<Language> Re: Caucasus and Kaska

H. Mark Hubey HubeyH at Mail.Montclair.edu
Tue Jan 26 02:38:15 UTC 1999

[ moderator re-formatted ]

Claire Bowern wrote:

> Re Hubey's posting and the moderator's comments

> Check out the Khoisan languages of Namibia and Botswana - huge numbers of
> consonants but hardly the main theatre of history as Hubey would consider
> it. Look also at Kaytetye and Arrernte, in Central Australia. This is one
> correlation that is demonstrably weak, to put it politely.

I am aware of that, and that is, in fact, one of the pieces of data I
use and have used for a long time. The problem is actually bigger than
IE-linguistics. It involves genetics, anthropology, paleontology,
genetics, and other language families. First, the quick facts;

1. The SAn lived in North-East AFrica and were pushed south by Bantu
speakers (West Africans)

2. The SAn are not "black" but "yellow" (reddish?, copper-colored after
3. Egyptians painted themselves red (not black and not white)

4. The 1st wave out of Africa was probably 1-2 million years ago

5. The earliest Neandertal bones in Europe are now 800,000 years old

6. The big problem is whether the 2nd wave out of Africa wiped out the
Neandertals this is a problem in genetics, paleontology, etc

7. Kabardian has 1 vowel. (other caucasian languages are poor in vowels
and have lots of consonant clusters. So do IE languages. So do AA
languages. So does Khoisan.

8. Lieberman says that Neandertals could not speak. Then he changes his mind
and says that they would not be able to speak like us but would speak like
little children and could not make the "supervowel i".

9. mtDNA test say that "Eve" as African.  Y-chromosome test say that "Adam" was
African; Sudanese, Ethiopean and Khoisan.

I probably forgot some others. I've been writing for hours and I am
getting tired.

Questions: if Neandertals could not make vowels like us, what kind of a
language would they have had? If the Khoisan lived in Africa for 1-2
million years why are they yellow instead of black? Why is the fault
line of consonant-clustered languages run south from the CAucasus down
the ME to EAst Coast of Africa? What is all this saying?

> Your quotation from the Nobel Laureate about what should be taken into
> consideration when looking at language change:

> 1) frozen accidents (i.e. initial conditions)
> 2) system characteristics
> 3) external forces

>  is something students learn in first year linguistics. It is a principle
> well known. It also doesn't help here because you are taking a very weak

I am happy that it is so. What I wonder about is why the rest of the linguists
did not apparently learn this during their first year in linguistics and why I
never read that in any book.

> correlation (geographical location and number of consonants) based on a
> dodgy hypothesis and trying to find an explanation for it. Remember that

That point will eventually be settled.

> correlation is not causation; I'm sure that's taught in the physical
> sciences too.

That part is hard in the social sciences.

> Also, I wouldn't want a physicist to take any notice of what I said about
> his field, so, Mr Hubey, don't be surprised if real linguists take
> exception to being lectured at in their own field by a computer scientist.

I take exception that anyone would actually think that like the clubs that kept
out blacks, that anyone could keep me from doing linguistics. I would be more
than happy if you did computer science or physics or engineering.  Please join
any list or newsgroup and post away.

PS. I actually admire your honesty. It saves me the trouble of hinting
at such thoughts among linguists :-)

Best Regards,
hubeyh at montclair.edu =-=-=-= http://www.csam.montclair.edu/~hubey

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