Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 7 05:53:16 UTC 2013

Eugene Volokh links to a WaPo article on proto-Eurasiatic language. For
those interested, the piece is here

Some statements in the article are head-scratching.

> "We've never heard this language, and it's not written down anywhere,"
> said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary theorist at the University of Reading
> in England who headed the study published Monday in the Proceedings of
> the National Academy of Sciences.

> They make up a diverse group. Some don't use the Roman alphabet. Some
> had no written form until modern times. They sound different to the
> untrained ear.

> Pagel's team used as its starting material 200 words that linguists
> know to be the core vocabulary of all languages.

> In fact, they calculated that words uttered at least 16 times per day
> by an average speaker had the greatest chance of being cognates in at
> least three language families. If chance had been the explanation,
> some rarely used words would have ended up on the list. But they didn’t.

In fact, Volokh flags the "Roman alphabet" comment:

> Well, if they don't use the Roman alphabet, imagine how different from
> Indo-European languages -- or from each other -- they must be!

For an added riff, he adds a link to Wiki article on Serbo-Croatian.
I'll let IE linguists sort this one out. But WaPo crack team of science
writers needs to get more exposure to linguistics.


The American Dialect Society -

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