Wednesday, April 26, 2017

... on IE unity, again with Crawford

Overview of the Indo-European Languages
Jackson Crawford

Hans-Georg Lundahl
0:52 Linguists have reconstructed a language ... Contestable.

For each word recurring in more than one branch, you can reconstruct an ancestral form, no problem.

But did all the ancestral forms belong to the same language?!

I see what you're getting at, something equivalent to the way many different European (and other?) languages have borrowed many of the same words from Latin or Greek, but done so independently.

Such a corpus will usually stand out as having particular characteristics and correspondences all of their own.

E.g. the way the sounds of the source language were adapted to the system of the receiving one.

Of course it helps if the source language is well known independently, borrowings from an unknown common source might be hard to detect.

Do you have any particular historical scenario in mind?

E.g. Iron-working terminology, or horsemanship words etc. might have been borrowed along with the skills/techniques from neighbouring peoples more advanced in these things.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
"Such a corpus will usually stand out as having particular characteristics and correspondences all of their own."

If the borrowings are much more recent than the other relationship presumed to be genetic. For instance, Swedish and Low Saxon fairly certainly have a common ancestor, or if not, Germanic languages have been coalescing to commonalities for very long. However, a possible Proto-Germanic is c. 500 BC, at near AD, Proto-Norse is already separate, and the Low Saxon a k a Low Dutch or Low German vocabulary enters Swedish from 1200 - 1500 AD. Sure enough, any *IE kt > *Proto-Gmc xt is different, depending on which way it came into Swedish. "Natt" is Swedish-Swedish. "Prakt" is German-Swedish, from Low German pracht. Indigenous xt > tt, Low German xt = xt in Low German, > kt in Swedish which lacks the ach-laut since the earlier sound shift.

But what if the presumed "language group corpus" is in fact just such a corpus? It will of course have correspondences "of its own", but these will be taken for "native correspondences" by whoever misconstrued what happened.

Suppose we had not had the correspondence "natt" / "Nacht", but we had had instead "yö" / "Nacht"?

We would not have had an earlier correspondence to compare "prakt" / "Pracht" with.

Also, perhaps more to the point, if either language of the two had been starting as non-IE, non-Germanic, theoretically the earlier correspondence "natt" / "Nacht" could have been a loan from an earlier stage of the contact instead.

"Of course it helps if the source language is well known independently, borrowings from an unknown common source might be hard to detect."

As would mutual borrowings, if Celtic is an areal features commonality. Something Barry Cunliffe has suspected very recently, after a century of Celtic studies presuming we deal with languages all branching out nicely from a Proto-Celtic which came from an Italo-Celtic or directly from PIE.

I actually tend to think that if there was any original language giving more than others, it would have been some kind of Anatolian. Last year or so, a Finn was reconstructing a PIE vocabulary with one laryngeal, which looked suspiciously like Nesili (a k a Hittite).

On the other hand, Nesili, like Finnish and Turkish and Slavonic, also formal adress in Gothic, but that could be a loan, has an Atta gloss instead of a Pater gloss.

So, IE commonalities cannot have been all derived from Nesili as we know it.

"Do you have any particular historical scenario in mind? E.g. Iron-working terminology, or horsemanship words etc. might have been borrowed along with the skills/techniques from neighbouring peoples more advanced in these things."

I have more than one in mind, actually. Perhaps not all mustually exclusive.

  • Failed Esperanto attempt after Tower of Babel, possibly a conlang by Nimrod himself;
  • Second failed Esperanto attempt, the first by Nimrod being Sumerian, branching out to Fenno-Ugrian (with Hattili) and one kind of Caucasian and Bantu, this second one being more between Fenno-Ugrian (cfr verb endings) and Semitic (cfr Ablaut);
  • International sacred language of an IE religion, like that in which the Lithuanian Krive was a kind of Pagan Pope - there may be religious reasons for keeping liturgic terms for head and hand separate but those for knee and foot common, for lungs separate, but for heart and liver common;
  • International language of commerce and diplomacy.
    • a) Kinship terms involve much regard for inlaws, which would be natural in international diplomacy.
    • b) Cereals do not have common terms, beyond perhaps some meaning generally "cereal", which would be natural if traders were not cultivating grain themselves, but just linking between those who were. Horses and wagons have common terms, which would be natural if horse trade were part of the original trade role they had.

Actually, if I look back at my original comment, it is more like, pater gloss and attas gloss obviously came from different languages, the mater, frater, thygater glosses from same as pater and same as Greek comparatives in -ter or Latin pair pronouns in -ter - soror and sunus may have come from same family as suus, se, but the whole classic list of relatives could therefore be a composite, from more than one lang.

For each of the words, there is an ancestral form, but the ancestral forms at their most ancestral need not be all from same language.

As I evoked horse traders as one historic scenario for Indo-Europeanisation of diverse languages, let's recall a more recent tribe of horse traders (one could imagine they were the same, even!) are also known to be word traders.

Romani is likely to give Greek words - in non-posh form, not like learned loans - to whatever language outside Greek they come in contact with, and vice versa.


Hans-Georg Lundahl
2:11 If PIE=Nesili (Hittite, not Hattic) or Luwian, the hieroglyphs hiding some of the finer points of PIE phonology (like labialisation of q series) ... how do you refute that theory (supposing you do refute it)?!

2:34 And here is the exact reason why a Creationist might be wary of the theory.

3500 BC = before Flood, before Tower of Babel. + some of the divisions supposedly of originally unitary IE, of PIE, were already in place just after Babel, in some shape.

Madanites arguably spoke sth related to Medo-Persian.

Iavanites arguably sth related to Ionic Greek.

And Ludites of Anatolia (the Semite Ludites) probably sth related to Lydian.

Hence the interest of Balkan theorem. "Areal feature" as you put it.!

Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Very Early Contact?


Ihme Jakki
A similar video for the Uralic or just the Finno-Ugric languages would be very interesting!

Jackson Crawford
I'm a little leery of moving too deep into that territory since I have little professional experience with the Uralic languages, but I do have a short video contrasting Finnish with the Scandinavian languages that discusses Uralic somewhat:

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Did you mention how funny it is Uralic and IE share personal verb endings, if not for mediopassive, for active, present?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
on IV - VII:

3:12 I was reading the work about our ancestors on the steppes.*

I can fairly well imagine that the people living North of Black Sea were in a position to act like horse traders (and sometimes trading cereals to new colonies of whatever other peoples needed the first grain for sowing, sometimes trading it to regions with bad crops, but only rarely, and that therefore they were less familiar with cereals).

But at the same time, the IE community can have common vocabulary also from whereever they traded with. Also, Anatolia is very interesting (as one major other source), because:

  • Anatolia is next to plains of Shinar, and if Göbekli Tepe was the city with the Tower of Babel, it is technically in both regions, since East of Euphrates;
  • on Anatolia you have several Noahic tribes coinhabiting same area : Gomerites in Cappadocia (they also went to Celtic West, afterwards), Semite Ludites in Lydia and around, Iavanites across Aegean, Caphthorim on Crete : they may have needed a lingua franca after Tower of Babel, they are known to have in historic times spoken IE langs, especially if Linear A Cretan was an Aryan language, related to Vedic and Avestic, as has been suggested;
  • it is next to another "areal features area" which remains so to this day, Balkans - the IE langs of the Balkans are IE langs for which areal feature has enhanced commonalities, and this could have been true of IE langs to start, as of Balkan langs to start.

A Slavic and a Romance language on Balkans have more in common with each other than a Slavic and Romance language outside them, if we compare on the one hand Romanian and Bulgarian and on the other hand Spanish and Polish.

The deep commonality of IE langs can be an areal features commonality which has had time to deepen before geographical splits or even after, through overlapping areas, as in Balkans it very certainly has deepened much more recently too.


12:20 automatic subtitles are sometimes hilarious. Germanic languages have been now termed both "dramatic" and "traumatic". Faroese has been redefined as "fairways".

14:07 And guess what Tocharian came out as? Carrion and Korean!

13:16 While Lithuanian is indeed very archaic on nominal declinsion, verb tenses are poorer than Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and with Latin also Romance. Not to mention Celtic.

Both Semitic and Uralic languages get along with basically two tenses only: a non-past and a past one, which also could, especially in Semitic, serve as non-perfective and perfective or progressive and simple.

The more complex system further south [as compared to Lithuanian and Germanic] could have been born out of a deliberate conlang à la auxlang mixing Uralic and Semitic features. Semitic tense use at its most idiomatic may have made some conscious that the distinctions mentioned are not the same, and therefore given rise to a more complex system with in each major time tense, a distinction between progressive (present, imperfect) and punctual (aorist, future) or perfective (perfect, pluperfect, future perfect).

Note that if IE arose just West of Tower of Babel, it could have gotten Uralic traits from Hattic, which would be one of the Chanaanean tribes, while not a Phoenician speaking one, and Semitic ones from Ludites - or, Uralic traits from Sumerian and Semitic traits from Akkadian.

But I think the structure would have only arisen by some deliberate effort, as is also evidenced for the Romance Futures and Conditionals. So, this could tie in either with a Sprachbund or a Conlang/Auxlang scenario for IE origins.

Germanic totally (up to contact with Latin / Romance) and Lithuanian mainly missed out on the finer shades and stayed with a two tense system.

13:51 Nesili was once as widely written across language borders as Church Slavonic was and nearly is more recently.

Church Slavonic is not pronounced the exact same way by a Serbian and an Ukrainean bishop in liturgy. On the contrary, it is adapted to how Serbian and Ukrainean pronounce certain letters.

Generally speaking, of course, an orthography and a pronunciation are the same thing - but here we see a distinction : the orthography for Church Slavonic is the same, as far as the letters for each word and ending, in each text, whether in Serbia or in Ukraine, but the other component of orthography, pronunciation of "each letter" varies.

If this happened in Nesili, various groups in Anatolia could have borrowed words from each other via written Nesili - with the effect of innstant sound change.

If written Swedish borrows a word from Scanian, if the book is read in Westerbotten, a Scanian word will reach Westerbotten in a perfectly Norrländsk sound correspondence, not because word was preserved between Scanian and Norrlandsmål since Proto-Norse, but because Swedish writing has served as a kind of "instant sound change applier". Like we see for more limited purposes in all neologisms on -tion, -sion, -tor, "-arium" when they spread across European languages.

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