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zompist bboard • View topic - Nostratic, Eurasiatic, Mitian, ...

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:03 pm 
Smeric
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These topics have arisen in several places on the ZBB, especially in the , so here I'm starting a thread for them (also meant as a stand-in for the late, lamented Nostratic-L mailing list).

So, what is this thread about? This thread is about the macro-family hypotheses mentioned in the title. Nostratic was first proposed by Holger Pedersen in 1903, who connected Indo-European, Uralic, Yukaghir, Altaic, Eskimo-Aleut and Afrasian (then Semitic and "Hamitic"), and revived in the 1960s by the Russian scholars Vladislav Illich-Svitych and Aaron Dolgopolsky, who counted Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, Kartvelian, Dravidian and Afrasian as Nostratic languages. Eurasiatic is a similar proposal by Joseph Greenberg encompassing Indo-European, Tyrrhenian, Uralic, Yukahgir, Altaic, Korean, Japanese, Ainu, Nivkh, Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Eskimo-Aleut. Some Nostraticists such as Allan Bomhard combine both proposals by taking Eurasiatic as a subgroup of Nostratic. Mitian is a proposal by me, using a name coined by John Bengtson (if I am not mistaken), which encompasses Indo-European, Uralic, Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Yukaghir, Chuktoko-Kamchatkan and Eskimo-Aleut.

The authors use different methods. The Nostraticists use (or claim to use) the traditional comparative method applied to lexicon; they are, however, often criticized for allowing much semantic latitude, imprecise matches (especially Dolgopolsky's work is riddled with cover symbols for only partly known phonemes), reaching down into daughter languages and other problems. Greenberg used mass lexical comparison, which is to the comparative method what asking the question is to working out the answer - the point where actual comparative work begins. Myself, I am trying to use the traditional comparative method, looking first at the morphologies, but my work is still in an inceptive stage. So far, I am focusing on the westernmost two families of Mitian: Indo-European and Uralic, under the working hypothesis that these form a node within Mitian - which may be wrong.

So the discussion is now open. Have fun!

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 7:26 pm 
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Well, not to be frightfully old-fashioned and boring about things, but perhaps a starting place might be: is there a shred of evidence for the existence of "Mitian", let alone "Eurasiatic" or "Nostratic"?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:50 pm 
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If there aren't enough identifiable cognates (not borrowings!) for Altaic to remain a widely accepted hypothesis, then I don't see how Mitian can be proved. And I think that Indo-Uralic has the same problem. I'm not saying that there is no relationship, I'm just questioning whether it passes the test of falsifiability.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:01 pm 
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How does Aquan fit in?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 6:15 am 
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:16 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:46 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:00 pm 
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I thought Proto-Uralic is native to Europe? There's evidence for both really. And Pre-Proto-Uralic could have migrated west towards the homeland of Proto-Uralic.

Also, with such broad terms, Afro-asiatic seems much more likely as a member than Siberian languages.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:29 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 6:15 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:11 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:47 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:09 am 
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But a few pronouns, whether personal or not (or even both), can not be the sole comparative evidence. You must have a massive corpus of linked cognates.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:19 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:34 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 10:08 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 10:41 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 1:10 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 9:02 am 
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I wish to resume here the discussion of the origin of the PIE stop grades we had on the Great PIE Thread and which led me to start this thread. We don't know yet what the Proto-Indo-Uralic or Proto-Mitian consonant inventory was like, but I think that for Uralo-Siberian may give an idea - a better one at least IMHO than the large inventories reconstructed by the Nostraticists which are bloated by the inclusion of Afrasian, Kartvelian and Dravidian and underaccounting of conditioned changes.

In such a system, it would seem plausible that the PIE voiceless stops descend from the PIU voiceless stops, and the PIE voiced aspirated stops (which may actually have been voiced fricatives IMHO) descend from voiced fricatives. But what about the PIE voiced unaspirated stops, which according to some scholars like Gamkrelidze, Ivanov and Bomhard may have actually been ejectives? I am not really sold by this "glottalic theory", but it seems as if we are dealing with a highly marked kind of phonemes here, if not glottalized then pharyngealized or affricates or whatever. One could speak of "emphatic" stops as I shall do here.

Before the split of the velar series into three (front, back, labialized) in the changes associated with "Great Vowel Collapse", there would have been just two emphatic stops, *t' and *k' (*p' seems to have been missing). Now if the PIU/Mitian inventory was like Fortescue's Uralo-Siberian one, *t' could have emerged from the affricate *c (this would have to have gone somewhere as PIE doesn't have any affricate). What could *k' come from? Perhaps PIU had a uvular stop *q (though Fortescue doesn't reconstruct one), which would have changed into *k' (in a reverse of a well-known Semitic sound change). Of course, a velar affricate is also an option; like *q, it could have gone to *k or *x in Uralic. Yet, velar affricates are rare in the world's languages.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 10:34 am 
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As an alternative to ejectives, we might consider implosives for PIU, yielding the PIE plain voiced stops, and the PU nasals.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 10:35 am 
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 10:43 am 
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 10:56 am 
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If you take the plain voiced stops as the last stop series that PIE gained, why couldn't you explain their distribution simply by the distribution of their originating condition? You could for example easily imagine a Pre-PIE stop system with a plain two-way distinction of [-voiced] and [+voiced] stops where the ancestral [+voiced] series later gained secondary breathiness. If you then have some later split leading into the development of [+voiced, -breathy] stops that contrasted with the older [+voiced, +breathy] series, their distribution could simply reflect the distribution of their originating condition. I don't know how much evidence there is for such development history but the point is that a restricted distribution of a phoneme can reflect its history without the phoneme having to have any particularly special phonetic features.

I'll have to point out that hypothesising with more marked extra phonemes in Pre-Uralic to make unconditional ejectives possible in some branch of Para-Uralic (= PIE?) has some of the same feel than those bloated Nostratic inventories, though certainly in a much more tasteful scale. Just be careful that whatever you suggest remains justified.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 10:57 am 
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@Soap
And how would you interpret it if you assume that neither Indo-European nor early Proto-Uralic had ejectives?
@WeepingElf
Are you trying to first prove a genetic relationship of Uralic and Indo-European or to first prove the entire Mitian language family?

Edit: I completely agree with what gach said.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:46 am 
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I think Indo-Uralic is a useful first step towards Mitian and should be established first, but I also think Indo-Uralic reconstruction is best done with having the state of affairs in likely further relatives in mind. Such considerations lead to the working hypothesis that the Proto-Uralic phonology is more conservative than the PIE one. Also, the PU agglutinating morphology looks more archaic than the PIE fusional one. See below for more on this.

I mean like, one would come up with an Indo-Uralic correspondence set, e.g. (I don't know yet whether this set is valid or not) PIE *dh : PU *ð. But what was the PIU sound like? Taking a look at languages such as Eskimo-Aleut, or Fortescue's Uralo-Siberian reconstruction attempt, one may guess that the Proto-Indo-Uralic sound may have been *ð. Or if we could show that PIE *d (< earlier *t'?) was corresponding to PU *c (*/ts/), the question is, was it PIU *t' > PU *c, or PIU *c > Pre-PIE *t' > PIE *d? Or yet something else? One could, by looking at other Mitian languages, guess that it was probably more like the second alternative.

After all, when the rest of Mitian was more like PIE, then PIU probably was more like PIE as well, and when it was more like PU, then PIU probably was more like PU, too, in order to keep the necessary changes to a minimum and avoid a "there and back again" change in one of the languages. Right now, we see a phonology somewhat resembling that of Proto-Uralic in Eskimo-Aleut, and - a bit less clearly - in Yukaghir and Chukotko-Kamchatkan (see the correspondence chart ); even the Altaic languages, in such things as having two rather than three grades of stops (though Starostin, Dybo and Mudrak reconstruct three for Proto-Altaic), are a tad closer to the Uralic than the IE type. No Mitian language family resembles IE as closely as EA resembles Uralic, so we can at least guess that Uralic is more archaic than IE.

In fact, classification comes before reconstruction. You can't reconstruct a protolanguage without having good evidence that the languages you are reconstructing the common ancestor of are related. Tropylium has made on this matter. There are several classifications on the market which are accepted by most relevant scholars yet lack a generally accepted reconstruction. Afrasian is an example; there are several reconstruction attempts already, but no consensus on which of these is correct.

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Last edited by WeepingElf on Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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