21 Mar 2007

What is Nostratic Theory?

As promised in my previous blog (Nostratic-L yahoogroups update), a rant on Nostratic. Hooray!

Nostratic is a proto-language, a reconstructed language, generally proposed to have been spoken approximately 15,000 years ago and thought to be the ancestor of certain language families. The last of the Wisconsin-Würm glaciation period (aka. The Ice Age) was ending by this time. Nostratic is meant to explain, at the very least, the origins of Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, Afro-Asiatic and Kartvelian language families.

The relationship of these language groups to each other and how other language families might be included under the Nostratic umbrella is as always a matter of debate. Frankly, it's still anyone's guess at this point and mainstream academia still doesn't fully accept the theory entirely. This was my attempt years ago based on Bomhard's to work out a relationship of these various families that made sense to me:

The idea of Nostratic was first written about publicly by an inquisitive Dane named Holger Pedersen as early as 1903. This was hardly the first time anyone had proposed long-range linguistic relationships. You can find previous explorations into "Indo-Semitic" in the mid 19th-century and if you really dig deep, there are interesting nuggets from classical Greek authors about language origins.

For a more detailed primer on the history of the Nostratic Theory, I can't possibly compete with the wealth of info from an Oxford University website that you can enjoy. They have an online article called The Nostratic linguistic macrofamily by Ilya Yakubovich of the University of California. If you can track down Indo-European and the Nostratic Hypothesis by Allan Bomhard, you will get another meaty account of the history of the debate about Nostratic and language origins to sink your teeth into.

A few days ago, I trekked to my local University of Manitoba to track down a few books on Nostratic to make more detailed comments for you all. There's a lot of more to say on Nostratic, Nostraticists and comparative linguistics in general. So maybe I will seperate this into a few blogs devoted to "Nostrato-mania". One of the books I've gotten a hold of is Allan R. Bomhard's Toward Nostratic and as usual I have some positive comments on it as well as some harsh criticisms about some glaring errors that just shouldn't have been committed. Tsk, tsk.

They say an unquestioning mind is a lazy mind. I can't argue with that... hehe.


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