Sum: Yakhontov's principle

H. Mark Hubey HubeyH at
Sun Jan 24 17:26:57 UTC 1999

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Larry Trask wrote:
> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> On Thu, 21 Jan 1999, Alexander Vovin wrote:
> > Larry,
> >
> >     Hmmm... The following puzzles me:
> >
> > >Claim 2: If the proportion of phonetic resemblances in the 35-word list
> > >is higher than the proportion of phonetic resemblances in the 65-word
> > >list, then this is evidence that the languages are related.
> >
> > >This second claim I have big problems with.  I myself do not believe
> > >that phonetic resemblances are of any significance at all in comparative
> > >linguistics, at least in the absence of a rigorous statistical
> > >underpinning.  Given the current conspicuous disagreements among the

I always wonder what people by "phonetic resemblance" because sometimes
things like this don't make sense to me. How is phonetic resemblance
measured? Resemblance/Similarity is related to distance/difference. We
can always measure or mentally use a scale from 0 to 1 in this case.
For example, if the two words are identical the distance between them
(i.e. difference) is zero. That means resemblance is 1 meaning maximum

I fail to see how regular sound change can fail to create a phonetic
resemblance because they are functions of each other.

It is distressing to find someone who has studied chemistry or chemical
engineering to fail to make clear what exactly he is opposing.

IT would be possible to create distance measures in which some results
regular sound change would register a very large distance but at that
point the complexity would probably preclude any humans from registering
the sound changes as regular. I posted a list to sci.lang and several
groups to demonstrate this effect "live" but somehow its purpose seems
to have
been completely missed.

Best Regards,
hubeyh at =-=-=-=

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