"Nikolayev and Starostin 1994 offer many putative cognate sets and reconstructions for Nakh-Daghestanian and its branches, as part of a reconstruction of a putative North Caucasian comprising Northwest Caucasian and Nakh-Daghestanian. These two families have not in fact been shown to be related. Nikolayev and Starostin proceed by assuming relatedness and then assembling cognate sets so as to maximize recurrent correspondences." (Berkeley Linguistics Society. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (1975), p.12)Every once in a while I still get a few zealots from the long-ranger camp coming to the defense of Sergei Starostin's work with misguided and condescending comments to the effect of "How dare you criticize Starostin!" and "But look at all these correspondences". As to the first line of reasoning: a theory above rational criticism is called a cult. I don't do cults nor do I respect their followers. I also find it frustrating to talk to someone that persists on confusing academic criticism with personal attack and by so doing, creating arguments out of nothing. As to the second line of reasoning, it's the very implausibility of Starostin's correspondences that I object to, so showing me more of his paltry 'sound correspondences' is only being irritating and grievously wastes all of our time.
Recently, this letter was about the origin of Japanese numerals and it was evident that the commenter failed to absorb any of the simple facts I explained in The hidden binary behind the Japanese numeral system. So with guiltless glee I dropped his comment in the wastebasket with all the other troll trash. However, it's a chance to gloss over more pedantic silliness written by doctors of linguistics who should know better. Be brave; be self-sufficient; be curious; open your eyes wide and keep your brain closed to fantasy.
On page 341 of Choi, Japanese/Korean Linguistics, Vol. 3 (1993) (see link), in the article Notes on Some Japanese-Korean Phonetic Correspondences by Alexander Vovin, we see a list of reconstructed numerals comparing Proto-Japanese, Proto-Manchu-Tungus and Proto-Altaic. Notice, reader, how Proto-Japanese *mi 'three' is claimed to come from *ñi and that the attachment of *[ñ] to the Proto-Manchu-Tungus etymon is unexplained and ad hoc, together with the fact that a change of [ɲ] to [m] neighbouring a front high vowel is absurd and completely unmotivated from the perspective of rational notions of phonology. Compare also Starostin's *ŋ[i̯u] with Vovin's *ñïl₁ï and how fellow Altaicists aren't agreeing even on numerals or which cognates to use. We're led to believe that *mu 'six' is to be from *ñu as well and one might remark how curious it is that so many marked phonemes are being reconstructed for simple number terms. God knows why both his *-l₁ï in Altaic 'three' and *-ŋu in 'six' so conveniently disappear in Japanese, why *ñ- in '3' and *i- in '5' need to be added in Proto-Manchu-Tungus to smooth things over, et cetera ad absurdum. Indeed, maybe only God could explain such absurdity; one absurdity for another. Meanwhile, the *d- in 'four' and the same *d- in 'eight' are derived from different sources which, by doing so, ignores the unignorable vowel harmony inherent in the attested Old Japanese set (ie. mi- '3'/mu- '6'; yö- '4'/ya- '8')! No reasonable person can claim credibly that the consistent 'binary' pattern in Japanese numbers simply happened by chance from originally dissimilar roots as Vovin, Starostin et alia are effectively claiming by the shape of these reconstructions.
In other words, theory trumps facts just like we find in all religions. It's amazing what gets passed peer review (assuming such a thing was ever effective in weeding out nonsense).