phonetic resemblances etc.

Alexis Manaster-Ramer manaster at
Sun Jan 31 23:39:32 UTC 1999

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

On Sun, 31 Jan 1999, Sally Thomason wrote:

> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>    Alexis Manaster Ramer refers to Goddard's Comecrudan proposal
> as "this little bit of classificatory work" and says that this is,
> as far as he [MR] knows, Goddard's "sole substantive contribution
> to this area of research".  If by "this area of research" MR means
> "classificatory work" in general, his claim is startling.  Goddard's
> 1975 article "Algonquian, Wiyot, and Yurok: Proving a Distant
> Genetic Relationship" (in a Festschrift for C.F. Voegelin), though
> of course not the first or only proposal of that grouping, is the
> most substantive and convincing, and is certainly a well-known
> contribution to the literature on long-distance relationships.

I meant an original contribution, that is, one proposing a
family which had been previously proposed and strongly
argued (Algic was by Sapir) AND generally accepted (as Algic
has been ever since Haas's paper on the subject).  Ives
is one of my intellectual heroes, though I think he is wrong
on some few issues of methodology which I have spelled out
in print and right on others
(and the 1975 paper is one I have cited in
this contex, I am sure).

I am sorry Sally has misunderstood what I meant.  My fault
of course.

So, unless I am mistaken and Sally would surely have
pointed it out if I were, Ives' one and only published
proposal for a new linguistic family is the Comecrudan
one.  And it is one I fully accept. Indeed one of those
many contributions of Ives that make him my hero.

>    It's worth remembering that the Comecrudan example first came up
> because MR suggested it as an example of a genetic
> relationship posited by a highly respected historical
> linguist on the basis of phonetic resemblances alone.

Precisely, though not the only such example I dont think,
it is perhaps the clearest such example there is. And
it would lose all force if I did not admire Ives as
I do.

>  My
> point in mentioning some of the details of Goddard's proposal
> was not to endorse it particularly -- I agree with Larry
> Trask that there isn't enough data for serious hypothesis
> testing (though we should also remember that Goddard
> *postulated* the relationship; he did not say that he had
> established one)

That's a quibble.  He says there is a strong case.
Further, I did not talk just of Goddard.  I said
'Goddard and Campbell', and I think Campbell clearly
takes Comecrudan as established.

> -- but to point out that Goddard emphasizes
> the recurring correspondence as a crucial bit of evidence.
> That is quite different from mere phonetic resemblance.

Ives does not indicate that the correspondence (which
he does not identify, which occurs in two examples
if THAT is the one had in mind and seems to be contradicted
by another one) is crucial. He mentions it in passing.
And I dont believe that Campbell even mentions it,
though I could, for once, be wrong.

>    For the record, in his 1979 article on languages of South
> Texas and the Lower Rio Grande, Goddard doesn't give an exact
> indication of the amount of data available for Comecrudo --
> he cites an early "vocabulary of 148 entries" (1829) and
> refers to a "more extensive body of material" collected
> later.  But he does give figures for the other two languages
> in his postulated family: a 21-word vocabulary for Garza (1828),
> whose speakers were already "largely acculturated and all spoke
> Spanish" (p. 371) and a 22-entry vocabulary for Mamulique.  So
> the database is sparse indeed, as Goddard notes.
Indeed, but what is the implication of "For the record"?
Is it again that I did something wrong?


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