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RE: [ANE-2] Sumerian as Uralic

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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]
          >
          >
          >



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        • 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 4 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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