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Offlist: RE Nostratics (ad finem ?)

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  • Michael F. Lane
    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.
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 25, 2008
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      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,


      > Michael,
      > 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
      > unviable.
      > 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 relatedness¹ 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.
      > Best,
      > Mata
      > ___ .
      > ¹ 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
      > Kimasita~aT~Bloomington~In~Us
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: Michael F. Lane
      > To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      > Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2008 10:27 AM
      > Subject: Re: [ANE-2] further RE additions to tlenai, talal &c
      > Mata,
      > 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
      Fine Arts Building, Room 452
      1000 Hilltop Circle
      Baltimore, MD 21250, USA
      Tel. +1-410-455-6265 / Fax +1-410-455-1027
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