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Re: THEORY: A possible Proto-World phonology

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Wednesday, June 28, 2000, 21:40
>From: Ed Heil <edheil@...>
> >So if someone should prove that Etruscan, Sumerian, Luwian, even > >Basque are related to Nostratic, it would increase the time depth of > >the family and be an impressive scientific achievement, but it would > >not really bring us closer to an ultimate ancestor --- all the > >languages are still from the same small area. > >Picky Quibble: > >Surely Luwian is uncontroversially Indo-European? Perhaps you meant >"Hurrian"?
You're right. Luwian was an Anatolian language like Hittite. Hurrian, along with Urartian, are believed to be early forms of what would become North Caucasian (not South Caucasian/Kartvelian). Sumerian is reckoned as an isolate, though of course some people are trying so hard to link it with the usual suspects: Basque, Burushaski, Ainu and whatever else. Elamite is fairly universally accepted as being the parent language of Dravidian. And regarding the Nostratic theory in general: I do accept at least some of it, even to the point where I can call it a hypothesis instead of a theory, for these reasons, expressed in these parallels: 1) the three-way voiced-voiceless-ejective stops/affricates, found in Afro-Asiatic and Kartvelian, and altered in Indo-European -- somewhat preserved in Korean as well, if it is indeed an Altaic language 2) common pronouns and case endings in Indo-European, Uralic and Kartvelian 3) animate-inanimate gender in IE (Anatolian) and Dravidian 4) evidence of "laryngealism" in IE and Kartvelian and a possible link to the "laryngeals" of Afro-Asiatic 5) ergativity in Kartvelian is also attested in early IE 6) vowel harmony in Uralic and Altaic, and ablaut in IE 7) IE k^/k/kw, g^/g/gw, g^h/g/gwh may have resulted from neutralization of vowels to /e/ (which of course mutates to /o/ and zero due to stress shift and other factors); the original CV groups must have been ke/ka/ko, or ki/k@/ku (and likewise for g and gh). 8) cognates (or possible cognates) I've found in Germanic and Semitic 9) masculine and feminine genders found in Afro-Asiatic and IE 10) VSO word order found in Celtic and Semitic Now granted, ejectives and ergativity are also found in North Caucasian, so Kartvelian may have these features as a result of area influence. Armenian and Ossetian, also Caucasian-zone languages, also have ejectives (modern Armenian lost them except in certain dialects), and these of course are IE. Ergativity, animate-inanimate distinction, glottalic features, SOV word order and suffixal agglutinativity are very common so they are not good criteria to link language histories by. So Nostratic is a semi-educated guess concerning the "missing link" of language evolution. At least it has evidence to back it up. I've investigated reconstructions (25 from Ilich-Svitych and 125+ from Dolgopolsky; I have one of his books) and I'm actually convinced. But the more radical macrolanguage proposals, like Sino-Caucasian or Dene-Caucasian, Amerind, Eurasian, and especially a supposed Proto-Language or Proto-World, are much more dubious -- and probably indeed unprovable. But this is fun; it is after all the search for Babel. Or even if you reject Babel, the Flood and the Fall, when the first few _homo sapiens sapiens_ primates started to appear, they had to have discovered the ability to communicate through sound, and to manipulate sound through consonantal and vocalic manipulation, which eventually developed to a naming system for animals, plants and other things, then actions, feeligns and states, then the roots of grammar came... There is a Biblical account, by the way, of Adam's discovery of speech, which he first applied to naming of all the animals in the primeval paradise of Eden. He was searching for a true life partner, and he sure wanted to use this gift of speech with another human who could speak as well. (But when he looked up and saw Eve, wearing her birthday suit, language theory was definitely the last thing on Adam's mind...) It would be grand to find the language of Adam and Eve, our original parents. But if we fail, at least we'll learn a whole lot from the experience... Daniel A. Wier ¶¦¬þ Lufkin, Texas USA ________________________________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at