<Language> Re: Caucasus and Kaska

H. Mark Hubey HubeyH at Mail.Montclair.edu
Tue Jan 26 03:16:25 UTC 1999

Claire Bowern wrote:

> Pama-Nyungan. What I do object to, however, is the idea that mathematicians
> work with the same sort of data that linguists do. Linguistic data,
> especially in historical linguistics, is inherently unreliable (this hasn't
> been said for a while so might as well repeat it). Think of the number of

Mathematicians, physicists, engineers, computer scientists,
psychologists, sociologists, economists all know and use methods that
depends on unreliable data.

Indeed, the methods of working with such types of data is invented
usually by mathematicians or mathematical scientists.

> times a single language in a subgroup preserves what is probably the
> proto-form. For all of you out there who have done original reconstruction
> - think of the amount of guesswork involved in determining the likely
> proto-forms and finding possible sources of the innovations. Think of the
> number of dead languages which are preserved in only a few words, and think
> of how many more there must be for which we have no knowledge whatsoever.
> Mathematicians don't have to deal with irregular gaps in their systems.
> Historical linguists do.

Economists work with irregular gaps all the time. Would you recommend,
at least, that linguists pick up these methods, if you are opposed in
principle to working with the methods of physical scientists? How about
sociologists' and psychologists's mathematical methods? Do you have
anything against them?

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

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