for a couple of different reasons, some of which just conflate concepts with one another, but one practical point is the possibility to choose between different classifications: if the North Germanic features of English can be shown to be younger than the West Germanic ones, then that's a generally applicable unique criterion to prefer the latter classification over the former. (The opposite doesn't work: connections get weaker as they get younger.)

A lot of the time this doesn't really work though. Are commonalities between groups like Germanic and Balto-Slavic shared archaisms, late areal connections, or signs of a real genetic subgroup?

Howl wrote:
(…) Volgaic (…)

Case in point: grouping Mordvin and Mari together has been obsolete since the 80s, but this has been more due to negative evidence (most commonalities can be shown to be superficial, trivial, or shared archaisms) than due to any newly proposed subgroup being now considered clearly true. The currently "active" alternative proposals are West Uralic (Samic + Finnic + Mordvin) and Central Uralic (Mari + Permic), but they are only barely better, far from the quality of the primary groups like Mordvin.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:37 pm 
Avisaru
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Howl wrote:
You can't compare whole language families just based on proto-languages and be totally oblivious to the language branches down the tree. So when you are comparing IE and Uralic, you are actually comparing Finnic, Saamic, Volgaic, Permic, Ugric and Samoyedic against Hittite, Tocharian, Indo-Iranian, Hellenic, Italo-Celtic, Germanic, Balto-Slavic etc. Any approach that just takes a fixed Swadesh list from a proto-language and limits itself to that is bound to fail.


I used the Swadesh list as a simple example of the problems of iterated binary comparison. While the multiple branches are what make comparing Uraic and Indo-European appealing, you still face the issue that anything simple lost on the way to Proto-Uralic or on the way to Proto-Indo-European will be missing from reconstructed PIU.

Howl wrote:
So why would anyone want to do it that way? The big danger of macro-comparisons of more than 2-3 language families is that the set of language branches down the tree becomes to big. And then it does become just a comparison of the proto-languages themselves.


And here we reach the issue of judicious reaching down.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 3:23 pm 
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Tropylium wrote:
A lot of the time this doesn't really work though. Are commonalities between groups like Germanic and Balto-Slavic shared archaisms, late areal connections, or signs of a real genetic subgroup?

Or signs of a substrate language?


JAL


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:42 pm 
Avisaru
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Quote:
A lot of the time this doesn't really work though. Are commonalities between groups like Germanic and Balto-Slavic shared archaisms, late areal connections, or signs of a real genetic subgroup?

I suspect the classification of Romance is an example worth considering.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:50 am 
Smeric
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jal wrote:
Tropylium wrote:
A lot of the time this doesn't really work though. Are commonalities between groups like Germanic and Balto-Slavic shared archaisms, late areal connections, or signs of a real genetic subgroup?

Or signs of a substrate language?

Most of the BSL-Germanic commonalities, except for the "m" in the plural case endings, look like areal developments to me.*1) And those are hard to distinguish from substrate influence, but assuming substrates only adds value if we have language material that is structured in a certain way that makes it likely that a different language (or language grouping / family) was involved, like the Temematic material that shows a different development to BSL of the PIE stop system, or the "bird language" material with its non-PIE ablaut a-CRC vs. CaRC, or the un-etymologised Germanic nautical lexicon (these are example where I at least see a basic case for positing substrates; I'm not sufficiently up to speed on all these hypotheses to say how well they hold up).
*1) The m-endings may be areal as well, but at least that must go back quite a way to when the IE plural case system was still being formed. And if you look at the verbal systems, BSL on one hand and Germanic OTOH look to me as if they parted ways relatively early.


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