Alexis on classification

Sarah G. Thomason sally at
Thu Jan 29 13:53:23 UTC 1998

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Let's see: Alexis Manaster Ramer accuses Johanna Nichols of making
"attacks on Altaic...based on third-hands [sic] sources".  Nichols
asks for references.  Manaster Ramer gives one reference to a work
by Nichols (therefore at most one attack).  As evidence for his
assertion that she attacks Altaic, he quotes her negative
assessment of the evidence in favor of the Altaic hypothesis.  Perhaps
Manaster Ramer views any argument against a proposal that he favors as
an attack on the proposal; I hope and believe that most linguists are
more cautious in using such inflammatory terms.  And it isn't
clear, to me at least, why he says that her assessment is based on
third-hand sources: Unger is a specialist, and the panel he's
reporting on was composed of himself and other specialists.  They
may have been wrong, but even if they were, that wouldn't justify
Manaster Ramer's characterization of their, or of Nichols', comments
on Altaic.  Polemics won't help convince people, so one hopes that
the editors of JL will check Manaster Ramer et al.'s paper carefully
for accuracy and tone before publishing it.
  --  Sally Thomason
      sally at
P.S. I, for one, disagree with Manaster Ramer's view of the
     value of his own critique of Greenberg's Amerind vs. other
     criticismss of Greenberg's proposals.  Rankins' IJAL review
     is outstanding, as is Poser's IJAL article.  And there are others, too.

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