The UPenn IE Tree (a test)

Sean Crist kurisuto at
Fri Aug 27 13:13:49 UTC 1999

On Thu, 26 Aug 1999 X99Lynx at wrote:

> Take our Stammbaum and lets arbitrarily put "Celtic" at the top where PIE is
> now.  "Celtic" is the first ancestor on our tree.

> Now add a factual premise.  That - throughout the relative time period
> represented in all the branchings of the Stammbaum to the present - a
> "language" that its speakers called "Celtic" at the onset persisted in its
> original form without change, from day one to the present.

You're starting with a premise which contradicts all of our experience; it
just doesn't ever happen that a language is static.  All living languages,
it seems, are in prepetual change.

> Throughout this whole time, there was complete continuity and zero
> innovations in that "language", and therefore no "innovations" were shared
> with any of the other languages that are represented in the branches.  Lets
> call this group of identical languages "Celtic 1...Celtic 6"

> Now lets say the branchings are pretty much the same as they were in the
> original Stammbaum - so we now have:

[Tree structure deleted]

If it miraculously were the case that the parent language remained
unchanged over centuries, while various languages split off from it, then
from a purely character-based standpoint, the tree wouldn't look like
this; it would look more like the traditional IE tree where all the
branches radiate off directly from the root.  I don't think the
methodology of Ringe, Taylor, and Warnow could distinguish a simultaneous
12-way split from the situation you describe.  It doesn't matter, because
both scenarios are overwhelmingly unlikely.

> According to LT, we cannot call Celtic 'Celtic' anymore after Anatolian
> branches because a daughter exists (Anatolian).  So lets call it C2.  C2 is
> identical in every way shape and form to Celtic.  All innovations (in
> relation to Celtic) only exist in Anatolian.

It looks to me like your concern here is what to call the internal nodes
in the tree.  This is _purely_ a matter of nomenclature.

> How would these daughter languages - identical to the original parent except
> in name - be indicated on this Stammbaum?  I don't know.   Would they get a
> branch or are they the stem?  I don't know.  Or would it look exactly as it
> does above?

It sounds like you are making a distinction between the "main truck"
(stem?) versus "branches".  This isn't a correct characterization; picture
the tree as a hanging mobile.  The fact that it was graphically
represented as having a spine down the left means nothing; we could easily
spin the pieces of this hanging mobile around so that the illusory "spine"
takes a jagged path snaking thru the tree, putting some other "spine" at
the left (e.g., with Greek, say, to the very left).  Doing so would not
affect the meaning of the tree at all.

> (NOTE:  Putting the rule about co-existing ancestors aside for the moment, a
> historian or everyday person might call Celtic through C6 by one name, since
> all are identical.  But the existence of those other daughter branches made
> us rename "Celtic" each time a new daughter arrived.)

Purely a matter of nomenclature.

> 1.  Generally, we would have no way of knowing that the apparent shared or
> totally unique 'innovations' in C6 are not "innovations" at all, but reflect
> entirely the first parent.

I can't tell whether you're taking seriously the idea that PIE could have
actually looked like the actual Proto-Celtic, or if you're just using
"Celtic" as an arbitrary substitute label for PIE.  Naturally, it _can't_
have been the case that PIE looked like Celtic, because the other branches
would have to undergo some impossible unmergings.


> It really isn't pertinent to say that this could never happen.  We could
> always adjust the scenario enough to make it more possible.

If think it is entirely pertinent; you're describing a state of affairs
which has some basic differences with the universe that we live in.  It's
true that the character-based approach would not work well in the universe
you're describing, much in the same way that our theories of physics would
not work well in a universe where things fall up rather than down.  I
don't find this the least bit problematic.

> Whether it is probable or not does not matter.  The point is that if it did
> happen, the Stammbaum with its given assumptions, would not be able to
> reflect these events accurately.  (But it would give the appearance of an
> accurate solution.)

Yes, I agree that if the situation you describe were true, then the
character-based approach could not arrive at the tree that you drew.

> This does I hope explains my awkward question about how long PIE could
> continue to co-exist with its daughter languages.  And how the answer might
> affect the direction of reconstructions.

As I said before, it's purely a matter of nomenclature whether you want to
apply the term "PIE" to some of the internal nodes in the tree.  It's
purely a matter of convention that we apply that label strictly to the
root of the tree.

  \/ __ __    _\_     --Sean Crist  (kurisuto at
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