28 Sep 2008

Phoenix discusses Nostratic

Today, it's a beautiful, sunny day in the Forks area in downtown Winnipeg where the local population tend to accumulate on a regular basis during the weekends year-round. The temperature is getting a little cooler and the geese are heading south again for the winter but a light jacket suffices for now. A pow-wow of Native dancers jingling to the sacred drum ensues in the central area under a large tarp. Cree and Ojibway peoples have a growing presence in this city. Meanwhile, here inside the Irish pub in an upstairs location nearby where I sit looking over the spectacle, 50s rock-and-roll plays from the speakers. I really must start making my articles in advance, I think to myself, because during the week I've been finding that I've had little mind-energy to spend writing down all my linguistic ponderings.

In the meanwhile as I get reorganized and finally take advantage of Blogger's capability to issue my blog rants at prearranged intervals, you can venture over to Phoenix's blog where he's noticed something askew about some details of Allan Bomhard's published views on Proto-Nostratic: Nostraticists and their crazy theories.

I remain a Nostratic sympathist myself, seeing the hope and positive probability of the language family, but I also recognize that even prominent Nostraticists continue to make serious errors based on their inaccurate understandings of the various language groups involved. At any rate, this is a topic worth discussing, sharing and growing from.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the plug!

    I also recognize that even prominent Nostraticists continue to make serious errors based on their inaccurate understandings of the various language groups involved.

    Of course a problem any person involved in historical linguistics must sympathise with, because the amount of languages they are trying to compare is enormous.

    I myself am not opposed to the nostratic hypothesis, but I think it's probably a good idea to first look for closer related relatives, which is of course being done by some.

    At my university especially Kortlandt is really looking into a closer Indo-European ~ Uralic connection. And others try the controversial Ural-Altaic route.

    Oh well much to learn, and even with Bomhard's sometimes highly disputable theories, we should not forget that such preliminary work is essential for further research, even if it's just to highlight all the things that are wrong about the Nostratic Hypothesis. :D

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  2. Bomhard's Nostratic has been already criticized many times by serious nostraticists. Especially Helimsky criticizes him for the things you mentioned: using only 2 consonants from a stem and ignoring vowels. Bomhard also extensively uses Afro-Asiatic material, while many scholars agree that Afro-Asiatic cannot belong to Nostratic for chronological reasons. There are many points like this, and generally Bomhard's reconstruction cannot be accepted, but I must notice, that this reconstruction is just Bomhard's invention and cannot be viewed as reconstruction accepted in Nostratic studies.
    (I'm posting this here because vox.com needs registration)

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  3. sammakkoinen: "Bomhard also extensively uses Afro-Asiatic material, while many scholars agree that Afro-Asiatic cannot belong to Nostratic for chronological reasons."

    That objection is weak. If one pushes the date of Proto-Nostratic far enough back, inevitably Afro-Asiatic would be "part of the family" anyway.

    I think it's more apt to simply recognize that Afro-Asiatic is remotely related at best to language groups like Altaic, Uralic and Indo-European. So the direct comparison of these language groups without working on closer relationships and intermediate time periods *between* now and 15,000 BCE is unproductive.

    sammakkoinen: "There are many points like this, and generally Bomhard's reconstruction cannot be accepted, [...]"

    Compared to the Moscow scholars, the phonological system he proposes is far more plausible however and I quite like his arguments for ejectives.

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