Q: Yakhontov's principle

Alexander Vovin vovin at hawaii.edu
Wed Jan 20 13:02:15 UTC 1999

----------------------------Original message----------------------------

     The article by Sergei Ievgen'evich Iakhontov, Professor of Chinese in
St. Petersburg State University, as far as I know, was never published. It
was circulating, though, widely in late 80s in Russia, as a kind of
handout. Iakhontov devised his own 100 word list, based on Swadesh's list
(I believe he changed around 10 words or so). I believe you can find this
list in Sergei Starostin's "Altaiskaia problema i proiskhozhdenie
iaponskogo iazyka" (Moscow, Nauka (Glavnaia redaktsiia vostochnoi
literatury), 1991). The rest is true: Iakhontov argued that if two or more
languages are related, than the percentage of cognates within 35 list that
contains more stable words must be higher than percentage of cognates
within less stable 65 list. Hope this helps,


Alexander Vovin
Associate Professor of Japanese
Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures
382 Moore Hall
1890 East-West Road
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, HI 96822
vovin at hawaii.edu
fax (808)956-9515 (o.)
t.(808)956-6881 (o.)

On Tue, 19 Jan 1999, Larry Trask wrote:

> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> I have a very inexplicit reference to an article in Russian by Yakhontov
> (rest of name unknown).  In this, the author reportedly argues that the
> Swadesh 100-word list can be split into two sublists, one of 35 words
> and the other of 65 words, in such a way that the proportion of cognates
> shared in the 35-word list is always greater than the proportion shared
> in the 65-word list, when the languages involved are related.
> Can anybody provide the full reference?
> Larry Trask
> University of Sussex
> Brighton BN1 9QH
> UK
> larryt at cogs.susx.ac.uk

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