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Protolangs (was: the Maligned Art)

From:Raymond A. Brown <raybrown@...>
Date:Sunday, November 8, 1998, 17:16
At 10:30 pm -0500 7/11/98, Nik Taylor wrote:
>Simon Kissane wrote:
>> You could say they have no or very few speakers, but then some >> "real" languages have no or very few speakers either. (How many people >> speak Proto-Indo-European?)
How many speakers ever spoke PIE, at least, the 'language' given in text books? None, I'd guess.
>PROTO-IE is a constructed language, since we've theorized about what it >was like.
Yep - it is a conlang & can't be anything else (unless someone discovers time-travel :) The actual case of Latin & the Romancelangs should make us careful how we treat such protolangs. If Latin had never been recorded and all we had were the modern Romancelangs, the language we'd construct as 'Proto-Romance' would be very different from what we know either as Classical Latin or what we think Vulgar Latin was like. PIE is, at best, only an _abstract approximation_ to the dialects spoken at some pre-historic period possibly somewhere on the Russian steppes.
>But, the actual ancestreal language(s) was/were spoken by >people, who knows how many.
LanguageS (or dialects) I'd guess is more likely - and, indeed, who knows either how many did speak them or what they were really like. Ray. PS - I don't want to get into a discussion of what PIE was actually like or not - I'm darn sure that there must be lists where such discussion do take place.