No Proto-Celtic?

JoatSimeon at JoatSimeon at
Mon Apr 30 03:22:55 UTC 2001

In a message dated 4/29/01 9:10:29 PM Mountain Daylight Time, X99Lynx at

> I challenge you to describe how the current outcome would be different if you
> assumed there was no PIE and the known IE languages arose out of convergence.

-- that's a classic case of trying to require that someone "prove the
negative".  The burden of proof is in the other direction.

> Because unless you can describe a different expected outcome, convergence
> becomes just as likely an explanation as a single parent.

-- not in the least.  The historical evidence indicates that the spread of a
single parent language and its divergence into dialects which then (given a
sufficient degree of separation) become distinct daughter-languages is the
overwhelmingly predominant source of language formation, on all continents
and at all times.

> The comparative method doesn't allow for convergence.  It assumes there was
> no convergence.

-- that's because there's no evidence of convergence on the required scale
anywhere in the evidence to which we have access.

Throughout the recorded history of the IE languages, they diverge.  There's
certainly plenty of intra-linguistic influence (lexical borrowings and so
forth) but any two languages of the IE group, for example French and English,
grow _more_ similar in structure the further back you go and _less_ similar
the further forward in time.  Compare verb forms or inflections Old English
and Latin, for instance, and then in English and modern French.

The only times you get real "convergence" is when one language (or, more
commonly, dialect) is undergoing language death, and in the special case of
creolized pidgins.

Assuming that -- surprise! -- as soon as there's no written evidence,
entirely different mechanisms of causation take over is exactly equivalent
to assuming that, because we can't go there and tell, oxygen and hydrogen
don't combine to form water in a galaxy ten billion light-years away.
However, uniformity is a basic presumption of all the sciences.

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