6 May 2007

dnghu and dogmatic relativism

A certain Carlos Quiles decided to respond to my blog about Modern Indo-European but did so in a way that I find irrational by leaping to assumptions about my supposed feelings towards him and his organization, by imposing restrictive double-standards on my inherent freedom of speech and by wildly distorting the facts I offered in my previous post (eg: sabtan... that's not at all what I cited.). As far as I'm concerned, some poor souls may be too far deluded to help. Whatever the case here, it's certainly not my blog's mission to "save humanity from ignorance". Such a goal would be utterly futile, if not a little egotistical. For me this blog is merely to share ideas and to stoke people's interest in comparative linguistics, without daydreaming.

So I've decided that this negative letter would most positively serve as a learning example (for those truly open to new ideas) of what not to do in linguistics, a complex study whose centuries-old body of knowledge can't simply be tossed aside for idle kicks without coming across as an uneducated jester. The letter I'm responding to is shown in entirety in italics at the end of this blog entry so that you can judge it all for yourself.

I always find heated emotional or politically-motivated rhetoric in place of logical facts frustrating to deal with. However, it seems to be a particularly diseased trend going on these days; the trend to believe that one's own unqualified, five-second judgements are just as good as the long-term study and rational thinking of knowledgeable experts. Wikipedia is but one example of this larger trend. Mr. Quiles' viewpoints are easily exposed when we understand the toxic effects of dogmatic relativism on healthy learning minds (eg: Mr Quiles says: "[...]you should know that many people share different ideas about how it was like[...]"... but who does "many people" refer to exactly? Do Tom, Dick and Harry count as qualified linguists?) .

Here is the clearest example of this egocentric delusion in action from Mr. Quiles as he speaks on behalf of dnhu.org (or perhaps against its behalf):

1) "We know we are not experts, and that there are lots of people more prepared than us to work on PIE reconstruction"
2) "Whether that 'Piotr Gaworowski' is right or not in this or that theory is certainly not important for PIE revival in the EU, that's for sure."
[bolded text is my own]

How strange to at once feign respect for knowledge of experts and yet be disrespectful to Piotr Gasiorowski (note Mr. Quiles' careless misspelling) who is actually a university professor and has published in the field of Indo-European linguistics unlike Mr. Quiles who is merely a self-described amateur. Is this not boundless arrogance? What Mr. Quiles doesn't understand is that Piotr Gasiorowski's website says nothing any different from what one can easily find in the Encyclopedia Britannica at one's local public library, even if neophytes may find it too difficult to trek to a university and may misconstrue websites as a primary source of information.

The most glaring and basic fact, misunderstood by both dnghu.org and Mr. Quiles, is that the occasional omission of *h1- in the notation of Indo-European is not just "a matter of tradition" but unavoidably a distinct phoneme which is self-evident and absolutely necessary to write in *h1s-enti "they are" since the normal zerograde ablaut of *h1es- is not **s-, but *h1s-. It is clear then that while these sorts try to talk the talk, their defiant ignorance against new facts exposes their far deeper interest in fantasy above that in scientific self-criticism and subsequent evolution.

So, putting aside any supposed dislikes Mr. Quiles' assumes in me or in others who point out these inconvenient truths, how then can we take seriously the causes of such fundamentally unresearched organizations as these? How can we make sense of an organization that cloaks itself in the authority of a field that it clearly does not understand even in the most basic sense? How do we make sense of the professionality of an organization that does not address its misinformation and most critical errors? No, my pun has merit: "Proto-politics" is very descriptive of what is going on here.

Flaws are flaws and logic just isn't up to a wiki-vote. You can't wave the wand of relativism around, chant a few magical spells and wish ignorance away. Hopefully we can all learn here how one random idea just isn't the same as an established theory.

Response to:
Hi there!

I am member of the Dnghu Association, and would like to share some comments:

1) Please don't mix your political scepticism about the world, Europe, the EU or conlangs like Esperanto to say that Modern Indo-European is 'protopolitics' or whatever new term you may coin. We obviously knew before beginning with this that it is very difficult to happen, but it could happen - as it did with Hebrew -, and you (as we) just don't know; we work on this because it is a possibility, because we are Europeanists and want a country united under a common language.

2) I think PIE roots are traditionally written with e-, whatever the attested words are like; it's only a matter of tradition. That's the case you mention, "ec-", which - as far as I know - has just a few attested words to help reconstruct a proper PIE word. It seems to me that you just opened the grammar on that page and didn't read further.

We are sorry that you dislike us, the project, the EU and/or our grammar's basics, but to criticize all that by mixing different reasons seems not the most rational way to make us change for better.

3) If you have dealt with Proto-Indo-European research - other than those amateur websites out there -, you should know that many people share different ideas about how it was like, and what we did is more or less to try and sum up them all in an easy Modern grammar, not to show every idea or "the best" or "the correct" one - we want people to speak IE, not to become experts in PIE discussions...

4) Whether that 'Piotr Gaworowski' is right or not in this or that theory is certainly not important for PIE revival in the EU, that's for sure.

5) The writing system is not definite, but the c is certainly the best value for ḱ, as you could know if you had dealt with UTF issues - which I infer you haven't.

The rest of writings and theories you refer to are considered 'normal' among European professors - as the Kurgan hypothesis, or the writing of "oinos" for "hoinos", "septm" for your "sabtan?", etc.

Anyway, if you want to make Constructive critics, remember we are open to new proposals and that we have made some collaborative forums and/or websites with that aim, unless you only want your friends to read your comments and laugh a little bit about others' work.

We know we are not experts, and that there are lots of people more prepared than us to work on PIE reconstruction (probably you are one of those), but we have been saying since we started in 2004 that our objective is IE revival, not to impose our ideas on PIE; we want experts to collaborate.

Also, one of our main objectives now is to change the European high school subjects on Latin or Greek (or 'Classic Languages' as in Spain) for an "Introduction to Indo-European languages" - we think it could be a good introductory approach to most European languages.

Also, if you feel uncomfortable collaborating with others to develop your personal theories and/or criticisms, that's why we made the grammar GFDL and CC-by-sa, for people like you to develop their personal theories, and keep working on the most correct PIE reconstruction while supporting the modern use of IE.

I think it is a good starting point to try to substitute the thousand inventions called 'conlangs' for a natural language as PIE - this way, PIE study would be certainly boosted.

cquiles at dnghu dot org

(2008 Jan 28) Carlos Quiles later retaliated with an open letter on his "organization's" website full of the most over-the-top spite that more than adequately advertises a grave "mental miscalculation", shall we say. Honestly I was really hoping that he was simply misguided, not disturbed. I guess anyone can start an organization of one member and put up a half-plausible website, showing how difficult it is to accurately assess people online.


  1. Sweet. I looked it up and sure enough they say: 'Dnghu was created and works to discuss, talk, administer, give support, etc. to the widest variety of (Proto-)Indo-European studies possible, with the main objective of supporting PIE revival for the European Union, in the form of a Modern language.' (http://dnghu.org/Indo-European/)

    It's kind of ironic to say you want to make 'Indo-European' the language of the EU, but then reinvent it into something totally different!

    Which one is it? Indo-European proper, or this "Esperanto Number Two"? What's the point of reintroducing a dead protolanguage if you don't even study it? How is it so much different from Esperanto or any random artificial language? Totally undermines their whole crazy arguement.

    You shouldn't worry about those loons. I look at it as more funny than sad. Thanks for the great blog!

  2. Although I'm incredibly fascinated about the idea of bringing back the PIE language in a pronounceable, modern form. I too have some serious problems, like you do, with their views on how to treat the grammar.

    The eventual solutions they found to the nominal and verbal systems are (especially for a form of PIE with no laryngeals) pretty nice. But especially the verbal system has long lost it's natural origins which are found in reconstruction.

    I think it might even /still/ be to early to actually reconstruct a version of IE, although I certainly appreciate the efforts.

    I've put myself too much into the political debate already, so I'm not going to comment any more on that. Don't feel it's especially relevant anyway, it's not the part that interests me about the DNGHU project.

  3. If the fine Dnghu.com people had simply stopped at "seeking to encourage Proto-Indo-European revival", I would be delighted in their goal. Enjoying the beauty of proto-languages is what I'm all about and I do believe that experiencing a language through speaking it is the only way to truly understand a language and, by extension, its people.

    The problem is that they've taken this proto-language obsession into the realm of politics by believing that they can make this a lingua franca of the European Union, and considering Nazi history which sought to make Indo-European the "language of the original Aryans", this is the DUMBEST and most insulting thing you can do to other fellow Europeans, especially those that are non-IE speaking (Finns, Hungarians, Basque, Maltese, etc., etc., etc.)

    So utterly dumb, in fact, especially after the continuing stupid comments of Carlos Quiles on my site and on Dnghu about his views on race, language and IE, that I'm personally convinced that Dnghu.com is a racist organization masquerading as non-racist to incite conflict for the personal enjoyment of its member(s).

    We are all free to make up our own minds on the nature of Dnghu, of course, but I've made my mind up. I've said my peace there too and won't be devoting anymore blog entries to the likes of them unless they become an elected political body {cringe}.