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IE, AA, Nostratic and Ringo

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  • Danny Wier
    It was inevitable. On the CONLANG list, I posted what I felt could be a Proto-World (or Proto-Language, Proto-Human etc.) phonology. I made no claims of even
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 1, 2000
      It was inevitable. On the CONLANG list, I posted what I felt could be a
      Proto-World (or Proto-Language, Proto-Human etc.) phonology. I made no
      claims of even the possibility of reconstructing words and grammar; I just
      thought of what such a language would sound like. This was promoted as an
      idea for a fictitious language that the first humans might've spoken.

      I based that "proto-phonology" on the three versions of Nostratic and
      Proto-North Caucasian as reconstructed by Sergei Starostin. I also
      remembered some of the phonology of Sino-Tibetan and various Native American
      languages. I won't post the results unless somebody wants me to, but I did
      come up with a glottalic-voiceless-voiced distinction, articulation in many
      places (labial, dental, sibilant, palatized sibilant, palatal, lateral,
      velar, uvular, pharyngeal, glottal) and some seven to ten vowels with no
      length distinction.

      A discussion of Nostratic ensued, with most of the list taking a skeptical
      stand. I myself am pro-Nostratic, but with my doubts, since the three
      reconstructions (Ilich-Svitych, Bomhard and Dolgopolsky) do not always
      agree. Someone also brought up Gamqrelidze and Ivanov; I think it was
      because of my posting of the Glottalic Theory, or was it the Laryngeal
      Theory? Anyway, someone said that these two proposed a common IE-Northwest
      Caucasian (that is, Abkhaz, Kabardian, Ubykh, Adyghe). Or at least NWC
      influenced Caucasian-zone IE (and obviously Kartvelian) phonologically.

      Since in nature matter breaks down towards chaos and not the other way, I
      would imagine it would be the same for languages. Languages seem to become
      phonemically simpler (yet allophonically more complex) as time goes by.

      So here are my questions:

      1) Concerning Gamqrelidze & Ivanov. What are the distinctive ideas
      concerning IE proposed by this pair? How do other current linguists view
      these concepts?

      2) When I was on the Nostratic list some years back, Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
      started translating Ilich-Svitych's list (and Rick McAllister posted the
      results on his webpage), but Miguel stopped at 25, leaving most of the work
      unfinished. How may I obtain the list -- not the book but just the
      Nostratic roots with only the Proto-IE, Proto-AA, Proto-Uralic etc.
      reconstructions (not the details of how the Proto-IE word became Sanskrit,
      Latin, Greek etc.) I have Dolgopolsky's book which lists 125 Nost roots
      with the intent of determining the location and culture of the people who
      might've spoken this language.

      I just want the I-S roots (and Bomhard too), so as to compare them to
      Dolgopolsky, so I can make a more informed decision whether to promote or
      debunk Nostratic theory. I also am working on a conlang project; a
      fictitious formerly nomadic people from East Africa who settled in the West
      Indies speak a Nostratic language (or at least something like Afro-Asiatic
      but with Indo-European and Kartvelian elements). And I'd like to write a
      book on "general linguistics for dummies".

      3) I have seen several versions of Proto-Indo-European case reconstructions.
      What is the most accepted case endings (it's still eight cases, right),
      given with singular-dual-plurals and possibly consonant, o, a: ("feminine"),
      other vowel stems? I know the roots, but what has been reconstructed in the
      way of grammar?

      4) What are true cognates (or loans) between IE and other language families.
      On a Greenberg-like comparison basis, I found words in Semitic with
      similar isoglosses in Germanic. Of course this means little since you have
      to get down to regular sound correspondences. Also, there's that English
      word "dog", and I know of no IE cognates; most of the words for "dog" I've
      seen are from *k^won (that is, the "hound-Canis" words).

      And ideas on the laryngeals and what they might've sounded like would help.
      I've looked through the Cybalist archives, but with hundreds of messages
      it'll take me a while to get all caught up...

      Dia is Muire daoibh,

      Danny ����
      Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com
    • Håkan Lindgren
      Danny, I read your posts with great interest, but still I have to say that Nostraticists make me sceptic. The Nostraticists I ve seen just compare lists of
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 4, 2000
        Danny, I read your posts with great interest, but still I have to say that Nostraticists make me sceptic. The Nostraticists I've seen just compare lists of words to show that IE is related to other language families. With a list of words (and some imagination) you can prove anything. Take a look at this small list:
        Etruscan            Hungarian           Finnish             
        ais(ar)                isten                   jumala               (god)
        apa                    apa                     isä                   (father)
        avil                     év                       vuosi                (year)
        eca                    ez                       tämä/nämä       (this)
        hud                    hat                      kuusi                (six)
        Based on this list, it seems like Etruscan and Hungarian are related, but they are not - these words just happen to resemble each other, there are no known connections between these languages. On the other hand, Finnish and Hungarian are known to be related, but the same five words make them look like two languages with nothing in common. (I've borrowed this list from an earlier post by John Croft and added the Finnish words - I hope you'll excuse this, John!)
        Language complexity:
        You seem to believe that language complexity develops according to the law of thermodynamics, from languages with a complex grammar and many inflected forms, downhill to languages like modern English where most inflected forms have been lost. This is not the same thing as the thermodynamic development from order to chaos (modern English is not chaotic, it obeys a lot of rules) - it could rather be seen as a development from one form of order (based on grammatical inflexions) to another form of order (where prepositions, auxiliary verbs etc. do the job that was earlier done by inflected forms). My own guess is that languages must have started simple, then grown in grammatical complexity, then losing many of the inflected forms (but still growing in other ways: modern English probably has a larger vocabulary than Old English). Proto-IE was a complex language, with many verbal and noun inflexions - there must have been older languages, which are lost to us, that were much simpler, all the way back to the state when we were still animals. I imagine the development of language to have been a very gradual process, even if we had access to all the linguistic data from the last 100,000 or one million years, we would probably not be able to draw the line and say: "This is the first human language, before it there was just monkey gibberish."
        And then the Proto-World guys, like Patrick C. Ryan. In his essay at http://tied.narod.ru he claims he is able to reconstruct a language that was spoken 100,000 years ago "from general linguistic principles".  There's no humbleness or uncertainty in his essay, he knows what this proto-language must have been like. He knows it had a vocabulary of 45 monosyllables (not 46 or 44). He tells us that "the first area of interest for children is the human body; it was a primary focus of interest for the earliest speakers also; consequently, the earliest primary referents of these 45 monosyllables were bodily parts" and that "---it is obvious that phenomena such as "odor", which we would consider inanimate, were considered animate by the speakers of the Proto-Language." The oldest written evidence of any language is dated about 1800 BC - before that we know nothing at all, still, Ryan believes that "some languages (Egyptian, Sumerian) that were recorded very early offer tantalizing hints" of this 100,000 year old language. He could just as well say that modern English offers these "tantalizing hints" - a couple of thousand years more or less mean nothing when we're talking 100,000 years of linguistic changes. How can anyone take these claims serious? Perhaps he is also able to take a look at a chessboard after the game has been finished and from the positions of the remaining pieces reconstruct how the game was played, move by move. The rules of chess are fully known, unlike the rules of language formation, which are to a large extent still unknown or disputed, so I guess this would be a piece of cake for him!
        All the best,
      • Håkan Lindgren
        I m still thinking about what Dennis Poulter wrote a couple of days ago - the large non-IE quota of ancient Greek vocabulary. In one place, you quote E.J.
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 26, 2000
          I'm still thinking about what Dennis Poulter wrote a couple of days ago - the large non-IE quota of ancient Greek vocabulary.
          In one place, you quote E.J. Furnee as giving 5 to 6 thousand. I have seen
          various numbers given ranging from 25 to 50 per cent. Either way, it is
          sizeable, given the antiquity of the Greek texts available.
          - - -
          In fact, the non-IE element of the Greek lexicon pervades all aspects of the
          language, in particular objects, concepts and activities concerned with an
          advanced civilisation - civil and social administration, the military,
          weaponry, religion (myths, buildings and paraphernalia, rites), social
          amenities (e.g. baths and drainage), abstract concepts (glory, bravery
          etc.), philosophy and the sciences, building (particularly in stone), the
          arts, trade and trade goods (gold, ivory, cloth, cereals). In addition to
          this is almost the entire repertoire of names of gods and mythological
          heroes, as well as toponyms and city names.
          The result is that Ancient Greek seems to resemble somewhat medieval
          English, in that IE provides the core day-to-day nouns, verbs, pronouns,
          prepositions, while just about everything else comes from non-IE sources,
          whether it be direct loans, calques or concepts.
          (Dennis Poulter 21 July)
           We are usually told that "everything began with the Greeks" - they invented science, philosophy, architecture, mathematics, art, etc. I've even heard this at university. During my university studies (I studied the history of ideas) the influence on Greek philosophy and science from Egypt or other countries was hardly mentioned. But if most of the Greek words for these activities are borrowed, then the picture changes considerably. The Greeks must have been much more dependent on other cultures than what is widely known. Does anyone here know more about this - from whom did the Greeks borrow this? Could you give any specific examples of words and concepts being borrowed?
          Also, if 25-50% of ancient Greek is of non-IE origin, what about Latin? Does anyone know (roughly) how much of that language is considered to be of non-IE origin? For Germanic, I remember reading somewhere a figure of 30% - is that figure correct?
          As for culture, I refer to Herodotos - all religious practices and the name
          of practically all the gods came from Egypt. Even if he is exaggerating, and
          one wonders why he would want to, there still must be a large kernel of
          truth for his writings to have ever gained acceptance with his

          (Dennis Poulter 25 July)
          Could you give any evidence for this? To me, the names as well as the personalities of Athena, Zeus, Hera and other members of the Greek family of gods seem very different compared to Egyptian gods.
          Hakan Lindgren
        • Izzy_Cohen@bmc.com
          ... ...there s that English word dog , and I know of no IE cognates; most of the words for dog I ve seen are from *k^won (that is, the hound-Canis words).
          Message 4 of 4 , Dec 26, 2000
            --- In cybalist@egroups.com, "Danny Wier" <dawier@...> wrote:

            ...there's that English word "dog", and I know of no IE cognates;
            of the words for "dog" I've seen are from *k^won (that is, the
            "hound-Canis" words).

            Yup. dog < OE docga ... like frog < OE frocga.
            Compare: [English] dog - dig - ditch
            [Latin] canine - channel - canal
            [pre-Heb] *Ta3 - *Ta3a:L - Ta3aLa = canal (where 3 = aiyin)
            The aiyin used to have a G/K velar sound, as in 3aZa = Gaza.

            ciao / chow :-)
            Israel Cohen
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