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