Linguists like to argue!?

Herbert Stahlke hstahlke at WORLDNET.ATT.NET
Mon Jun 3 01:18:52 UTC 2002


I didn't pick other paragraphs because they were clearly speculative and
kinda fun.  What struck me in the paragraph in question was the idea that
IEists reject such relationships.

BTW, it's not logically necessary that IE was related to any of the groups
you list.  Basque, e.g., really has no known relatives.  We know that before
the spread of IE into Europe Basque covered a much larger area.  The Vosges
Mountains in eastern France have a Basque name, and there are other Basque
toponyms in Western Europe.  Larry Trask has pretty well put paid to the
arguments for relationships between Basque and NW Caucasian or other
Caucasian groups.  The linguistic complexity of the Caucasus, at least five
unrelated families, suggest, as Johanna Nichols has argued, that this is a
relic area that reflects multiple population movements.  The problems with
claims of distant relationship with Uralic, Afro-Asiatic, or Dravidian, to
mention the most frequent claims, include that, as Donald Ringe has argued,
the sound correspondences attested do not rise above the statistical level
of chance resemblence, that we can't clearly distinguish inheritance from
borrowing at that time depth, and that frequently the putative
correspondences simply aren't regular enough to base any reconstruction on.
All that said, people like Bomhard and Greenberg have demonstrated enough
correspondences in inflectional and derivational morphology to make claims
of genetic relationship impossible to dismiss out of hand, and Greenberg's
claims are much more far-reaching than Bomhard's, including a lot more
families in his Eurasian.  But whether Eurasian goes back to the last Ice
Age is doubtful.  We're stuck with the reality that our comparative methods
simply can't reliable take us back much more than 10-15k years at the
extreme outside, and a lot of comparativists would hesitate to go beyond
10k.  So until we have new methods that work, perhaps of Nichols' sort,
we're stuck with careful speculation.


You wrote:

I'm a little surprised that of all the items in my "proposal" you would pick
that paragraph to rebut.  I was at that point building a logical (though
quite tenous) chain of arguments that IE was necessarily related to
Finno-Ugrian, Semitic, and/or Basque, and I had to dispose of the argument
that IE was invented (no, better to say "came into existence") AFTER the
glaciers had started retreating from Northern Europe.

But yes you are right, the paragraph in question does set up a straw man
argument.  Being an amateur, I have never encountered any theories as to
early Europeans spoke during the latter parts of the Ice Ages, so I tried to
imagine the possible theories.

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