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Re: _Language relations across Bering Strait_

Date:Thursday, November 30, 2006, 17:51
On Nov 30, 2006, at 5:04 AM, Jörg Rhiemeier wrote:

> > Yes. Fortescue's evidence looks quite nice, though it is far from > rock solid. However, I am not an expert on any of the languages > discussed, and thus cannot really evaluate whether his interpretation > of the facts makes sense or not.
I'm no expert either, but when I read this book, I did notice that in his comparisons of Chukotkan and Yukagir vs. Eskimo-Aleut languages, he included a pretty large number of words in the former group that look to me like loanwords from Tungusic languages (or possibly Yakut in some cases). Which, if true, would at least complicate his scheme and could, I suppose, reduce the number of 'true trans-Bering cognates' below the threshold of statistical significance. The problem I feel more and more in this area ("East Siberian Exotica," if you like) is that everyone who gets into it is excited about genetic classification and rarely, if ever, stops to look long and hard at loanwords -- despite knowing of these languages' speakers' complicated and shifting ethnohistories, and that these languages have been recorded quite recently and mostly from multilingual (and often multiethnic) speakers. With Fortescue, I got the feeling he looked at the "Altaic" languages and dismissed them from his project because he felt confident they weren't *genetically* related to his focus of interest, but completely failed to acknowledge that they were still significant *areal* influences in his data. Anyway, that's my amateur two cents' worth. K.