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RE: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic

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  • Trudy Kawami
    Peter, For those of us who are philologically challenged, could you explain why Ural-Altaic is now a non-category (at least in some eyes). Trudy S. Kawami,
    Message 1 of 11 , Jun 6, 2011
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      Peter,
      For those of us who are philologically challenged, could you explain why "Ural-Altaic" is now a non-category (at least in some eyes).

      Trudy S. Kawami, PhD
      Director of Research
      Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
      461 East 57th Street
      New York, NY 10022
      212-980-5400 X25
      www.arthurmsacklerfdn.org

      From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Peter T. Daniels
      Sent: Monday, June 06, 2011 11:11 AM
      To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic



      My first problem with Simo's paper is that he talks about "Ural-Altaic." Since
      there is no such thing, it renders suspect anything he might say about Uralic
      philology. Also, many of the traits he mentions are typological, not genetic --
      the same sorts of things that led to the positing of "Ural-Altaic" more than a
      century ago. (It was sort of a successor to "Turanian," which even in those days
      was recognized as a sort of "elsewhere" category and not a demonstrated genetic
      unity.)
      --
      Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...<mailto:grammatim%40verizon.net>
      Jersey City

      ________________________________



      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Sikozu Johnson
      On Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 2:22 PM, Trudy Kawami wrote: For those of us who are philologically challenged, could you explain why
      Message 2 of 11 , Jun 6, 2011
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        On Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 2:22 PM, Trudy Kawami
        <tkawami@...>wrote: "For
        those of us who are philologically challenged, could you explain why
        "Ural-Altaic" is now a non-category (at least in some eyes)."

        Well, I can answer that in a non-specialist manner: Ural-Altaic was a
        lumping without real proof and with varying meanings depending on the
        locutor. While we are working hard to demonstrate that Altaic is a "real"
        over-family comprised of the linguistically-established Mongolic and Turkic
        families (as opposed to, say, two families whose physical nearness caused a
        great deal of loanwords, areal grammatical and phonological convergence),
        there is no solid evidence that a superfamily bigger than that is in
        existence.

        Basically, Ural-Altaic was a "lumping" idea suggested by linguists on the
        basis of very slim evidences, for example, that the languages in question
        all were spoken in East and Central-East Asia in the past. Beyond that,
        there's no evidence.

        But! It might one day be proven to be correct. Still, I have to ask what on
        earth Parpola is comparing, considering that we don't *have* a Ural-Altaic
        proto-language to compare Sumerian to...

        Anna Johnson
        Harvard College '97


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Robert M Whiting
        ... I m not Peter, but this is my understanding the current view: There is no Ural-Alataic because there is no Altaic language group. It is a ghost-family
        Message 3 of 11 , Jun 6, 2011
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          On Mon, 6 Jun 2011, Trudy Kawami wrote:

          > Peter,
          > For those of us who are philologically challenged, could you explain why
          > "Ural-Altaic" is now a non-category (at least in some eyes).

          I'm not Peter, but this is my understanding the current view:

          There is no Ural-Alataic because there is no Altaic language group. It is
          a ghost-family consisting of languages that have many typological
          similarities that have resulted from long periods of contact (much as
          English has many characteristics of French, but English is not a Romance
          language); these are generally known as "areal features" -- features that
          languages share simply by being in contact over a long period of time.
          "Altaic" then is a group of languages that look somewhat similar but that
          are not genetically related.

          The "Altaic hypothesis" breaks down because it has proved impossible to
          reconstruct a proto-language for the group. This indicates that there is
          no genetic relationship because languages that are genetically related
          were once the same langauge. And this "same language" (the
          proto-language) can be reconstructed from the daughter languages if in
          fact the daughter languages are genetically related. It is a (relatively)
          simple matter of tracing the cognate words in the daughter languages back
          through regualr sound changes and phonological laws until you reach a form
          that could have been the ancestor of all the cognates in the daughter
          languages. This works a treat for Proto-Indo-European, but doesn't work
          at all for "Altaic".

          People (including linguists) still speak of "Altaic" languages but usually
          put "Altaic" in quotation marks to indicate that while it may be
          considered as a group, the grouping is based on shared typological
          features and common vocabulary based on extensive loans and not on a
          genetic relationship between the languages.

          Bob Whiting
          whiting@...


          > From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Peter T. Daniels
          > Sent: Monday, June 06, 2011 11:11 AM
          > To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic
          >
          > My first problem with Simo's paper is that he talks about "Ural-Altaic."
          > Since there is no such thing, it renders suspect anything he might say
          > about Uralic philology. Also, many of the traits he mentions are
          > typological, not genetic -- the same sorts of things that led to the
          > positing of "Ural-Altaic" more than a century ago. (It was sort of a
          > successor to "Turanian," which even in those days was recognized as a
          > sort of "elsewhere" category and not a demonstrated genetic unity.)
          > --
          > Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...<mailto:grammatim%40verizon.net>
          > Jersey City
        • Trudy Kawami
          So in other words, this language grouping is about as valid as the image of the Sumerians in their creaky 4-wheeled carts pulled probably by onager-donkey
          Message 4 of 11 , Jun 6, 2011
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            So in other words, this language "grouping" is about as valid as the image of the Sumerians in their creaky 4-wheeled carts pulled probably by onager-donkey hybrids "invading" Mesopotamia. :)

            Trudy S. Kawami, PhD
            Director of Research
            Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
            461 East 57th Street
            New York, NY 10022
            212-980-5400 X25
            www.arthurmsacklerfdn.org

            From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Robert M Whiting
            Sent: Monday, June 06, 2011 4:02 PM
            To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: RE: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic



            On Mon, 6 Jun 2011, Trudy Kawami wrote:

            > Peter,
            > For those of us who are philologically challenged, could you explain why
            > "Ural-Altaic" is now a non-category (at least in some eyes).

            I'm not Peter, but this is my understanding the current view:

            There is no Ural-Alataic because there is no Altaic language group. It is
            a ghost-family consisting of languages that have many typological
            similarities that have resulted from long periods of contact (much as
            English has many characteristics of French, but English is not a Romance
            language); these are generally known as "areal features" -- features that
            languages share simply by being in contact over a long period of time.
            "Altaic" then is a group of languages that look somewhat similar but that
            are not genetically related.

            The "Altaic hypothesis" breaks down because it has proved impossible to
            reconstruct a proto-language for the group. This indicates that there is
            no genetic relationship because languages that are genetically related
            were once the same langauge. And this "same language" (the
            proto-language) can be reconstructed from the daughter languages if in
            fact the daughter languages are genetically related. It is a (relatively)
            simple matter of tracing the cognate words in the daughter languages back
            through regualr sound changes and phonological laws until you reach a form
            that could have been the ancestor of all the cognates in the daughter
            languages. This works a treat for Proto-Indo-European, but doesn't work
            at all for "Altaic".

            People (including linguists) still speak of "Altaic" languages but usually
            put "Altaic" in quotation marks to indicate that while it may be
            considered as a group, the grouping is based on shared typological
            features and common vocabulary based on extensive loans and not on a
            genetic relationship between the languages.

            Bob Whiting
            whiting@...<mailto:whiting%40cc.helsinki.fi>

            > From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com<mailto:ANE-2%40yahoogroups.com> [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com<mailto:ANE-2%40yahoogroups.com>] On Behalf Of Peter T. Daniels
            > Sent: Monday, June 06, 2011 11:11 AM
            > To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com<mailto:ANE-2%40yahoogroups.com>
            > Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic
            >
            > My first problem with Simo's paper is that he talks about "Ural-Altaic."
            > Since there is no such thing, it renders suspect anything he might say
            > about Uralic philology. Also, many of the traits he mentions are
            > typological, not genetic -- the same sorts of things that led to the
            > positing of "Ural-Altaic" more than a century ago. (It was sort of a
            > successor to "Turanian," which even in those days was recognized as a
            > sort of "elsewhere" category and not a demonstrated genetic unity.)
            > --
            > Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...<mailto:grammatim%40verizon.net><mailto:grammatim%40verizon.net>
            > Jersey City



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Peter T. Daniels
            My reply will be somewhere between Sikozu s and Bob s. These days, there seem to be more Altaicists favoring the genetic unity of the three (not just two)
            Message 5 of 11 , Jun 6, 2011
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              My reply will be somewhere between Sikozu's and Bob's.

              These days, there seem to be more Altaicists favoring the genetic unity of the
              three (not just two) families, Turkic - Mongolic - Tungusic (the only well-known
              Tungusic language was Manchu, which is extinct in its homeland of Manchuria but
              survives out west in a variety not written with the Manchu alphabet) than not;
              and the Japanese-Korean phylum (the late Samuel Martin's demonstration of their
              unity is rather convincing) in turn is said to be related to Altaic. (See Roy
              Andrew Miller, *Japanese and the Other Altaic Languages*.) But there was much
              contact over the centuries, so the historical picture is very muddled, and the
              most ancient records are IIRC from the mid 1st millennium CE.

              But adding in Uralic is another matter. First, it's basically impossible to
              reconstruct any vowels in Proto-Uralic,* because of the vowel harmony** that
              pervades all the languages, so the ancestral roots are pretty meager stuff to
              work with. And then, the time-depth for any PUA is pretty much beyond what we
              think can safely be reached with the Comparative Method that gave us
              Indo-European (which in its entirely goes back only about as far as the
              closely-knit Semitic family must go back).

              *Uralic is Finno-Ugric + Samoyed. Finnic includes Finnish, Estonian, and Saami
              [Lapp]; and Ugric includes Hungarian and a bunch of dying languages mostly north
              and east of Moscow.

              **Vowel harmony says that within a word (to generalize), all the vowels have to
              agree in one or more of their features -- so the Turkish plural -lVr is -lar
              after a word with one kind of vowel and -ler after words with a different kind
              of vowel.--
              Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...
              Jersey City




              ________________________________
              From: Trudy Kawami <tkawami@...>
              To: "ANE-2@yahoogroups.com" <ANE-2@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Mon, June 6, 2011 2:22:15 PM
              Subject: RE: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic

               
              Peter,
              For those of us who are philologically challenged, could you explain why
              "Ural-Altaic" is now a non-category (at least in some eyes).

              Trudy S. Kawami, PhD
              Director of Research
              Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
              461 East 57th Street
              New York, NY 10022
              212-980-5400 X25
              www.arthurmsacklerfdn.org

              From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Peter T.
              Daniels
              Sent: Monday, June 06, 2011 11:11 AM
              To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic

              My first problem with Simo's paper is that he talks about "Ural-Altaic." Since
              there is no such thing, it renders suspect anything he might say about Uralic
              philology. Also, many of the traits he mentions are typological, not genetic --
              the same sorts of things that led to the positing of "Ural-Altaic" more than a
              century ago. (It was sort of a successor to "Turanian," which even in those days
              was recognized as a sort of "elsewhere" category and not a demonstrated genetic
              unity.)
              --
              Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...<mailto:grammatim%40verizon.net>
              Jersey City

              ________________________________
            • Robert M Whiting
              ... Oh, it s a valid grouping , it s just not a demonstrable language family if one takes language family in its accepted historical linguistic meaning of a
              Message 6 of 11 , Jun 6, 2011
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                On Mon, 6 Jun 2011, Trudy Kawami wrote:

                > So in other words, this language "grouping" is about as valid as the
                > image of the Sumerians in their creaky 4-wheeled carts pulled probably
                > by onager-donkey hybrids "invading" Mesopotamia. :)

                Oh, it's a valid "grouping", it's just not a demonstrable language family
                if one takes "language family" in its accepted historical linguistic
                meaning of a group of languages that are all descended from a common
                language. If there is no demonstrable Altaic language family, there is no
                Ural-Altaic superfamily. Nonetheless, there are those who defend the
                existence of an Altaic language family vigorously.

                It is important to keep in mind that the reconstruction of a prehistoric
                proto-language is always an inductive proof, subject to the limitations of
                inductive proofs. One does not "prove" that there was a
                Proto-Indo-European language; rather one makes it impossible to believe
                that there was not a Proto-Indo-European language by providing evidence of
                cognate forms over a large number of languages far in excess of
                coincidence. The farther back you go in time or the fewer the number of
                languages you have to draw on, the more difficult it becomes. However, it
                is also important to keep in mind that just because no convincing Altaic
                proto-language has yet been demonstrated does not necessarily mean that
                there is not one.

                Bob Whiting
                whiting@...


                > From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com On Behalf Of Robert M Whiting
                > Sent: Monday, June 06, 2011 4:02 PM
                > To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
                > Subject: RE: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic
                >
                > On Mon, 6 Jun 2011, Trudy Kawami wrote:
                >
                > > Peter,
                > > For those of us who are philologically challenged, could you explain
                > > why "Ural-Altaic" is now a non-category (at least in some eyes).
                >
                > I'm not Peter, but this is my understanding the current view:
                >
                > There is no Ural-Alataic because there is no Altaic language group. It
                > is a ghost-family consisting of languages that have many typological
                > similarities that have resulted from long periods of contact (much as
                > English has many characteristics of French, but English is not a Romance
                > language); these are generally known as "areal features" -- features
                > that languages share simply by being in contact over a long period of
                > time. "Altaic" then is a group of languages that look somewhat similar
                > but that are not genetically related.
                >
                > The "Altaic hypothesis" breaks down because it has proved impossible to
                > reconstruct a proto-language for the group. This indicates that there is
                > no genetic relationship because languages that are genetically related
                > were once the same langauge. And this "same language" (the
                > proto-language) can be reconstructed from the daughter languages if in
                > fact the daughter languages are genetically related. It is a
                > (relatively) simple matter of tracing the cognate words in the daughter
                > languages back through regualr sound changes and phonological laws until
                > you reach a form that could have been the ancestor of all the cognates
                > in the daughter languages. This works a treat for Proto-Indo-European,
                > but doesn't work at all for "Altaic".
                >
                > People (including linguists) still speak of "Altaic" languages but
                > usually put "Altaic" in quotation marks to indicate that while it may be
                > considered as a group, the grouping is based on shared typological
                > features and common vocabulary based on extensive loans and not on a
                > genetic relationship between the languages.
                >
                > Bob Whiting
                > whiting@...
                >
                > > From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com On Behalf Of Peter T. Daniels
                > > Sent: Monday, June 06, 2011 11:11 AM
                > > To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
                > > Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic
                > >
                > > My first problem with Simo's paper is that he talks about "Ural-Altaic."
                > > Since there is no such thing, it renders suspect anything he might say
                > > about Uralic philology. Also, many of the traits he mentions are
                > > typological, not genetic -- the same sorts of things that led to the
                > > positing of "Ural-Altaic" more than a century ago. (It was sort of a
                > > successor to "Turanian," which even in those days was recognized as a
                > > sort of "elsewhere" category and not a demonstrated genetic unity.)
                > > --
                > > Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...
                > > Jersey City
              • Robert M Whiting
                ... Perhaps, but since Vovin jumped ship so dramatically in 2005 ( The end of the Altaic controversy [review of Starostin et al. 2003], *Central Asiatic
                Message 7 of 11 , Jun 6, 2011
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                  On Mon, 6 Jun 2011, Peter T. Daniels wrote:

                  > My reply will be somewhere between Sikozu's and Bob's.
                  >
                  > These days, there seem to be more Altaicists favoring the genetic unity
                  > of the three (not just two) families, Turkic - Mongolic - Tungusic (the
                  > only well-known Tungusic language was Manchu, which is extinct in its
                  > homeland of Manchuria but survives out west in a variety not written
                  > with the Manchu alphabet) than not;

                  Perhaps, but since Vovin jumped ship so dramatically in 2005 ("The end of
                  the Altaic controversy" [review of Starostin et al. 2003], *Central
                  Asiatic Journal* 49, 71-132), the momentum seems to have swung to the
                  anti-Altaicists.

                  > and the Japanese-Korean phylum (the late Samuel Martin's demonstration
                  > of their unity is rather convincing) in turn is said to be related to
                  > Altaic. (See Roy Andrew Miller, *Japanese and the Other Altaic
                  > Languages*.) But there was much contact over the centuries, so the
                  > historical picture is very muddled, and the most ancient records are
                  > IIRC from the mid 1st millennium CE.
                  >
                  > But adding in Uralic is another matter. First, it's basically impossible
                  > to reconstruct any vowels in Proto-Uralic, because of the vowel
                  > harmony that pervades all the languages, so the ancestral roots are
                  > pretty meager stuff to work with. And then, the time-depth for any PUA
                  > is pretty much beyond what we think can safely be reached with the
                  > Comparative Method that gave us Indo-European (which in its entirely
                  > goes back only about as far as the closely-knit Semitic family must go
                  > back).

                  Or, to quote Starostin: "The few scholars that studied the [Altaic]
                  languages regarded them rather as part of a common Ural-Altaic family,
                  together with Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic languages -- an idea now
                  completely discarded." (Starostin et al. 2003: 8).

                  Bob Whiting
                  whiting@...

                  Starostin et al. Starostin, Sergei A., Anna V. Dybo, and Oleg A.
                  2003 Mudrak. Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic
                  Languages, 3 volumes. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.
                • Brian Colless
                  Well, is Sumerian still to be regarded as an orphan, having lost all its relatives, and having died out with no distant family members to attend its funeral?
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jun 9, 2011
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                    Well, is Sumerian still to be regarded as an orphan, having lost all
                    its relatives, and having died out with no distant family members to
                    attend its funeral? Parpola thinks it still had contact (trade) with
                    the ancestors in the homeland.

                    Or was it unique and autogenous, a product of autogenesis, the result
                    of a game (like Esperanto) of "let's invent a language", or two?

                    (Has that eme-sal language been sorted out yet? Was it a matter of
                    different vocabulary being used by men and women?)

                    Brian Colless
                    Massey University
                    Palmerston North
                    New Zealand

                    Begin forwarded message:

                    > From: Brian Colless <briancolless@...>
                    > Date: 6 June 2011 5:46:45 PM
                    > To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
                    > Subject: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic
                    > Reply-To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
                    >
                    >
                    > <http://www.s155239215.onlinehome.us/turkic/42TurkicAndSumer/SimoParpola_Altaic-UralicAndSumerEn.htm
                    > >
                    >
                    > Simo Parpola
                    > Sumerian: A Uralic Language
                    > (Helsinki, 2007)
                    > 53e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Moscow, July 23, 2007
                    >
                    > I have often heard that Sumerian is "an agglutinative language like
                    > Finnish".
                    >
                    > Now that my daughter Laurel Colless has given me two Finnish
                    > granddaughters, I ought to be interested in this question (she is the
                    > wife of Finland's ambassador in Washington, but soon to move to
                    > Athens).
                    >
                    > Simo Parpola has now argued that Sumerian is Ural-Altaic, bringing it
                    > in from the cold of isolation (or into the cold). He notes that this
                    > hypothesis has been tried before but has been rejected by Finno-
                    > Ugrists and Assyriologists.
                    >
                    > Another thing that is said about Finnish is that its nouns have
                    > umpteen cases (inflexions).
                    >
                    > From my observation, languages with cases lose them along the way
                    > (Latin into the Romance languages), though German has been very
                    > conservative in contrast to English.
                    >
                    > Did Sumerian have a paradigm of cases?
                    >
                    > Is there a connection? Parpola had found relevant 478 verbs and 589
                    > nouns in 2007, but I have seen, for example, a long list of words that
                    > shows Italian and Arabic are closely related, though I think Parpola's
                    > argument would be stronger.
                    >
                    > He has the Sumerians arriving in Mesopotamia (as invading immigrants,
                    > with wheeled vehicles) around 3300 BCE.
                    >
                    > Brian Colless
                    >
                    > School of History
                    > Massey University
                    > New Zealand
                    >
                    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    >
                    >
                    >



                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Xianhua
                    I m not really specialized in emesal but somehow I have the impression that it, perhaps similar to the UD.GAL.NUN writing system, is not far from a
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jun 9, 2011
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                      I'm not really specialized in emesal but somehow I have the impression that it, perhaps similar to the UD.GAL.NUN writing system, is not far from a cryptography derived from "standard" Sumerian (cf. Krebernik, OBO 160/1, p. 309).

                      Regarding Prof Parpola's article, I'm more interested in his suggestion:

                      "The non-Uralic features of Sumerian, such as the ergative construction and the prefix chains of the verb, can be explained as special developments of Sumerian in an entirely new linguistic environment after its separation from the other Uralic languages."

                      Any comments from the list? Many thanks.

                      Dr. Xianhua Wang
                      Department of History
                      Peking University
                      Beijing 100871, China




                      发件人: Brian Colless
                      发送时间: 2011-06-09 22:45:56
                      主题: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic


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