Cornish and Chaldean, related?

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Wed May 1 17:52:51 UTC 2002

You could ignore Holmes's Phoenician tin-travellers in Cornwall and deliver a serious talk on "are Indo-European and Semitic languages related?"  You will of course then have to insert your standard lecture on Indo-European into the talk.

Are IE and Semitic related?  There are some theories that say yes, e.g. the Nostratic Hypothesis, which in some versions links Semitic/Hamitic to IE.  If you're not familiar with Nostratic, a good introduction can be found at

Or examine the following clues:
1) while the rest of the number names seem to have no conection, the words for "six" and "seven" in the Semitic languages look strangely like the IE equivalents.  The similarity is most obvious in comparing Arabic with English numbers, or Russian and Hebrew numbers.

2) the above-cited Web page discusses the similarity between "five" and "fist".

3) it appears that some Middle Eastern cultures used base 5 instead of base 10.  Specifically, I am told that one of the two halves of Egypt (I don't recall whether it was Upper or Lower Egypt) used base 5 while the other used base 10.  Also, I once looked up Sumerian number-names in an on-line Sumerian dictionary and found that six was "five-one" and seven was "five two" or something to that effect.

Why do the generally-accepted language family theories end up so at sixes and sevens on these two numbers?

It could be coincidence, or it could be fossilized evidence of a long-ago struggle between base 5 and base 10.  The question is not which way you prefer to argue, but whether you can make it interesting to your audience.

     James A. Landau

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