Monday, January 15, 2018

Historic Linguistics as Viewed by a Creationist (Featuring Proto-Languages, on quora) - 8 questions + update

... on Tower of Babel - a Classic (quora) · ... on PIE · Historic Linguistics as Viewed by a Creationist (Featuring Proto-Languages, on quora) - 8 questions + update · ... on Bread and Comparative Linguistics

Do the Young Earth creationists accept that Proto-Afro-Asiatic was spoken? If so, when, according to them?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Blog : "". Debating evolutionists for 15 years +.
Answered just now
If Hebrew is the real Proto-Afro-Asiatic language, yes.

Otherwise no.

Is *bʰ (Aspirated bilabial stop) in the Proto-Indo-European language voiced? As [bʰ] in Sanskrit?*b%CA%B0-aspirated-bilabial-stop-in-the-Proto-Indo-European-language-voiced-As-b%CA%B0-in-Sanskrit/answer/Hans-Georg-Lundahl

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered just now
There are two difficulties here.

  • 1) We don’t know there was a Proto-Indo-European language;
  • 2) We don’t know if the original Lautstand was really, as usually thought, for the stops that of Sanskrit if it had been a Centum language.

But, as to what the theory means - the one there are two difficulties about - yes, the reconstructed bh is like bh in Sanskrit, not like bh in Old Irish or Modern Irish (which is w/v depending on broad/slender).

What name did the Proto-Indo-Europeans call themselves?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Self Employed at Writer and Composer
Answered 47m ago
Since we have no writings from back then, we don’t know.

Or, if we do know, we have not identified it ias PIE.

For instance, if the real PIE was Hittite, we do know they called their own language Nesili, and that eventually they called themselves after another people they had beaten, whose language Hattili is not one of the IE family.

But we do not know the Hittites were the real PIE’ans.

And so on.

Why does reconstructed Proto-Indo-European seem so cumbersome to pronounce?

Quora Question Details Bot
Aug 8
It seems as if there are a lot of unusual phonemes and stranger and more consonant clusters than most modern IE languages have. Also, what do those subscript numbers mean?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered Jun 15, 2017
H generally comes with subscript 1,2 or 3.

H1 is the H which becomes (a Continental) E and was probably (an English / German) H.

H2 becomes A and was presumably Ach-Laut.

H3 becomes O and also voices some consonants beside it, was probably a voiced counterpart of Ach-Laut a little further back perhaps and with lip rounding.

Then there are bh, dh, gh, gh(w). Basically taken over from Sanskrit bh, dh, jh, gh.

Now, the unusual part is this : bh, dh, gh, gh(w) exist, which is rare outside India (Sanskrit + some Dravidic languages + some Indic languages later than Sanskrit) AND the three H sounds can form the core of a syllable, which is usually reserved for vowels which are voiced sounds.

Also, m and n, l and r exist in syllabic version, but this you can find, at least for r and l in Czech too : vlk meaning wolf and Brno being a city both have this. This means they are not really consonant clusters, since m, n, l, r in this context are functioning as vowels.

But I have only DEFINED the unusual traits of Proto-Indo-European. This is sth other than to EXPLAIN them as you asked me to do.

Now, PIE is reconstructed and this is how linguists finally agreed to reconstruct it. I just saw a version with only one laryngal (or two, counting voiceless and voiced), which was much closer to Hittite - by another linguist, proposing his reconstruction.

And one possible explanation why the reconstruction of a proto-language seems so odd (laryngals, bh, dh, gh, gh(w), m and n, l and r in syllabic version, all at the same time) may be in my view because the premiss behind the reconstruction, namely existence of a proto-language (like Latin is to the Romance languages) is the wrong explanation for Indo-European communalities. As it happens, that is my view.

pH2tH1r = pronounce pkht-hr … would you call your dad such a sound?

In rough estimates, how much of the Proto-Germanic lexicon can be described as probably non-Indo-European and part of an older European substrate?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Self Employed at Writer and Composer
Answered just now
Tim Kaye had read, years ago, 25 - 50 % identifiably IE vocaubulary.

My Greek professor, I think it was, mentioned 20 %.

Leaving 80 % as either non-IE or not-identified IE.

In other words, the majority of Germanic vocabulary is not identifiable as IE.

Obviously this depends to some degree on what reconstructions you make which depends on what rules you use and how imaginative you are in reconstructions.

Similar low estimates could be mentioned for Greek, I think.

And so on.

This is one reason I am in serious doubt about PIE theory or rather tend to discard it as unfounded.

What do the numeric subscripts preceded by 'h's indicate in Proto-Indo-European phonology?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Self Employed at Writer and Composer
Answered just now
I am going for the three laryngeal version - well aware there are others.

H1 will leave an E as E. If adjacent to no vowel, it will also become an E.

H2 will turn an E to an A. If adjacent to no vowel, it will also become an A.

H3 will turn an E to an O. If adjacent to no vowel, it will also become an O.

H3 will turn certain consonants voiced, but H1 and H2 won’t.

All this according to the most commonly accepted theory, which may be totally wrong, and one of my reasons is this.

The most reasonable reconstructions in this case are H1 = h, H2 = ach-laut, H3 = voiced and labialised ach-laut further back in the mouth.

But unfortunately, this leaves some words very ugly.

pH2teH1r in nominative and pH2tH1r in vocative would therefore be, with more common phonetic marking pχtéhr and pχthr (accent on ach-laut).

As I have described this elsewhere, the laryngeal theory makes PIE sound a bit like Klingon - and I have a problem about that.

What are some features that are common to all (or most) Indo-European languages that are not usually shared by non-Indo-European languages?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered just now
"What are some features that are common to all (or most) Indo-European languages"

Having nominative vs accusative rather than ergative vs absolutive.

"that are not usually shared by non-Indo-European languages?"

However, it is rather the ergative which is somewhat rare, since at least Uralic and Turkic as well as Semitic and Hamitic languages share the setup.

There were some features given in a table, but these were nearly all about European languages, even West European languages, the Germanic and Romance continuum.

Polar Questions - interrogative word order. Not shared by Latin, Classic Greek, Polish, and I don't think by Persian or Hindi either. I don't know about Modern Greek. Gaelic replaces certain verb forms with certain other ones, and its general word order (like that of Arabic, I have heard) is close to the interrogative word order of West European.

Uvular consonants - uvular continuants only. This concerns the Dutch pronunciation of ach-laut and the uvular r, both being innovations in Europe and probably very recent ones.

Dutch ach-laut probably came from a velar ach-laut. Uvular r came from dental trilled or rather retroflex trilled r. As late as 17th C., they presume, it seems to have been a faulty pronunciation in King Louis XIV.

Perfect of have type are as un-common outside Germanic and Romance within IE as outside IE. It is a recent innovation, though an earlier one than uvular r. It is probably from the Middle Ages.

It probably started out as a combination and reversal of two Latin phrase types - the perfect passive participle with est, and the "mihi est" as synonym for "ego habeo".

High and mid front rounded vowels are absent from most IE languages, and present in Peul, in Africa.

The one feature which is very markedly IE is that in many languages S-V and V-S are similarily common, modern West European version having S-V for normal statements and V-S for polar questions, older versions and versions current today but further East is free word order. This trait could originate in a Sprachbund situation, where one language involved in it originally had dominant S-V, another originally dominant V-S.

There is of course the Ablaut, but this is clearly shared with Semitic.

In Arabic, Qalb is heart and Qulub is hearts (I have this from Arabian Nights with a good annotation, not from being Arabophone). In Latin the verb tego and the noun toga belong together. In Greek the verb pherein and nouns with -phoros. In Germanic the present "ich fahre" and the past "ich fuhr".

One could also mention the particular set of present active personal endings which could be seen as absent from Germanic, mostly, but present in Greek, Latin, Lithuanian, Slavonic - except it is also there in Finnish, which is not IE.

In Sanskrit, Greek, Latin you have a feature of distinguishing past continuous from past simple specifically in the past. It is absent in Germanic, it is semi-present in Slavonic (possibly present in Church Slavonic even - but that was a constructed language, based on a Slavonic dialect spoken by bilinguals who also spoke Greek), since you will have verb pairs, where one has a past which is like the simple past in meaning, another like the continuous past.

It could have come by by confusing a Semitic type of distinction between ongoing and finished action (the finishing of an action in the past is a simple event, not an ongoing one) as per Semitic and a distinction between present and past as in Finnish or Germanic.

There is really a case system common to most IE not shared outside it (and not by Finnish or Arabic).

It can be reconstructed as having originally 8 cases, and as having Accusative as default Lative case. This conflation of two functions in one case, unlike the nominative - accusative system is fairly unique. Like the numerals.

What five books on linguistics (philosophy of language) do you consider most necessary for people interested in linguistics?

Answer requested
by Jesse Joodt

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Self Employed at Writer and Composer
Answered Jan 10
What five books …

So, three of my five books are “exact reference forgotten” - sorry if that leaves only two useful answers.


How much of the Germanic language grammatic structures is distinct from Latin?

Answer requested
by Jos

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered just now
Most of the grammatic structure is different between Latin and Germanic.

Similar: there are in the older Germanic languages and still in German and Icelandic, cases. Pronouns tend to be of same roots, though for “we and you” it is hard to verify directly. Latin “nos” may indeed remind of “us”, in some languages “uns” / “ons”. But Latin “vos” looks a bit closeish to the nominative “we”. But “vos” means “ye/you”. Numbers are the same one to ten, also hundred. One argues this is also so for twenty, unless that is rather a dual of ten, or even of the -ty ending, but with “twenty” vs “viginti” it is hard to verify. There is ablaut in both languages, but …

Non-similar: … ablaut tends to have different uses. There is in Germanic a simple past and no progressive one (English mimics Romance in having one), it is partly formed with ablaut, which is not the main way in Latin, and partly with and ending not so used in Latin. Run / ran is exceptional in English, as facio / feci is exceptional in Latin. Played is typical in English and vocavi is typical in Latin. Also, faciebam and vocabam for the past progressive are typical for Latin. The b in it could be and could not be related to the d in played. Greek and (if I recall the Latin language history correctly) Sanskrit do not use anything related to either. Latin uses the b also for some futures, while the Germanic present is better termed non-past, since having a potentially future meaning. In Slavonic, one verb will have a non-past which is present another one a non-past which is future. Latin and Greek disagree in how they make futures, Germanic doesn’t have a synthetic one even. The past and present subjunctives in Germanic look like Greek optatives, if anything, even that a bit tenuous since less outlined than the optative, and they ignore both Greek and Latin diverse subjunctives. There are fewer cases, the cases are coinciding more, all Germanic languages except Gothic have acquired a definite article, in Germanic, as in Slavonic and Baltic, there are definite and indefinite declinsions for adjectives and the adjective declinsion differs from the noun declinsion, which is not or very much less the case in Latin and Greek. These two share personal verb endings more with Finnish even than with Germanic - unless you look at the oldest writings, which may be influenced by being written down by people used to Latin or spoken by people who were living close to Romans. Word order is very different too in Latin and in Germanic, Latin having free word order tending to verb last as default and deviations from it used for marking. Germanic tends to verb last in oblique clauses, while main clauses not interrogative tend to V2 rule, namely whatever is first - unmarked subject, marked something else - verb comes after that.

I will give an example in vocabulary.

I will lay down my sword and shield and study war no more.

I = ego (cognate)
will = volo (cognate)
my = meus (rough cognate, but different formation)
and ? perhaps cognate with Greek = anti, meaning against
study = studere (loan)
no = n+o, n=ne
more = magis (probably rough cognate)

lay, down, sword, shield, war are all clear non-cognates

The Indo-European close family members excluding by marriage to other are all in Germanic:

father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister.

In Latin the son and daughter are sth else, and in Greek the brother and sister are sth else, as are fathers in Slavonic and Baltic, and again son and daughter in Welsh and Irish:

pater, mater, filius, filia, frater, soror
pater, meter, yys, thygater, adelphos, adelphe
ojciec, matka, syn, córka, brat, siostra
tėvas, motina, sūnus, dukra, brolis, sesuo
tad, mam, mab, merch, brawd, chwaer
athair, máthair, mac, iníon, deartháir, deirfiúr

Are Slavic languages more similar to Germanic or Indo-Iranian languages?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered 3m ago
I have little knowledge of Balto-Slavic and next to none of Indo-Iranian.

Here goes.

Slavic ones are Satem, like Indo-Iranian rather than Germanic. Example, hundred is hund+red in English, and h corresponds to velar C/K (as it originally was, or they suppose so) in Latin centum and Greek hekaton. Lithuanian has shimtas and Slavic sto. This is like Hindi sau, Kurdish sed.

On the other hand, Slavic are also what I call North Indo-European.

These will have b in words where South Indo-European has sth else.

Irish Gaelic dearthair has changed, but Welsh has brawd for brother. Now, Celtic and Germanic are the Western or Centum NIE languages, here are the Eastern or Satem NIE ones, Baltic and Slavic, Lithuanian has brolis and Polish has brat.

Confer South Indo-European where they are usually not b.

Latin has f (sometimes b in word interior), as in frater. Greek has phi in phrator (only about "lodge" brothers, not about real ones). Hindi has bh as in bhaee while Kurdish actally has b as in brak.

In vocabulary, I don’t know. In Syntax, Persian seems closer to some Germanic ones - English, Scandinavia - than to Slavic, but Hindi is clearly very different, since by now “split ergative” - one tense will have accusative differing from intransitive subjects while other will have instead ergative differing from intransitive subjects. Both of these are innovative. Oldest state of Sanskrit, well before Hindi, was closer to Latin and Greek. In these Slavic and Germanic are inbetween Sanskrit and Persian.

Why is "a" often replaced for "ă" or "â" in Romanian words of Latin origin ("sanguis" -> "sânge")? Most other Latin languages have kept the A-sound.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Self Employed at Writer and Composer
Answered just now
Any change between two languages, like one language changing so much the old spelling won’t work, one has to replace it with a new spelling system, or even just happens to do so, even if one could have continued spelling it the old way (as in Latin) involves some sound changes.

And any time there are more than one new language emerging, each has sound changes which are unique.

Castilian is unique in “fortis” becoming “fuerte”, while Romanian has “foarte”, an a instead of an e after the w. Castilian with some Occitan dialect (Gascon, I think) are unique by replacing most Latin f with h (neighbouring Basque does the same, but I mean unique among Romance, and Japanese turning some f into h is very far off from both Basque and Romance).

Portuguese is unique in some ways, like pl bl becoming pr, br (praça, branco).

So, why exactly would the A sound be the only sound unique to change?

And, more, the sound of "ă" in endings is not even unique. Portuguese perhaps and Occitan certainly pronounce the ending -a as "ă", while French has another spelling but -e is also pronounced like "ă".

As to "â", well, yes, it is unique among Romance languages, but not in the region. Turkish has the “i without a dot”, Polish has its “y”. Russian has same sound, in Cyrillic alphabet. I am less sure about Bulgarian, but I think Bulgarian has had it during the Church Slavonic period and lost it.

L. David
Thanks for examples of unique things in other Romance languages, but that’s not what I asked for. I never said Romanian has got the only unique changes, I only wanted an explanation for why the ‘’a’’ got changed for ‘’â’’ or ‘’ă’’ in so many words. Is it because of influence from neighboring languages? That’s the only thing I asked for here.

Also, in Romanian, ‘’ă’’ is not only used for endings. It could be anywhere in the word.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
just now
You cannot mechanically explain an unique change.

You would need to know the people who first pronounced an ‘’â’’ for “a”, and I don’t.

That ‘’â’’ is a sound existing in neighbouring languages certainly contributed to make it possible. Some speaking “Latin on its way to Romanian” were bilinguals and using that sound in for instance Slavonic.

It seems, this happens near nasals, as with “î” - “caîne”, “pâine” if I recall dog and bread correctly, as with “împeratul” where “i” is next to “m”. But I don’t know exactly why. Perhaps “â” not being the nicest vowel is less disturbing if standing next to a very nice consonant?

As to ‘’ă’’ being used anywhere in the word, is that also the case for stressed syllables? I thought not. I thought it was unstressed syllables only. That is an easier thing to explain. In ‘’ă’’ the mouth is less open than in “a” and the pronunciation takes less air. On the other hand, the tongue is less tight than in “i” or “u” and therefore takes less muscular effort. Therefore ‘’ă’’ is the lazy vowel per default. If sound changes were mechanic, all vowels would become ‘’ă’’, the thing to explain is why this or that vowel is singled out for such treatment while others aren’t.

Presumably either “a” is singled out in Romanian because it is the vowel taking most breath and making it ‘’ă’’ is the greatest economy in an unstressed syllable. Other possibility, but this involves the process already starting : a noun in ‘’ă’’ can now get a definite form in “a”. Once this can have been “a” vs “ala”. So, reducing this to ‘’ă’’ vs “a” instead saved effort.

How is language change studied through historical linguistics and evolutionary linguistics?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered just now
"How is language change studied through historical linguistics”

By observable historic facts.

“and evolutionary linguistics?"

Mainly by reconstruction.

When I state how Latin so and so has changed into Romanian so and so, or Spanish so and so, I can check the recognisably same general word pattern between the three languages (fortis, foarte, fuerte) and I can also check the starting point, namely Latin fortis, or more properly speaking its accusative fortem.

I can also check the historic facts on when Latin was the only written language in Spain or Romania and when the languages we speak of as Castilian and Romanian emerged, and what other written languages have been there between the two dates (Spain : Gothic, Arabic, Romanian, Gothic, Bulgarian, Turkish).

When evolutionary linguistics are comparing diverse branches of Indo-European, it is handling things like if one only had fuerte and foarte and had no trace of fortem or fortis, and one is proving the original had to be either “fuerte” or “foarte”, with the other language pushing the vowels up for Spanish or down for Romanian (foarte is pronounced with tongue further down than fuerte). A very sophisticated guess would be “forte” - but this is outside Romance an “evolutionary option” only because it is inside Romance a known historical one.

It is also different insofar as for Romance languages we have thousands of words from Latin and for Indo-European we have 500 roots. For Spanish and Romanian, I think 80 % or so are from Latin. For Greek or Germanic, perhaps Latin too, one counts on a clearly lower level traced to the 500 Indo-European roots - meaning there is more uncertainty on whether the words started out from a same language and this splitting or within a group of languages and these getting closer, like the Balkan languages. Anyway, “evolutionary linguistics” used to be called “comparative linguistics”. A name I prefer.

Within Romance - i e historical or one group of it - we can prove “evolutionary” steps like sound changes alone, without intelligent redesigning of one’s language could not have led to useful language, only to decay. Language change involves progress and not just decay, only because it is partly a voluntary or semi-voluntary process defending the language against the mere adding up of sound changes. Take Latin solem and solum. In Spanish they would come out differently, like sol and suelo, which is what Spanish has. In French not just final -e is lost but also final -o, so in French both would come out as sol, but only solum (suelo!) does, while solem is intelligently replaced by *soliculum = soleil. Language change involves intelligent design, folks!

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