Offlist: RE Nostratics (ad finem ?)
- Dear Mata,
I won't claim that there is no potential in Nostratic hypotheses, just, as
I said, that I find no particular interest or advantage in pursuing them.
I am a full-time academic, a Mycenologist in particular, with Mycenaean
Greek, comparative IE, and, indeed, archaeological projects demanding all
the time I don't spend teaching and advising students.
Consequently, I have little time for long e-mail exchanges, unless they
directly concern my research, or unless I think I can correct a serious
mistake or guide someone to the right answer in my little sub-discipline.
Again, all best,
> Actually I am barely acquainted with Nostratic theory.
> I am not especially opposed to speculative work though
> either -- What is now proved was once only imagined
> no ? What didn't begin as an embyron ? The thing wants
> to be, that's okay by me, indeed I applaud. But its an
> acorn not an oak, which is more or less your point no ?
> Or - as indeed we know an acorn *is* just an oak, while
> no such similar fact obtains with Nostratic - it is not
> even an acorn !
> I don't sense though that there isn't a post embryonic
> life for Nostratic and similar projects, who knows if
> the thing is viable? The people who pursue the idea that
> there is some such viability and work to create it do
> not strike me as capricious in their speculative work -
> it is not informed merely by blind conjecture or un-
> constrained by data, nor of course unconstrained by
> linguistic knowledge and intuition.
> Cyrus Gordon pursued a similar and explictly broader
> point de depart it seems to me, what issued from that is
> interesting. Perceptions of cross-cultural relatedness
> are not the thing preoccupying the minds of many either.
> Henry Fischel's work on the interchanges and inner
> connexions between Talmudic culture and Graco-Roman
> Hellenism are interesting. T Boman is another inter-
> esting example, another is T B L Webster. I hardly
> make an adequate listing. And of this group, with this
> broad interest, what if you are a comparative historical
> linguist, and what will such linguists contribute to this
> literature based upon perceptions of cross-cultural
> relatedness ? That they appear and show up at all
> presumably comes about for the same reason Jerad
> Diamond, or Cyrus Gordon &c showed up and got to work.
> It isn't work for everyone or anyone - but for a certain
> sort of person it is a vocatio. When that is the case the
> work will usually be good - it might not evolve as its creator
> expected or predicted but that is obviously neither here
> nor there, not even wrong ! as Wolfgang Pauli said.
> Heinz-Guenther Nesselrath's Review of Pierre Vidal-Naquet's
> L'Atlantide was a pleasure to read but it left me with the
> question of the etymon of Atlantis. Pursuing that I stumbled
> into the material from which I originally posed my question:
> how to evaluate the relatedness between an PIE root and
> an Hamito-Semitic root? These things have a quasi-comparability,
> but how to evaluate quasi-comparability, quasi-incommensurateness ?
> For me it is more a question than anything remotely resembling
> an answer. Perforce any answer today to this question must to
> some degree be speculative. Nobody says credibly that they
> *know* the answer to this question today nor does anyone hold
> that belief is some kind of evidence. It is not however a meta-
> physical question either, nor does anyone seek a metaphysical
> answer. We can say something about these things - not much
> admittedly. Whether we feel pessimistic or optimistic about
> this or some other way obviously is a function of temperment
> &c so I don't see how we could apriori evaluate the significance
> of our at best skeletal and hypothetical modelling of some five
> asterisks deep superlanguage. Something similar appealed, as
> I pointed out elsewhere, to Einstein. My feeling is, as it were:
> Go Einstein ! Another example from physics occurs to me: David
> Bohm's (Robert Oppenheimer's student, blackballed by McCarthy)
> hypothesis that there might be "hidden variables" which would,
> once determined, make quantum theory classical again. This was
> a very fruitful line of inquiry even though the hypothesis proved
> What do you do if you have an intuition that X is related to Y ?
> If you are in this situation it surely may happen that you find
> yourself employing cloud divination, as you say, but this will
> ultimately not be satisfying to someone who takes such an intuition
> seriously. They will work towards reality and not be satisfied
> until they get there and this is recognized by their colleagues.
> It might be that I have selected Einstein several times because
> Einstein himself was motivated fundamentally by intuitions. He
> saw relativity in an intuitive totality and he wrote frequently
> about the role of intuition in his work. At the same time Einstein
> wanted to bring intuition into reality, for instance, he wanted
> to answer the question which Mach had posed if atoms weren't
> afterall just metaphysical fictions. Einstein wrote half a dozen
> papers before he brought the atom into reality. He said that
> one thing he was after in relativity was to haul back down to
> earth from Olympos space & time which Kant had olympianized
> into the epistemological beyond.
> On a slightly different trajectory it is worth noting that before
> Faraday electricity and magnetism were thought utterly un-
> related phenomena. Faraday didn't have an intuition of electro-
> magnetism but was driven to it by careful experimentation and
> close acquaintance with, on the one hand, electricity and, on the
> other hand, magnetism. (Actually Faraday did have some handy
> metaphysical preconceptions, as I dimly recall, which favoured
> his work more than hindered it however).
> I can't say there aren't Einsteins and Faradays in Nostratics -
> indeed my optimism hopes there are. But I should be keen to
> hear what anyone has to say about the relatednessÂ¹ of those
> roots, the one Indo-European, the other Hamito-Semitic, which
> I outlined at the outset, whether they profess Nostraticism or
> not. Anyone who attempts such an answer is per necessitatem
> a crypto- or proto-Nostraticist whether voluntarily so or not,
> no ? What else should we call the one who would answer ? Have
> we another designation ?
> BTW I'd like to add that I read your posts here and on
> Aegeanet and perhaps elsewhere always with interest.
> ___ .
> Â¹ such "relatedness" is of course not a fact but a proposition.
> It is perceived relatedness & of course we can ask: perceived
> by whom Kimosabe ?? One the other hand whoever does not
> perceive any relatedness presumably has nothing to contribute
> to the answer & the very question should be suspect, ill-framed
> or obnubilated in some critical and fatal way.
> - -
> Mata Kimasitayo
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Michael F. Lane
> To: ANEemail@example.com
> Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2008 10:27 AM
> Subject: Re: [ANE-2] further RE additions to tlenai, talal &c
> I might have guessed that Nostratic "theory" motivated you.
> With due respect, I find very little interest or advantage in Nostratic
> speculations. Comparing vocabulary is still the weakest way of drawing
> language family genealogies.
> If one looks hard enough, one will find lexical semantic connections
> somewhere in the realm of connotations. It seems to me a bit like
> watching the clouds, looking for camels or sailboats or other clouds.
> Nonetheless, I wish you best of luck in your endeavors,
> Michael Lane
> Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County
> Yahoo! Groups Links
Dr Michael Franklin Lane
Ancient Studies Department
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
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Tel. +1-410-455-6265 / Fax +1-410-455-1027