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Scott DeLancey delancey at
Fri Jan 23 22:39:34 UTC 1998

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
On Fri, 23 Jan 1998 manaster at wrote:
> There is another issue I would like to broach. As I argued in
> my paper on Pakawan and Coahuiltecan in Anthro Lx last year
> (and in my survey of Nsotratic in Studies in Lg in 1993),
> in recent (and not-so-recent) debates about lg classification,
> people too often reason as though refuting a part of somebody
> else's argument FOR a proposed classification constitues an
> argyument AGAINST that clasifcation.  This seems plain bad
> logic to me, and yet it is seems to be prevalent.  Any
> comments?  AMR
In principle, it isn't necessarily bad logic.  Lacking any evidence
for a relationship between two languages, the null hypothesis must
be that there is no relationship.  (Or, more properly, no relationship
at whatever level the discussion is concerned with--I might sloppily
express disbelief in the relationship of Takelma and Kalapuya, and
mean not that I don't believe that they are both Penutian, but only
that they have no closer relationship than that).  Therefore, if
only a small amount of evidence has been presented for the relationship
of X and Y, an argument which offers an alternative explanation for
that evidence is legitimately an argument against the claimed
     Where this does get illogical is where refutation of some *part*
of the evidence which has been presented for a relationship is taken
as an argument against it.  This of course makes no sense at all.
Unfortunately I have to agree with you that this is pretty common.
Scott DeLancey
Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403, USA
delancey at

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