Alexis on classification (again)

Larry Trask larryt at
Tue Jan 27 14:50:59 UTC 1998

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Alexis writes:
> Where then are the competent critics of controversial
> classificatory proposals in linguistics?
A very reasonable question, and one I'm not sure has a good answer.
You mentioned someone who had criticized Nostratic purely from the IE
point of view.  Well, I suppose he just didn't feel competent to
evaluate the data from the other five families.  So, what can anybody
do except to comment on the data he feels knowledgeable about?  If
specialists from all six families are prepared to comment on the
Nostratic use of data from their specialist families, then that's a
start.  Maybe then someone will feel himself in a position to try to
tie up the various comments.
Look: comparative linguistics is hard, and, the vaster the proposal on
the table, the harder it gets either to formulate a decent proposal or
to evaluate the result.  That's just the way it is, I think.  I don't
think these difficulties arise from the shortcomings of linguists; I
think they derive from the nearly intractable nature of the problem.
Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
larryt at

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