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Re: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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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