disinformation on Uralic

Johanna Laakso johanna.laakso at univie.ac.at
Tue Sep 4 06:01:55 UTC 2001

>From Merlijn de Smit <isolintu at hotmail.com>:

  Below a comment to Angela Marcantonio's remarks, and a general comment.

  General Comment: I'm looking forward to seeing the list on disinformation on
  the Uralic languages, but would suggest to keep out occurrances of
  Uralo-Altaic or Uralo-Yukaghir as valid genetic nodes (the latter may well
  be controversial enough in the field itself to not mention it, btw).
  Uralo-Altaic is found in some general compendia of the world's languages
  (Voechelin & Voechelin for example, if I'm not mistaken), and it would be a
  bit boring perhaps to list all of them.

  Comments on Angela Marcantonio's remarks:


  > But there is a third category - and a more serious and important >one in
  >my view. These are statements that are neither supported not >contradicted
  >by the evidence. One might say that these statements >are "not even wrong"
  >because there is no way to tell whether they are >true or false. These
  >should properly be labelled as "speculations", >but often in Uralic studies
  >one finds them presented as if they >were "facts".
  > For example, in a detailed anaysis of Tunguz and nearby Uralic
  > >languages published between 1975 and 1988, Sinor identifies >many
  >"flawless" correspondences. He says "I am quite certain that if >from all
  >the Uralic and Altaic languages only the Northern Tunguz and >Ob-Ugric were
  >known, no-one would deny their genetic relationship". >However it is
  >usually stated as a "fact" that these "flawless" >correspondences are not
  >due to genetic inheritance but due to some >other process (usually called
  >"direct borrowing"). This is presented >as "fact" even though there is no
  >objective way to demonstrate its >truth or falsity.

  How would one go about demonstrating - in an objective way - some
  prehistorical occurrence? Surely everything we know about early language
  history is more or less speculative - but if such an assumption fits into a
  coherent account of language prehistory (based on assumptions like the
  regularity of sound change) and not contradicted by any other linguistic
  material nowadays, we can assume it happened that way, e.g. "morsian" is a
  baltic loan in Finnic and not a relic of Finno-Baltic genetic unity, since
  Baltish elements can be well explained by language contact but it is
  impossible to give a credible, coherent account of the development of
  Finno-Baltic into its daughter languages! The same would go for Ob-Ugric and
  Northern Tunguz you mentiones. This is just to say that it is necessary to
  go more deeply into what one would regard as "facts" and what one would
  regard as mere speculation when dealing with historical linguistics.


  Merlijn de Smit

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