Wednesday, November 12, 2008

...on Tower of Babel or language evolution

Series straddling three blogs: 
Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : ...on linguistic evolution
...on Tower of Babel or language evolution
Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Milk and Gollum, and Nostratic M-L-Q
Is Boromir a mimsy borogove?
"If God spoke a language" - to correct Grimm
On the "Reformed Egyptian" of the "Nephites"
side issue on previous, Theology: A Gerald Smith on the theme of "Great Apostasy" and "Restored Gospel" - answered
Is Romanides accurate?
Was Romanides accurate? Bis! Not very much at all!
Linguistics for Romanides: Greek, Latin, Patois
Coniectura linguistica, pro casu unitatis vetustissimae indo-europaeae linguae.
Creation vs. Evolution : 32 language families for 72 nations ...
To this essay: 

Important note on my use of "patois":

I mean languages you cannot immediately make literature of, my use does not include Provençal in either classic or mistralian spelling, though they are also called patois in France, even without this meaning, just because they are not standard French. Linguistically they are standards too, it is only politically they are "non-standard".

Tower of Babel - Language origin
by: hglundahl (35/M/Malmö) 11/12/03 01:04 pm
Msg: 4700 of 4703

1 The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.

While men were migrating in the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.

They said to one another, "Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire." They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.

Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth."

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men had built.

Then the LORD said: "If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.

dhux comments/I answer:
1. God has a physical body.
It does not say. A localised act of God is spoken of as his local presence, which therefore implies no strictly physical body.

2. God's throne is on top of the hard dome of the firmament.
It does not say that the firmament is hard or that Gods throne is on top of only that and no higher.

3. God must come down to see the tower. He is not omniscient.

It does not say He HAD TO go down, just that he did in fact.

4. God is threatened. He is not omnipotent.

God is insulted, He does not ignore outarges against Himself.

5. Humans can build a tower which can reach the firmament, threatening God. Humans have enormous power, God thinks.
Look at the powers we are getting.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 2783 by dhux02

Twer of Babel - Language origin
by: hglundahl (35/M/Malmö)
11/12/03 01:12 pmMsg: 4701 of 4703

7 Let us then go down and there confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says." 8 Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.
dhux comments/I answer:
6. God is not omnipresent. God must go down from the firmament in order to confuse the language.
Still no mention of having to.
7. Polytheism is at work. God says "Let us then go down." All the gods agree to go down.
The Blessed Trinity goes down.
8. The author confuses the word Babel, which means the Gate of God or the Gate of the Gods, with the Hebrew verb which signifies "to confound."
Or says that the braggart meaning stands for a worse real meaning.
9. The confusion of tongues is in the author who does not know the difference between words which sound the same but are different in different languages.
See above answer.
10. The languages that the confusion takes place in already exist; otherwise the confusion would not take place. This fact invalidates the story of the confusion of languages which he relates.
How? Instantaneous miraculous change of someone's language implies that just as his old language existed before the confusion, his new language exists after it, immediately.

As God is the ultimate origin of language, it is totally possible for him. Tolkien could invent Quenya and Sindarin over some years, and they have later been learnt and adopted for fun by other writers. God could invent several more in an instant, and impose them on people by necessity, making them forget their old language. Which means the passage is a point FOR, rather than against Divine Omnipotence and Wisdom. As a linguist you should know that making a language/a grammar implies wisdom.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 2785 by dhux02

The Tower of Babel- Language Origin
by: hglundahl (35/M/Malmö)
11/12/03 01:19 pmMsg: 4703 of 4703

"The Tower of Babel:A Choctaw Legend"
dhux has also reported Babylonian and Hindoo legends about the Tower of Babel.

Now, she provides a Choktaw legend about it as well.

Common sense says: if all peoples on earth (the Choktaws are a New World people who have not heard of India or Babylonia) agree on how the different languages were separated, with reservation for minor details - such as what God did it, which is a major detail for theology, but minor for comparison of stories, every pagan nation letting some of their gods take God's place, and the same for what people remained the original people - it is because all descend from people who were at the spot.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 2792 by dhux02

Re: Tower of Babel - Language origin
by: hglundahl (35/M/Malmö) 11/13/03 11:49 am
Msg: 4737 of 4738

As previously stated: that language evolution is responsible for degenerating civilised languages into patois, or even lower, is a fact.

That civilised language ever arose OUT of mere language evolution is a guess no one knows anything about, if limited to mere linguistic knowledge.

That language evolution was what divided French from Latin or made Anglo-Saxon English I have previously disproven.

The cut between French and Latin involved the following steps:

1 One Writing (Latin) and One Speech.

2 One Writing and Two Speeches - grammatical, imported from England by Alcuin of York under Bl Charlemagne, for ritual purposes and the ordinary as spoken by unlettered, the former including a phonetic code of basically one letter - one sound. Before 800.

3 Two Writings and Two Speeches - when the phonetic code of grammatical Speech is used the other way around, not to direct the Speech of Divine Office, but to spell Speech of Romance ulettered Speakers, in order to direct the Speech of a German to a Latin or Roman Speech the unlettered Lords CAN understand, in the Oaths of Straszburg.

4 The final separation of vernacular by permanently coupling Grammatic Speech with traditional Latin letters, and Popular Speech with a new spelling using roughly the same phonetic code to begin with.

This is not evolution, just as little as the breaking up of Bl Charlemagne's Empire was.

So, the position that language evolution were the universal cause of languages breaking up from each other is not so much not proven as actually disproven from historic examples.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 4717 by dhux02

the following post was misplaced as to title and what post it answered to:

"Re: Talmud exposed"
by: cloke20 02/08/05 09:22 pm
Msg: 63818 of 63875

counterbalanced by imitation of older languages

That's not how language evolution actually works.

"Posted as a reply to: Msg 61211 by luckylady_n_love"

here come relevant titles and authors:

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/09/05 01:09 pm
Msg: 63837 of 63875

"That's not how language evolution actually works."

Know your subject!

Latin was a fully civilised language: due to imitation of Greek, an older language.

Greek had become a fully civilised language by achieving a literature.

Both languages have so decayed in pronunciation and dropping of grammatical forms - what you call "evolution" - that their modern dialects have only become eventually again fully civilised languages by imitating their old time models.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63818 by dhux99

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/09/05 03:24 pm
Msg: 63849 of 63875

"On language evolution, compare old English with Middle english and modern English. If you hear recorded samples of each, in turn, the evolution of the language is inescapable."

That "evolution" made Middle English different from Old English/Anglo Saxon, and that it has made Modern English slightly different from Middle English in writing, not so slightly in pronunciation is indeed inescapable.

But it was imiation of Latin and Greek that made Old English a language worth reading - not its development from Primitive Germanic.

It was imitation of Latin and French that made Middle English worth reading - not its evolution from Old English.

It has been imitation of French and Latin, as well as some undeveloped traditions from Middle English that has made Modern English a language worth reading - not its evolution away from Middle English.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63841 by cloke20

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/10/05 03:26 am
Msg: 63872 of 63875

It matters a lot of a language changes gradually for the worse or rapidly, through conscious effort for the better.

Evolution makes patois out of languages, and would make gibberish out of patois, if any people could abide with gibberish.

Revolutions - like original genius in literature (as found in Greece, China, and Israel), or getting back to earlier and purer languages makes languages out of patois.

Tradition - the conscious effort of not changing - may also keep languages from degenerating into patois and patois from degenerating into gibberish.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63852 by cloke20

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/10/05 03:43 am
Msg: 63874 of 63875

But it was imiation of Latin and Greek that made Old English a language worth reading - not its development from Primitive Germanic.

You are as uninformed as somebody can get about the origins and development of language. What langauge do you think English came from? Give it a try. Make a guess.

The most basic forms, with few exception came from Primitive Germanic, if that has ever been one language. But it is not the most basic forms that make Modern English a language worth learning to read. Even Old English, that often enough preferred calques to straight loans, needed models to calque new words on, before you could get anything like the literature of bishop AElfric or Alfred the Great's translation of Psalms and Pope Gregory.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63861 by dhux99

Re: Language evolution

by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/10/05 03:52 am
Msg: 63875 of 63875

"English, the language you are writing in tonight, has evolved from Old German, which has evolved from Indo European."


Old High German and Old Low German (yes, German and Dutch were separate already then) are not mother but sister languages of Old English/Anglo Saxon. They MAY have all evolved from one Primitive Germanic langguage, or they MAY be a group of Indoeuropean dialects all of which were affected by certain sound laws. And all the Indoeuropean dialects MAY have evolved from Proto-Indo-European, or they MAY have been originally different languages that partly were on the way to coalesce, but never did it and stopped trying (which is the theory of Russian linguist Trubetskoy).

Only in the case of Romance languages we KNOW they all developed from Latin: that is Latin as spoken by the common man decayed into patois by development, the patois were then revitalised by contact with Latin as written and spoken by Holy Mother Church.

Of Primitive Germanic and Proto-Indo-European there is not a direct trace: all the traces are indirect i e occur in the supposed daughter languages.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63865 by dhux99

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/09/05 02:46 pm
Msg: 63845 of 63875

Greek had become a fully civilised language by achieving a literature

What is your point?

That it did not become so by the procedures usually labelled as language evolution.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63842 by dhux99

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/10/05 03:37 am
Msg: 63873 of 63875

Greek is thought of as coming from Protoindoeuropean by those who believe that was indeed one language. Language evolution means getting -osio worn down to -oio (gen. sg. of -os declinion). Language evolution means getting -ontia worn down to -ousa. Language evolution meant getting *kleptesi, *klepteti worn down to *kleptei, *kleptesi and *ekleptes *ekleptet worn down to *ekleptes, *eklepte.

It was the genius of using the latter forms to rearrange *kleptei, *kleptesi into klepteis, kleptei that gave us intelligible Greek, or kept it intelligible. It was the genius of Greek authors that gave us Greek terminology.

No, Greek as a civilised language does not come from language evolution, it comes from genius. Evolution was only making it different from what it was before, and none the more intelligible.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63859 by dhux99

Agenda behind "language evolution"
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/10/05 05:08 am
Msg: 63876 of 63876

Notice I wrote:

Agenda behind "language evolution"

and not:

"agenda behind language evolution"

I am not saying the phenomenon known as language evolution is a propagandistic plot. I am saying the kind of linguistic scholarship that says we owe our civilised languages to it IS a propagandistic plot.

A young, impressionable, even gullible English pupil, who knows English in its modern form (what philologists term Modern English) and therefore understands it, is told it has evolved from Anglo-Saxon, a language he does not understand when reading it, nor when hearing it read.

He is not told about English first degenerating into a patois, after loosing its tradition after the Norman Conquest, nor about the extent to which it owes its nature as a civilised language to the imitation of French, which already was so.

He does not properly analyse his experience.

He concludes the completely false idea that language evolution means that if one allows language to evolve freely, making no conscious effort to improve it after good models, it will become more intelligible. After all - didn't Anglo-Saxon, which you need to be a Professor to understand, evolve into English which he understood before becoming a schoolboy? Put this way, the naiveté ought to be apparent - but apparently not to all. If one does not verbalise it, one may retain such an impression, though one knows the opposite or ought to know it, simply by not thinking the things out.

Now, having a lot of people get this idea may be a mere accident. Or there may be an agenda behind it.

Evolutionists gain from it. They gain one propagandistic example for a good, workable thing coming out of blind evolution. That the example is not truly an example thereof - the schoolboy was never told. He was indeed encouraged to conclude the opposite.

Another gain for progressivist: the schoolboy does not learn to value tradition. And therefore not to oppose progressivists.

A third gain: the schoolboy gets the impression that Up to Date Modern Usage is more advanced intellectually, whereas it may really represent a decay of language. How many arguments of Progressivists depend on quoting old saws and misinterpreting them by using the modern journalistic or even sarcastic sense of a word?

A fourth gain: the schoolboy does not acquire a sense of responsibility for speaking and thinking properly. He gets the impression that if he is a healthy specimen, his development will spontaneously take care of that. And every idea that he should stop or check spontaneous developments will be nauseating to him - that includes nearly everything traditional morality has to say on sex. "Whoa! If people like you had had their way, we would still be speaking Anglo Saxon!" - a retort behind which lurks the false idea that that would have been more cumbersome and less intelligible.

Which is the exact opposite of the truth: the mother language is not cumbersome to anyone, and if Anglo Saxon had still been spoken, if Chaucer and Shakespear and J R R Tolkien had all written in Old Mercian, we would have been able to understand a lot more of our literature without translation.

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/10/05 07:59 am
Msg: 63881 of 63888

and others combined into it

It matters a lot of a language changes gradually for the worse or rapidly, through conscious effort for the better.

Conscious effort has about as much effect on language evolution as on astronomical evolution or biological evolution. Evolution happens without conscious effort.

That is exactly the definition of evolution according to which NO language EVER became usable for civilised purposes by mere evolution.

Yet, here we are with hundreds of langauges, all evolved and all serving the needs of the people who speak them. The English consider themselves fairly civilized, yet their language is clearly the product of evolution, and those speaking and writing in early English or Anglo Saxon were able to expres themselves quite well.

The reason they are DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER is evolutionary. The reason they SERVE THEIR SPEAKERS AND WRITERS is conscious effort. [sorry for capital letters, yahoo boards do not or did not support italics]

Finally, you have accepted the concept of language evolution. Languages evolution is not the product of conscious effort or plan or design any more than is biological, geological, cosmic, or astronomical forms of evolution.

Any individual writer and speaker may have a conscious intention to make a comment or remark express his or her views. That is an entirely different matter.

The reason we have civilised languages at all - as distinct from patois - is precisely that conscious effort of individual writers. The spontaneous result of evolution as you term it is degeneration from civilised language to patois, and, unless checked by efforts from the speakers, from patois to gibberish.

Language seemingly spontaneously looses a vowel here and a consonant there. If this is not to result in the deletion of all distinctions, that is gibberish, there is need for conscious effort - like the effort to coin a new word or grammatical ending, when the old one has been too worn down to serve its purpose.

PIE something like:
*klepjoo, klepjesi, klepjeti (pres. ind. sg)
by Greek sound laws results in
*kleptoo, kleptei, kleptesi

but we actually have:
kleptoo, klepteis, kleptei


because the Greeks made an effort not to let 2 persons sg be just vocalic endings, and not to let 3 p sg end in same -si after vowel that marks 2 p sg after consonants, since that would have resulted in gibberish.

This effort was, like most such conscious efforts, modelled on a state of language less damaged by evolution, in this case the imperfects of the Greek language itself:

PIE *eklepjom, eklepjes, eklepjet (imperf. ind. sg)
by Greek sound laws became
eklepton, ekleptes, eklepte
which is exactly what we have, and is also the reason we have present tense:
kleptoo, klepteis, kleptei.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63879 by dhux99

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/10/05 03:17 pm
Msg: 63917 of 64064

It matters a lot of a language changes gradually for the worse or rapidly, through conscious effort for the better.

"The speed with which a language changes is not at issue. Only that the language changes over time, and that some of the changes are predictable."

No language change is predictable beforehand. Some are probable: like IF one syllable drops, it is the one with less accent: but one cannot predict whether a language is going to drop syllables or not. By predictable I suppose you mean systematic.

"I don't see how evolution is responsible for the jargon that develops from language, when patois and slang are consequences of the language itself."

Please! The low function of language known as patois is below the higher level called culture language, and whenever a culture language evolves, it moves down towards the level of a patois.*

Revolutions - like original genius in literature (as found in Greece, China, and Israel), or getting back to earlier and purer languages makes languages out of patois.

"Many languages are more pure now in terms of communications ability and capability. The greater the amount of ideas and things that need to be communicated, the more flexible the language needs to be."

Greenlandic may be more pure now. English is not more pure than Anglo Saxon. Or Classic Greek.


"1 b : uneducated or provincial speech."

"Sounds like a variant of slang or dialectical relation. That a language changes over time is no indication of the patois of the language itself."

The changes that can be considered evolutionary, as opposed to artistic, when accumulating by themselves make the language less full of distinctions and therefore less useful for educated speech.** The changes that either keep a language educated or restore it to educated level are the ones that are artistic rather than evolutionary. English example: evolutionary pronouncing decay of "arse" to "ass" makes English less useful, because "ass" means "donkey". To compensate for that change, the real "ass" has been lengthened to "jackass", and the metaphorical to either "jackass" or "dumbass". And the "ass" that is really "arse" has been lengthened to "asshole", both in literal and metaphorical sense. One evolutionary change has therefore demanded three artistic changes to keep English functionable. And these are uneducated, because an educated English speaker must know that the synonym for donkey is really "ass" and the synonym for (polite) "seat" is "arse". Why must an educated English speaker know that? Because a valid definition of educated is one who can read literature without inappropriate sviggers, due to linguistic developments making for double meanings not intended by author. This change has meant that young people snigger when they read King James about Christ riding on an ass and an ass' foal: i e it has made speech less educated.

**The changes that can be considered evolutionary, as opposed to artistic, when accumulating by themselves make the language less full of distinctions and therefore less useful for educated speech.

"While I see your point, I disagree in certain areas. Synonyms are common in all languages and their use makes up, at least in part, the artistic aspect of the language. The other part would be how they are used. That they exist is not in any way relative to the educational aspect of the language, but of evolution in the case that we have more synonyms now than before, or less now than before. Either instance is best described by the term evolution. If the change was a direction that led to greater educational ability or lesser, more vernacular or less, more slang or not. Evolution is the progressive change in EITHER direction. The how's and why's are irrelevant to the noticeable change. The change being evolution."

Not every change is evolution. Slow small changes that takes us unawares with accumulation are evolution. And the result of evolution was not a synonym, but a homonym, ass meaning both ass and arse. The replacements for ass in true sense are synonyms only to the educated: the uneducated who usually use them take them for the one normal form. And that is confusion and uneducated speech, the spontaneous result of language evolution. The changes that are made suddenly and consciously - those that restore intelligibility - do not count as evolutions but as acts.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 63910 by cloke20

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/11/05 06:22 am
Msg: 64005 of 64064

and following on thread

"You are not addressing the issue of langauge evolution completely, which involves the production of entirely new languages."

I have adressed that. Such production involves TWO things:

1 an evolutionary decay of mutual comprehensibility

2 countermeasures to ensure such at least in a more limited area.

These counter measures are ultimately what constitute any langugage as a workable tool of communication.

"As I said, you are not addressing language evolution, which involves the creation of new languages by natural means, as new species are formed in biological evolution. Do you know what language English comes from?"

English, like so many other cultural languages, come from patois, ennobled by artistry. The patois came from Anglo Saxon, which had its own educated standards, chief of which West Saxon. They could not have formed unless the standard had decayed. The West Saxon standard itself came from such effort by Roman missionaries. The English standard came by French influence on the patois, and appeared fullfledged in Chaucer. As in French (and indeed West Saxon as found in manuscripts) the spelling was to begin with not fixed, and the creation of a fixed spelling waited till the artistic effort of Dr Johnson. The pirates' patois on which West Saxon standard is thought to have been constructed descend no doubt from other patois - one single or one of several protogermanic (NOT Old German!!!!) patois, which would not have given anglosaxon patois but gibberish unless the linguistic evolution had been checked and rechecked on every step by reconstructing measures, based on - limited - artistry. The need for reconstruction may come from evolution as you understand it, but the languages as functional and even civilised standard entities certainly come from reconstructing measures, i e artistry.

"YOu don't even know what langauge English evolves from."

You do not.

"I do."

If you identify "Old German" - incidentally there is no such language according to linguistics, there is Old High German and Old Low German, the latter further divided into Old Low Frenkish and Old Low Saxon* - rather than Protogermanic or Primitive Germanic, as parent language of Anglo Saxon, you do not.

The thing about Protogermanic is two things:

1 there is no absolutely uncontrovertible evidence it was ever one single language
2 it was very certainly not a fully civilied language but a patois, as I have stated.

*Old High German is parent language, or rather languages to Bavaria, Allemannian and High Frenkish patois, as well as Standard German;

Old Low Frenkish is parent language to Dutch, patois and standard;

Old Low Saxon (or Old Saxon) is parent language to Platt (a N German patois talked from Cologne to Berlin and anything further north - at least formerly).

Anglo Saxon is not the daughter language of any of the three.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 64003 by dhux99

Re: Language evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/11/05 02:37 pm
Msg: 64073 of 64169

[If you identify "Old German" - incidentally there is no such language] according to linguistics, there is Old High German and Old Low German, [the latter further divided into Old Low Frenkish and Old Low Saxon* - rather than Protogermanic or Primitive Germanic, as parent language of Anglo Saxon, you do not.]*

The line of development for English is from Indo European, to Proto European to Germanic to West Germanic to Old English to Middle English to English.

Your second attempt is no more standard in linguistics. Usually there is no such thing as Proto European**, the Proto Indo Europeans usually thought of as splitting into peripheral Kentum and central Satem languages. And you misnamed Proto Germanic or Primitive Germanic as "Germanic" which is a term for ANY language belonging to the group, dead or modern. As for Primitive Germanic to Primitive West Germanic - both of which are reconstructions never actually found - that is indeed the usual theory. But the divisions between North, West and East Germanic could also go back to before the Germanic sound shift. Also, all Germanic languages share a lot of words not found in other Indo European languages: meaning that Germanic might be originally a non-Indo European language family adopting Indo European Grammar and Vocabulary only partly.

*the parts [left out by dhux] are such, that what was left could give impression that I rather than she was responsible for attributing English to "Old German" or its two branches.

** dhux replied:

What are you sources? My sources here include The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

If that is where you found Proto European between Indo European and Germanic, I suggest you read it again. If you have not made a reading mistake, the writer may have made such or a typo. My sources include almost anything I have read on comparative lingustics of Germanic languages - and that is much. Not that I absolutely trust it, but if we are going into modern scholarship, we might as well state its results - with whatever reservations we might have about them - correctly.

That would for instance be the series:
Proto Indo European
Proto Germanic
Proto West Germanic
(all of above reconstructed languages never actually attested)
Anglo Saxon
Middle English and Scottish
English and Braid Scots

the development of Auld Scottish tongue with poems like The Kingis Quhair into Braid Scots illustrates my point that a civilised language does not of its own develop into another one, but usually into patois.

You have avoided the question:

What are your sources?

Be specific and exact.

I cannot, since they are too many and it was too long ago I read them.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 64098 by dhux99
Posted as a reply to: Msg 64077 by dhux99
Posted as a reply to: Msg 64068 by dhux99

Re: Reputable sources/lang. evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/12/05 02:35 am
Msg: 64120 of 64169

"International communication began some 6,0000 years ago when Prot-Indo-European speakers left their homeland somewhere in the Pontic-Caspian religion or the Caucasus to expand eastward and westward covering a geographical stretch from India to Iceland."*

That would be 6,000 - not "6,0000". I know that theory, and that is where my reservations begin. I have not misstated it, I have voiced reservations.

Trubetskoy, an Indoeuropean comparative linguist of undisputed international repute, says that there is not sufficient evidence to support that Proto-Indo-European was one language and ancestor of all Indo-European languages. He claims that the Indo-European traits common to them are "Sprachbund" phenomena, on the lines of the traits common to not so related Balcanic (or secondary traits common to Scandinavian) languages: grammatical and lexical items interchanged between neighbouring languages. Rix** as well as an Austrian*** linguist have commented upon it. The Austrian basically said then he was not going to argue either side, Rix that Indo-European languages have common traits BOTH due to common ancestry (Stammbaum) and to neighbour language interborrowing/adstrate (Sprachbund). Apart from the dispute whether the language spread from one source or the language traits from many, there is a further debate whether the speakers of Indoeuropean descend from the first speakers or that language was taken over by many other peoples - before the historical records about them begin, I mean: that this has happened in colonial times is hardly a state secret.

*If you have an online link to Shelton A. Gunaratne, please write it!
**Stammbaum oder Sprachbund - published in a Festschrift to another linguist
***Whose name I have forgot as well as the collection where I found it - as first essay or publisher's preface

Posted as a reply to: Msg 64100 by dhux99

Re: Reputable sources/lang. evolution
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/12/05 02:52 am
Msg: 64121 of 64169

"English evolves in the following manner: Indo-European, Proto-Indo-European, Germanic, Low Germanic, to English.

Short, Dan. Family Tree of Indo-European Languages
Site of Percy, Carol. Department of English. University of Toronto."

Two problems:

1 He placed "Indo-European" before "Proto-Indo-European" which mean FIRST Indo-European, which further means that it cannot descend from Indo-European. Or you misread his statement. Like: Indo-European is placed first, not as ancestor, but as common category. Then he states hypothetic ancestor: Proto-Indo-European.

2 He placed Low Germanic as an ancestor of English. Low and High are not divisions of Germanic, but of German. West Germanic (which he forgot immediately after Germanic) is usually thought of as dividing first into Anglo-Frisian (which palatalises: cheese, tsise) and German (which doesn't: Kaas, Kaese), after which Anglo-Frisian divides into Frisian and Anglo-Saxon, German into High (which makes affricates: Apfel) and Low (which, as A/F, doesn't: appel). Some scholars, however, might consider A/F a subdivison of Low German occurring after High German split from it (by the Second Soundshift marking that language with affricates). Or they use the terms more geographically than linguistically. There are further linguists to take seriously Tacitus' division of Germans into Ingweons, Istweons and whatever the third tribe was. (Similarly there are debates about the traits common to North and East Germanic languages, as opposed to West Germanic.) But the main opinion is as stated first. My main reservation is along Trubetskoy lines.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 64101 by dhux99

Language evolution, alternative view 1
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/12/05 03:36 am
Msg: 64122 of 64169

"an early ancestor of the Germanic language was closely related to Balto-Slavic, whose modern descendants include Lithuanian, Latvian, Russian, Czech and Polish."

I agree that Baltic (Lithuanian and Latvian) comes between Slavic (Russian, Czech, Polish et c) and Germanic. Baltic shares Satem features with Slavic, but vocalism more closely with Germanic. The treatment of PIE (supposed) bh, dh - all getting b, d before first vowel and v, ð between them - is common to all Northern branches of IE, as Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic, but opposed to southern treatment as in Aryan (Skr bh, dh), Greek (ph, th), Italic (f before first vowels, b, d between them)languages (I know too little about Armenian and Albanian to make a statement).

However: this hardly explains the amount of words in Germanic that can neither be considered as common Indo-European or Balto-Slavic innovations. Or for that matter Finno-Ugrian or Celtic loans: sword, shield, spear, bread would all belong to this category.


Posted as a reply to: Msg 64102 by dhux99

Language evolution, alternative view 2
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/12/05 03:36 am
Msg: 64123 of 64169


"Note: Lest this be misinterpreted, there is no doubt here about language evolution, but rather a new theory of how evolution worked in Indo-European. Such is the nature of academic scholarship in which older views are challenged and sometimes replaced."

I have not put in any doubt that language evolution occurs.* I have merely said that what Jung Grammarians thought of as unconscious evolutionary laws (the "sound laws") do NOT produce intelligible languages if left to themselves, but the reason there is still intelligible language after so many sound laws is the artistic work of remaking language to repair the damages. NONE of the Indo-European languages is thought of as having the original conjugation intact and affected only by the sound laws. EVERY ONE of them is thought of as innovating artistically in order to repair damages. A known case in the "development" of a known language is the Latin vs Romance future tense.

Latin future
vocabo, vocabis, _vocabit, vocabimus_ ...
in two forms coalesced with the perfect:
vocavi, vocavisti, _vocavit, vocavimus_...
as a sound law coalesced intervocalic b and v

the EVOLUTION made for people confusing he/she or we will call with he/she or we have called, did call.

ARTISTRY repaired the damage by replacing vocabit, vocabimus with vocare habet, vocare habemus - he/she or we "have to-call" - and similarly in the other persons. Furthermore the same could be done with the past continuous (a k a imperfect) of the new auxiliary verb: "had to-call", vocare habebat, vocare habebamus and similarly in other persons. This replaced classic vocaturus erat, eramus and similarly other persons: "was going-to-call". Without that artistry there would have been no Romance languages. There would have been no Romance Future, which descends in all languages from:

vocare habeo, vocare habes, vocare habet, vocare habemus...

and there would have been no Romance Conditional which descends from:

vocare habebam, vocare habebas, vocare habebat, vocare habebamus...

There is a really alternative view - supported by Jean Aitchison: Language change - progress or decay (not sure about under title), and she refers to sociolinguistic research by Labov as well as research into Chinese "sound law"s.

It is that the sound laws themselves were never unconscious events suddenly hitting speakers without their knowing it or being able to help it (as the sudden change at Tower of Babel), but that that is also conscious artistry or sloppyness - or the artistry of sloppyness. They are social habits that catch on consciously or semiconsciously and can be opposed same way - sometimes also very effectively. The new pronunciation speads from word to word or - at its most rapid - from word group to word group or environment to environment - as well as from speaker to speaker. That reorganising paradigms such as sound laws have made gibberish of is conscious artistry cannot even be doubted. I support that view of the sound laws themselves: i e the only time when language change really hit people without them being able to help it was the tower of Babel. There is of course also the phenomenon of being denied the opportunity to oppose language change, in the sense of not having the opportunity of learning the grammar of the oldest native literature belonging to a continous tradition properly.

* Re: Language evolution, alternative view
by: hglundahl (36/M/N Spain) 03/12/05 12:51 pm
Msg: 64166 of 64170

I have not put in any doubt that language evolution occurs.

Now you are with the program. And this is why the Tower of Babel myth is rejected by linguistics everywhere.

That is simply a non sequitur.

Posted as a reply to: Msg 64162 by dhux99

Posted as a reply to: Msg 64102 by dhux99

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

...on Origin of peoples after flood (vs. C-14 and demographic misconsiderations)
...on Tower of Babel or language evolution

retrieved from:

Hans G Lundahl. Tower of Babel and language origins. . 2008-11-29. URL: Accessed: 2008-11-29. (Archived by WebCite® at