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Re: [tied] Linguists identify 15,000-year-old ‘ultraconserved words’ -- David Brown

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  • Brian M. Scott
    At 9:46:07 AM on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, S. Kalyanaraman ... Sally Thomason has a nice skeptical piece on this in Language Log:
    Message 1 of 4 , May 8, 2013
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      At 9:46:07 AM on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, S. Kalyanaraman
      wrote:

      > http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.in/2013/05/linguists-identify-15000-year-old.html

      > Linguists identify 15,000-year-old ‘ultraconserved words’
      > -- David Brown

      > http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/linguists-identify-15000-year-old-ultraconserved-words/2013/05/06/a02e3a14-b427-11e2-9a98-4be1688d7d84_story.html?tid=ts_carousel

      > Words that last

      > By Wilson Andrews and David Brown, Published: May 6, 2013

      > http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/national/words-that-last/

      > Ultraconserved words point to deep language ancestry
      > across Eurasia Mark Pagela,b,1, Quentin D. Atkinsonc,
      > Andreea S. Caluded, and Andrew Meadea

      Sally Thomason has a nice skeptical piece on this in
      Language Log:

      <http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4612#more-4612>

      Brian
    • Richard Wordingham
      ... It s a lousy riposte. The counter-arguments are so holey that it almost reduces one to ad hominem arguments. She complains that using Eskimo instead of
      Message 2 of 4 , May 8, 2013
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        --- In cybalist@yahoogroups.com, "Brian M. Scott" <bm.brian@...> wrote:
        > Sally Thomason has a nice skeptical piece on this in
        > Language Log:
        >
        > <http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4612#more-4612>

        It's a lousy riposte. The counter-arguments are so holey that it almost reduces one to ad hominem arguments.

        She complains that using Eskimo instead of Eskimo-Aleut makes the study unlikely to be useful. In fact, so doing should merely make the study less likely to come up with a positive result. (I say 'should' because adding weakly informative data has the curious effect of weakening the conclusions of statistical exercises in linguistic phylogeny.)

        The validity of her complaint about using Altaic remains to be determined. If, as is quite possible from what I've seen in discussions of core Altaic, the relevant words turn out to be Turkic, then there is no problem.

        The weakness is liable to be in the statistics. Having read the paper, it's not at all clear which or how the per-group reconstructions were chosen, or how inter-group cognates were identified.

        Richard.
      • Brian M. Scott
        ... I think that you miss the real point of those complaints, which I take to be that Pagel does not appear to know enough about the linguistics to be
        Message 3 of 4 , May 8, 2013
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          At 8:28:00 PM on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, Richard Wordingham wrote:

          > --- In cybalist@yahoogroups.com, "Brian M. Scott" <bm.brian@...> wrote:

          >> Sally Thomason has a nice skeptical piece on this in
          >> Language Log:

          >> <http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4612#more-4612>

          > It's a lousy riposte. The counter-arguments are so holey
          > that it almost reduces one to ad hominem arguments.

          > She complains that using Eskimo instead of Eskimo-Aleut
          > makes the study unlikely to be useful. In fact, so doing
          > should merely make the study less likely to come up with a
          > positive result. (I say 'should' because adding weakly
          > informative data has the curious effect of weakening the
          > conclusions of statistical exercises in linguistic
          > phylogeny.)

          > The validity of her complaint about using Altaic remains
          > to be determined. If, as is quite possible from what I've
          > seen in discussions of core Altaic, the relevant words
          > turn out to be Turkic, then there is no problem.

          I think that you miss the real point of those complaints,
          which I take to be that Pagel does not appear to know enough
          about the linguistics to be competent to carry out that
          exercise. And that's nowhere near being an ad hominem
          argument.

          Brian
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