Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 7 18:37:31 UTC 2013

Way I see it, once ape-persons got the synapses to talk, they started
talkin'. If they started when there was just a single band, language is
ultimately monogenetic. Iffen they waited till they wuz split up like,

Existin' language families,'d figger they came late enuff that
their *immediate* proto forms musta been one at a time, barrin' the
cross-pollinatin' an' general interferin'.


On Tue, May 7, 2013 at 1:47 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: proto-proto-proto...
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> FWIW I was not criticizing the research. My concern was with the
> reporting. In general, I would say that I am rather skeptical of most
> "single-ancestry" research, be it linguistic or genetic or some other
> kind. But this skepticism is more philosophical in nature and not based
> on the critique of the research methodology, etc., of individual studies.
>      VS-)
> On 5/7/2013 10:31 AM, Baker, John wrote:
> > It's pretty interesting stuff, actually.  The original PNAS article is
> available at  Of
> course, the Washington Post writer was not a linguist and made some
> statements that don't stand up well.
> >
> > Essentially, the researchers argue that there are some "ultraconserved"
> words that change very slowly and have cognates across related language
> families.  They use these relationships to argue for the existence of a
> Eurasiatic superfamily, consisting of the Indo-European, Altaic, Uralic,
> Eskimo-Aleut, Chukchi-Kamchatkan, Dravidian, and Kartvelian language
> families.  This is not a new idea - the Eurasiatic superfamily was proposed
> over a century ago - but the researchers' use of ultraconserved words drawn
> from the Languages of the World Etymological Database is new, or at least
> presented as new.
> >
> > The word with the most language family cognates is "thou," which the
> researchers say is found across all seven language families, followed by
> "I," with six cognates.  "Not," "that," "we," "to give," and "who" follow
> with five cognates.  While these are obviously all very common words, some
> of the words with four cognates are no longer used all that often, such as
> "bark," "ashes," "to spit," and "worm."
> >
> > The Washington Post article begins with the following odd speech, which
> it says uses words that have descended largely unchanged from 15,000 years
> ago:
> >
> > "You, hear me!  Give this fire to that old man.  Pull the black worm off
> the bark and give it to the mother.  And no spitting in the ashes!"
> >
> > That does not accurately reflect the research, of course; the words may
> be ultraconserved cognates, but that does not mean that they remain
> recognizable over 15,000 years.  Also, the ultraconserved words are not
> necessarily the same as those found in English.  For example, one of the
> ultraconserved words is "hand," but  the researchers obviously mean
> Indo-European "man-" and its cognates (the etymon of Eng. manufacture, Fr.
> main, Sp. manos), and not Eng. "hand."
> >
> > The Washington Post article includes a graphic with pronunciations of
> five words across language families.
> >
> >
> > John Baker
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