Linguistics vs. the Other UnHuman Sciences

Glen Gordon glengordon01 at
Wed Jan 27 18:22:50 UTC 1999

To Patrick, Claire and others,

>>OK, "initial conditions are irrecoverable with current methods". The
>>best historical linguistics can do at the moment is about 15,000
>>years (at the most - many would say less).

>This is but the assumption beyond the assumption. It has also not
>been proved.

Poor Claire. Patrick would do well to stop this unskilled nick-picking
of words. The above reads "at the moment" meaning "present" and is a
fair assessment of the state of historical linguistics at present, not
about what can be done in the future. It wasn't an assumption or an
"assumption beyond an assumption" (huh?); it was an accurate

>>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.

>It is certainly not necessary to know every language that ever has
>been spoken to be able to say with a fair degree of surity whether a
>vocabulary item was liable to have been present in the substratum of
>all language.

Again, I don't think that was exactly Claire's point. The further in
time one tries to delve to recover the state of a language, the more
difficult it becomes because of less and less to work with. This can be
hindered by the lack of knowledge we have of a daughter language group
that may have died before it was ever recorded. This unrecorded language
may have different characteristics that would shed light on a better and
hence more accurate reconstruction of its parent language. This is
simple fact. Doesn't mean that it's impossible to reconstruct the said
language, it just makes it very uncertain, as we all know.

Perhaps, what should be noted is that as opposed to the other sciences
mentioned here (aside from psychology), linguistics deals with the human
factor. A science dealing with this human factor cannot be regimented
into a cookie-cutter approach. Until we can explain with concise
equations how humans react, linguistics will never work the way these
other sciences do. The End.

Hubey, Patrick? Get crackin' with those equations, I want them by the
end of the millenium, and stop scaring people with your arguments
against generally accepted methodology. :)

Glen Gordon
glengordon01 at

Kisses and Hugs

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