phonetic resemblances

H. M. Hubey hubeyh at
Wed Jan 27 00:59:07 UTC 1999

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Alexis Manaster-Ramer wrote:

> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> Larry writes:
> "As I have pointed out on various lists,
> phonetic resemblances play no part in standard comparative linguistics,
> which is based entirely upon patterns."
> I don't think this is quite true.  Perhaps it SHOULD be, but


> It is not entirely clear to me whether this is as it should
> be.  Nor whether it is possible to establish a language
> family strictly on the basis of "patterns" without
> phonetic similarities. In theory, it should be possible.
> But I don't think I know of any examples where this has
> been done.

To show that the statement by Larry Trask is untrue all that is
necessary is to show at least one case in which the phonetic
resemblance plays an important part. Here is a case:

    Language A        Language B
    ----------        ----------
    mother            mother
    father            father
    sister            sister
    hand              hand
    finger            finger
    ....               ....
    one                one
    two                two
    ...                ...

Phonetic similarity on a scale between 0 and 1 is 1. Phonetic distance
on the same scale is 0 meaning that they are identical. Genetic distance
similarly is 0 pointing out the obvious fact that it is the same language.
Nobody, I assume, would argue that any language is not related to itself

I hope this news is not too disturbing, and neither the tone nor the content

is deemed to be below that of normal discourse of such august company.

M. Hubey
Email:          hubeyh at    Backup:hubeyh at
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