Etruscan / Pelasgian

Larry Trask larryt at
Wed Apr 25 08:26:31 UTC 2001

--On Saturday, April 21, 2001 8:23 pm +0000 Douglas G Kilday
<acnasvers at> wrote:

[replying to Joat Simeon's criticisms of some ideas on pre-Greek languages]

> "Indo-European" is also a hypothesis.

I'm afraid I can't agree.  IE has long since ceased to be a mere
hypothesis, and it is now a well-articulated and well-founded theory,
supported by a massive abundance and variety of evidence.  It would be
difficult to think of another linguistic theory which is better supported
by evidence than this one.

> All we have are some common lexemes
> in a few of the world's languages.

Hardly.  We have, in fact, a vast and interlocking network of data --
lexical, phonological and morphological.  These data mesh together so
tightly that no explanation other than common origin can reasonably be
considered.  This is the farthest cry possible from the case of a few
seemingly shared lexemes in some languages.

> If the square-wheel sophistry of
> "unfalsifiability" applies to Pelasgian, then it applies equally well to
> IE, and everything posted on this list is meaningless.

No; I can't agree.  Joat's point, I think, is that the hypothesis he was
complaining about is in no way forced by the scanty data, but is instead
merely one of a possibly limitless number of conjectures that might be
conjured up to fit the data.  IE could not be more different: there simply
is no plausible alternative to the recognition of a PIE ancestor.

Curiously, this unassailable conclusion was in fact rejected by several
linguists in the first half of the 20th century: Uhlenbeck, Trubetzkoy and
Tovar.  So far as I can tell, their "mixed language" alternative was never
taken seriously and is now deservedly dead.  But I have recently been
astonished to learn that a version of it has been revived, not for IE but
for Celtic.  When I get some time, I'll post a message about that on this

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

larryt at

Tel: (01273)-678693 (from UK); +44-1273-678693 (from abroad)
Fax: (01273)-671320 (from UK); +44-1273-671320 (from abroad)

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