Alexis on classification (again)

Larry Trask larryt at
Tue Jan 27 14:44:24 UTC 1998

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Alexis writes:
> But I am not trying to argue that Sapir for example should
> get credit for recognizing Pakawan despite the lack of data
> in his published work on this.  In fact, I never said anything
> about credit.
OK; my apologies, then, but you did give me the impression that you
thought Sapir had done something interesting.
> I am concerned about the fact that a lot of linguists, yourself
> among them, have been publishing all kinds of statements about the
> validity or otherwise of work in linguistic classification while
> staunchly avoiding getting their hands dirty at all or only doing so
> in cases where one is shooting ducks in a barrel.
I have indeed blasted a few encupated anatids, but it's not my fault
that my specialist language seems to attract nothing else.
As for getting my hands dirty, I have already explained that I do not
choose to undertake comparative work, because I believe I am better
qualified to do other things.  We can't *all* be comparativists,
Alexis -- somebody has to do the work ;-)
[on the absence of informed evaluations of Nostratic and other
It may just be that few of us feel competent to undertake a
magisterial scrutiny of proposals embracing vast numbers of languages
and families.
> Of course, I find the uncritical acceptance of untested
> or even provably wrong proposals on the other side (whether
> in the case of Nostratic, Dene-Caucasian, Amerind, or
> any other such proposal) equally distressing.
Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
larryt at

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