Anatolian Homeland for Indo-European: The Argument Is Over

CLAVDIVS AMERICANVS: I don’t have a dog in this fight and I not an Indo-Europeanist. But check this anti-Kurgan Hypothesis video. The talk about ‘wheel’ cognates across three continents is fascinating.

I know some Indo-Europeanists pretty well. We communicate back and forth. And they have told me that it is now unanimous among Indo-Europeanists that the proper name for the family is Indo-Anatolian, similar to Joseph Greenberg’s Indo-Hittite. In other words, Anatolian itself is so divergent from the rest of IE that it is a sister to all of the non-Anatolian languages.

The argument is over. Indo-European is divided into Anatolian and everything else, so Anatolian is a sister family to all of the rest of IE. That right there shows that Anatolian split far before all the rest. According to the Kurgan Hypothesis, that can’t be so.

And if Anatolian split is that far from the rest of IE, obviously it was the initial homeland and Colin Renfrew’s Anatolian homeland theory gained backing when a phylogenetic or Bayesian analysis by Atkinson and Grey showed that IE goes back 9,000 YBP.

However, the Kurgan Hypothesis is also correct. Obviously, the Kurgan area was a secondary homeland for the IE people. It looks like IE sat  in Anatolia for ~3,000 years, not doing a whole lot, and then went to the Kurgan area 6,000 YBP. I would argue for a secondary split of Tocharian after Anatolian and then all of the rest of IE splitting off from that.

Indo-European being divided into Anatolian first and then all non-Anatolian languages after that, similar to how

  • Turkic is actually Bulgaro-Turkic, as Turkic is divided into Chuvash, etc. and all of the non-Bulgaric languages.
  • Tungusic is now divided into Manchu-Tungus, ie, Tungusic is divided into Manchu and all of the non-Manchu languages.
  • Tai is split into the Kadai languages and then all of the non-Kadai languages.
  • Inuit is divided into Aleut and then all of the non-Aleut languages.
  • Austronesian is obviously divided into the languages of Taiwan and then all of the non-Taiwan languages, but they are not formally split that way.

We don’t have a lot of these splits in IE itself that I’m aware of.

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The Preposterous Altaic Controversy, or the Failure of Empiricism and Growth of Faith-Based Dogmatism in Modern Linguistics

Polar Bear: Interesting how North Chinese Mongol types made it down to Korea.

Yes, and keep in mind that that same group on the shores of Shandong Peninsula also became the Japanese. They were together as some sort of Proto-Japanese-Koreans as early as 8,000 YBP. That finding is controversial though because it is based on Altaic Theory and a paper by noted Altaicist Martine Robeets of the Max Plank Institute in Switzerland.

Although Altaic is as obvious a language family as Algonquian, for some reason, a group of fanatics have attacked the idea and have now turned it into the “crazy theory.”

However, I did a recent survey of Altaic linguists, and 73% of them support some form of Altaic Theory. The loudmouths are the 27% minority, and they are running the show.

General Linguistics despises Altaic Theory, it is now an ojbect of ridicule, and if you believe in Altaic you are regarded as a super-kook. I think most linguists are just going along with the fanatics due to peer pressure. Peer pressure is extreme in my field. It’s as bad an 8th grade playground, especially when they are under the cover of anonymity like the losers on the Bad Linguistics Reddit. They’re such cowards that they won’t even tell us their names.

I think the peer pressure and bullying of the erudite by the ignorant obscurantists has gotten so bad that if you said you believed in Altaic, you might have a hard time getting hired at a university nowadays.

Anti-Altaic fanaticism has come out of the US. This is unfortunate and it is because the US is the center of the linguistic scholarly universe. US linguists act as arrogant American exceptionalist “linguistic imperialists of the US hegemon” in the same way that US politics revolves around the arrogant American exceptionalist Deep State theorists promoting the US Empire and the US as the hegemon or dictator of the world.

That most of these linguists are actually on the Left while spouting the worst conservatism and reaction is even more pathetic, but it makes sense if one sees the modern Cultural Left as actually a backwards, reactionary, throwback movement.

As an example, the Cultural Left is now the Sex-Hating Left, the Victorian Left, the Comstockian Left, the Prude Left. Conservatives are more sex-positive than your average dour, sour-faced, turd-in-the-punchbowl, party-pooping Cultural Leftist.

Problem with this is that like American foreign policy know-it-all dimwits, US linguist know-it-all dimwits leading the charge against Altaic overwhelmingly know absolutely nothing whatsoever about Altaic Theory. They’re just going along with crowd, and following the bully-boys, throwing rocks and calling names at the designated victims, the Altaicists. Like I said above, it’s 8th grade all over again.

It’s pathetic, especially if you realize that these are grown men and not pubescent children engaging in such theatrics and over the top histrionics.

As an example, the Wikipedia article on Altaic has been completely ruined by these fanatics, and it stands now more as a monument to know-nothingism in the social sciences than to any sort of actual empiricism. It’s a sad day when we linguists join the rest of the social “science” crowd in their war against facts and truth in favor of ideology being led by ideologues masquerading as scientists.

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

As a result of this “virus pandemic” of ignorant anti-Altaicism coming out of the land of the free, a large majority of linguists reject Altaic Theory. I might point out that this stupidity virus didn’t spread too far across the pond.

European linguists still generally believe in Altaic, though most don’t know it well. I have seen these poor sods wander into linguistic debates shaking their heads wondering why the Hell Altaic is even controversial at all, when it’s really about as easily proven as Uto-Aztecan. They’re dumbfounded.

So this ignorance epidemic is a lot less contagious than we first feared. The anti-Altaic virus is not particularly harmful for those who catch it. The coarse is mild but very long-lasting. The only notable symptom is being reduced to drooling, screeching, straitjacket cases whenever the word Altaic is mentioned. The prognosis is good, but some might be cooking a heart attack or stroke if they don’t calm down soon.

Please note though that my research has proven that among those who specialize in Altaic,  the overwhelming majority (73%) support Altaic. I have my research written up in notes, and I really need to put it into an article. Let me know if any of you readers want me to write this up.

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Ethnic Nationalists and Language Classification Mix Like Oil and Water

Mithridates: What’s for damn sure is that ethnic nationalists (Oh, the myriad varieties of them!!) are the #1 threat to any sane and sensible discussion on topics like… and language classifications…

I am not sure if you have read any of my linguistic work, but some of it has already been published. I had to deal with ethnic nationalists a lot (Turkish ethnic nationalists – some of the worst of them all), and it was definitely not pleasant. For instance, they insist that the (IMHO – 53) Turkic languages are all just dialects of Turkish! And good luck trying to disabuse them of that notion. They’re very aggressive and they’re even violent (check out recent videos), and that makes them even more scary.

Right now I am dealing with a Macedonian ethnic nationalist (all Balkan varieties are very unpleasant to say the least) and he was extremely unpleasant. He is trying to get me fired from my professor job LOL. I’m flattered that he thinks I’m obviously a university professor, but nope, I’m not. So I wish him luck getting me fired from a job I don’t have.

Beyond that, ethnic nationalists are the bane of language classification. There are so many “dialects” that are so obviously separate languages but we can’t split them because ethnic nationalists run the discourse in those countries. Idiotically, my field utterly unscientifically states that there is no way to tell a language from a dialect.

Oh yeah? We can put a man on the moon but we can’t develop a successful definitions of language and dialect? How absurd is that?

So we stupidly throw up our hands and say this is not a linguistic question (though obviously it is) and say the distinction between the two is a political matter (!), so we throw it over to the most dishonest  reprobates people on Earth next to out and out criminals, namely, politicians! Of course politicians  never lie or anything like that!

So really we should take all of our scientific questions over to politics and let politics answer these questions! Hell, politics won’t even give you a straight answer if you ask it what time or day it is. If a politician’s mouth is moving, he’s lying. It’s practically a requirement to score high on the psychopathy scale to be a politician. So let’s let these pathological lying sociopaths called politicians answer our scientific questions in Linguistics!

Ethnic nationalists have infiltrated language classification by petitioning to get languages removed from their countries, as they wish to believe that the only language in say Ruritania is Ruritanian, and all of the other languages, no matter how different, are dialects of Ruritanian!

So Basque is just a dialect of Spanish, right? And Suomi or Lappish is a dialect of Swedish. And Sorbian is a dialect of German. And Breton and Basque are dialects of French. As you can see, we could go on and on here.

There are probably 2,000 languages within the scope of “Chinese,” yet the Chinese government lies and says there is only one Chinese language. We linguists have to go along with this insanity because…why?

Ethnic nationalists dishonestly removed several Occitan languages and several North Germanic languages in Sweden, among other places. I can’t believe that SIL (the publishers of Ethnologue who are now in charge of handing out ISO codes for new languages) fell for this.

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Minority Languages in Russia

I’ve been working on this article for at least a year now, but actually I think it has been in my files for longer, up to five years. You can see that much of the information is a bit out of date as a result. A lot of this information was translated from Russian sources. The translations to English were poor, so the whole mess needed a huge rewrite from mangled Russian to English translation to a more proper English.

I’ve done this a number of times before and it was never easy. For some reason this is always a lot harder than it seems. For one thing, I had to eliminate entire sentences because I couldn’t properly understand what they were saying or they were saying something that didn’t seem correct to me.

For that matter it is quite hard to rewrite something written in seriously mangled English by someone who can’t write or even worse by someone who has English as a second language and doesn’t write it well. You would think it would be easy to turn mangled English into proper English, but it’s just not.

This post is pretty long. It runs to 33 pages on the web. If it were in a book, it would run to 16 pages.

According to the Constitution of Russia, Russian is the official language on the whole territory of the Russian Federation, but regions are given the right to establish republics and set their own their national languages. The Constitution also guarantees the right of all the peoples of Russia to preserve their native language and to create conditions for its study and development.

According to the Basic Law of Languages, citizens have the right to use their native language as the language of communication, education, learning, and creativity.

We will now look at the study of native languages in the schools of the Russian Federation in the areas within the jurisdiction of the regional authorities. In Russian schools, 89 different languages are studied, of which 39 are used as the language of instruction.


In 2007 Parliament passed a law mandating the compulsory study of the Adygean language for Adygean children in schools where Russian is the mode of instruction. However, this law was repealed in 2013. Recently, March 14 was designed the Day of the Speaking and Writing the Adyghe Language. Parents of preschoolers may also choose to put their children in Aegean-language public kindergartens.

The Ministry of Education and Science reported the results of Adygean language teaching in the schools: in 43 preschools, 4,759 Adygean children study the language. In 127 preschools, children are taught the basics of Adyghe culture, customs, and traditions.

All students in Russian-medium schools must study the history and geography of Adygea, and Russian-speaking pupils have a choice of studying Adyghe Language or Adyghe Literature. 22,000 students are currently studying Adygean Language, and 27,600 are studying Adygean Literature.


There are regular proposals from the Altai people and educators to mandate the compulsory study of the Altai languages Northern Altai and Southern Altai for Altai children. Both Northern and Southern Altai are divided into three divergent dialects each, so there are actually six separate Altai languages. The three languages of the northern and southern groups each were combined into a Northern Altai and Southern Altai official language respectively.

Recently, an attempt was made to pass such legislation, but government legal scholars felt the law would violate children’s rights.

In Gorno-Altaisk on March 15, 2014 at the 9th Session of the Altay Culture Meeting, representatives of the Altai people went further, adopting a resolution to mandate Altai languages study for all students, no matter their ethnicity. However, attendees warned about a Russian backlash.

They felt that such a law would inevitably lead to rising dissent among Russians and other non-Altaians in the republic. This unrest could conceivably lead to the elimination of republic status for the Altai Republic itself.


A law is in place in Bashkortostan mandating the compulsory study of the Bashkir language by all students. Each educational institution gets to decide how many hours per week they wish to devote to Bashkir study. Parents of Russian children regularly protest this law and propose to make the study of Bashkir voluntary instead. Chuvash parents have also protested the law. Ethnic tensions have heightened in the area recently.


The question of the possible introduction of compulsory study of the Buryat language in republic schools has been discussed recently and has wide public support. Recently, a video titled, Buryad Heleeree Duugarayal! – “Let’s Speak Buryat!,” was released, urging Buryats to not forget their native language.

However, regional authorities decided to keep the study of Buryat optional in the republic. A few deputies appealed the ruling, and various amendments were adopted at their request, but the amendments did not substantially change the authorities’ decision to keep Buryat study optional. Opponents of the idea of compulsory study of Buryat in the schools fear that it will lead to the emergence of ethnic tensions.


In Chechnya, the national language is taught in all schools of the republic as a separate subject. Since 95% of the population is a member of a titular ethnic group, there have been no protests about people being forced to study a non-native language. There are no problems with Chechen in the countryside – on the contrary, children in Chechen villages have a poor knowledge of Russian.

Despite the fact that the national language is widely used in everyday life, nevertheless, the scope of its use continues to steadily narrow. At the last roundtable of the Ministry of Culture of the Chechen Republic, officials noted what they felt was the alarming process of mixing Chechen and Russian in speech as well as a gradual tendency towards replacement of Chechen in the official sphere.

According to the director of the Institute of Education of the Chechen Republic, Abdullah Arsanukaev, the introduction of Chechen language instruction in the schools could ameliorate this situation. The government for its part is working to equalize Russian and Chechen ​​on the official level. It is expected to create a state commission for the conservation, development, and dissemination of the Chechen language.

Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

The main languages ​​in Chukotka are Chukchi, Eskimo, and Even. The government is now working on a program for the development of the these languages. So far, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Chukotka has organized courses in Chukchi and Even.

Chukchi is the language of everyday communication for most Chukchi in the family and when engaging in traditional economic activities. In schools in Chukchi villages, Chukchi classes are compulsory in primary school and optional in high school.


The Chuvash language is taught as a compulsory subject in schools and in a number of universities for one or two semesters.

“In the beginning, a lot of parents opposed their children studying Chuvash. But today I can say with confidence that these parents no longer feel this way. In contrast, some even want their the child to know the native language of Chuvashia, and probably rightly so,” says Olga Alekseeva, a teacher of Chuvash language and literature in School № 50 in Cheboksary.

The acuteness of the language issue in the country can be judged by recent events – in 2013, a court found Chuvash journalist Ille Ivanova guilty of inciting ethnic hatred for a publication about how the Chuvash language was disadvantaged in the Chuvash Republic.

Discussions around the native language exacerbated the recent language reform. According to opponents of reform, the new rules impoverished the language and could catalyze its Russification.


The newly adopted constitution of the new Russian region declared three official languages ​​- Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar. Education in schools will be carried out in these three languages​​.

Russian-speaking parents of children from Buryatia, Bashkortostan, and the Tatar Republic residing in Crimea have already appealed to the President of Russia and the leadership of Crimea requesting making the study of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar voluntary in Crimea.

Activists fear that unless the law is rewritten, in the future, all children regardless of nationality will be obliged to study all three official languages. Signatories cite the example of their national republics, where Russian-speaking students have to learn a foreign language, the titular language of the republic.


The people of Dagestan speak 32 languages​​, although only 14 native languages are officially recognized. Elementary schools allow instruction in 14 different languages, depending on the region. The rest of the instruction is in Russian.

According to Murtazali Dugrichilova of the North Caucasus radio station Freedom, the native language of the ethnic group is spoken in the most parts of the country as the language of the home. “In rural areas, all of the local languages are spoken. In large cities such as or in Makhachkala or Derbent, teaching in national languages is optional,” he said.

In the future, at the suggestion of Ramadan Abdulatipova, Dagestan will form a commission on the use of Russian and local languages ​​of the republic. It is also expected that after the adoption of the law “On Languages ​​of the Republic of Dagestan,” all 32 languages ​​in the country will receive the status of the official language.

Director of the Institute of Language, Literature, and Art at the Dagestan Scientific Center Magomed Magomedov believes that after enactment of the new law, all of the native languages of the region will be present in the school system.

Dagestan took into consideration the negative experiences of other national republics in this area, and according to Magomedov, the law will prohibit demonstrations and pickets about language issues.


According to the law “On the State Languages ​​of the Republic of Ingushetia,” Ingush and Russian are both used as official state languages in all educational institutions in the country.

Experts believe that the preservation and development of Ingush is necessary to ensure it is on an equal footing with Russian in all aspects in the republic. In addition, there has been a lot of discussion about the need to develop new words in Ingush for modern things such as industrial terminology.


In Kabardino-Balkaria, the debate over language issues flared up in connection with the adoption of amendments to the law “On Education.” The law mandates that both languages,​ Kabardian and Balkar, be used in education for children who have one of these languages as a mother tongue.


According to the law “On Languages ​​of the Republic of Kalmykia,” in schools where instruction is in Russian, the Kalmyk language will be introduced starting in first grade as a compulsory school subject. Representatives of non-Kalmyks in the republic are unhappy with this law, but they have not said much about it.

Language activists point out that Kalmyk has a low status in Kalmykia. As an example, they cite the fact that cultural events and even national holiday celebrations are exclusively in Russian.


In the republic, Abaza, Karachay, Nogay, Circassian, and Russian are all official languages​​. The Constitution of the republic mandates compulsory education in the native language for students who have one of the above as a native language.

In addition, according to the law “On Education,” in those Russian-language schools, students who have a native language other than Russian must be taught their native language as a compulsory subject. National activists think that the best outcome is achieved when native languages are used as a mode of instruction and not taught as a special subject. At the moment, the republic is in the process of updating textbooks in Abaza, Karachay, Nogay, and Circassian.


Karelia is the only national republic of the Russian Federation in which Russian is the only state language. One of the problems with raising the status of the Karelian language here has been the fact that Karelians are a minority in their own republic, and as a consequence, the republic has only a relatively small number of Karelian speakers.

Recently, President Anatoly Grigoryev of the Karelian Congress fielded a proposal to declare three official languages in Karelia ​​- Russian, Karelian, and Finnish. They modeled this notion on Crimea, where authorities promised to introduce trilingualism as the official policy.

National languages are optionally taught in preschool, elementary school, and high school. According to the Ministry of Education in 2013, 6,500 students studied Karelian, Finnish, and Veps.


As in many republics, the Khakass language is preserved mainly in rural areas that are densely populated by indigenous peoples. Compulsory Khakass language study is mandatory in all national schools in the republic.

Meanwhile, Political Science professor Gunzhitova Handa said that in Khakassia on September 1, 2014, Khakass classes became mandatory from grades 1-11, with an exam in Russian, Russian-Khakass, and Khakass schools.


According to NGO’s, there is only one native language course for the 4,000 speakers of Khanty and Mansi in the republic. Language loss in both languages has been accelerating in recent years. Representatives of youth organizations of indigenous peoples of the North have offered drastic solutions, including depriving national benefits to Khanty and Mansi peoples who do not know their native language.

According to the Hope Moldanova, president of the Ob-Ugric Peoples youth organization, “Young people have a different attitude towards their native language nowadays. Some of them are fluent in two languages but only understand but do not speak their native language, and others think it is sufficient to only know Russian, which is spoken by the majority.”

She too is concerned that the new generation is less interested in the national languages​​. Due to the low demand for the specialty, Ugra State University even closed its Finno-Ugric language Department.

Khanty still has 10,000 speakers in three divergent dialects.  The dialects are so divergent that they are actually separate languages. 40% of Khanty speak their language. In the north, Khanty is still widely spoken in the home, but a boarding school system often causes children to shift to Russian during school age.

In the east, there are still some child speakers but there has been a general shift to Russian. Intergenerational transmission of Khanty has stopped in the south. Schools in Khanty-speaking areas generally use Russian as  the mode of instruction.

Mansi has 1,000 speakers, 50% of the ethnic group. It formerly consisted of four highly divergent dialects, two of which have either gone extinct or are probably extinct. These dialects were so different that they were actually separate languages. Up to 50% of children are still brought up in Mansi. However, the population is shifting to Russian. Schools in the area generally use Russian.

The northern dialect has most of the remaining speakers. There are only a few remaining elderly speakers of the eastern dialect. The southern dialect went extinct before 1950, and the western dialect is probably also extinct.


The Ministry of Education introduced the compulsory study of Komi language from the first grade in 2011. Later that year, in September 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled that the study of the Komi language in schools of the republic was mandatory. Now schools may choose two different Komi language study programs – “like a native” (up to 5 hours per week) or “as a state language” (2 hours per week in the primary grades).

According to Natalia Mironova, an employee of the Komi Scientific Center’s Ural Branch, this has led to latent discontent among the youth. She said high school students do not understand why they should waste time studying the Komi language when it takes away precious time they could be using to study for their math exams.

Mari El

In the Republic of Mari El, where the official languages ​​are Russian and Mari (Meadow Mari and Hill Mari), mandatory study of Russian and one of the Mari languages was introduced in 2013. Analysts say that among the Russian population, there is growing dissatisfaction with the fact that they are forced to learn what they consider to be an unnecessary language, but there have been few protests about the matter.


The republic introduced the compulsory study of either the Erzya or Moksha languages ​​in all schools of the republic in 2006. Originally, mandatory study of these languages only took place in national schools in districts and villages where there were many Erzya and Moksha people residing. Prior, since 2004, teaching of these languages had been optional in Russian-language schools.

When the compulsory study of these languages was introduced, there ​​were signs of dissatisfaction on the part of the Russian-speaking parents. Now, the number of dissatisfied parents has significantly decreased, and their voice is almost imperceptible.

Nenets Autonomous Okrug

In NAO there are 43,000 people, of which about 7,500 are the members of the titular population, the Nenets. The main problem in the study of the Nenets languages, Forest Nenets and Tundra Nenets, is the lack of books and teachers.

Tundra Nenets still has a good number of speakers, but Forest Nenets is only spoken by a small population. Tundra Nenets has speakers of all ages and is still spoken by children. However, in the west of the republic, a shift to Komi and Russian is underway.

According the Lyudmila Taleevoy of the Methodist SBD Nenets Regional Center for Education Development, the pedagogy programs at the university level no longer prepare specialists in teaching Nenets. Instead, children are taught Nenets by Russian-speaking teachers who studied Nenets when they were students. An old outdated Nenets grammar is used in instruction.

North Ossetia

According to the regional law on languages​​, children have the right to choose schooling in one of two languages – Russian or Ossetian. Ossetian consists of two dialects, Iran and Digorian. The two dialects are so divergent that they are basically separate languages.

According Ossetian journalist Zaur Karaev, all students who have another language as a native tongue, such as Armenians, Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, and others, must study their native languages in language classes in the primary grades. The language teaching program is more complicated in high school.


In Tatarstan, where only half of the population is a member of the titular ethnic group, the Tatars, the study of the Tatar language is compulsory for all. Non-Tatar speaking parents regularly protest this law. They even appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office claiming that the law discriminated against Russian-speaking students, but an inquiry by the prosecutor’s office found no violations.

Meanwhile, Tatar nationalists for their part remain alarmed about the state of the Tatar language. According to them, Tatar has a low status in the republic – for instance, in the streets, most writing on storefronts is in Russian, not Tatar. There are also problems with Tatar in TV media, and there is no university that conducts all of its teaching in Tatar.

Nevertheless, the republic regularly implements Tatar language projects and programs, a recent one being the introduction of the Tatar study in kindergartens.


In contrast to most of the other republics, in Tuva, it is the Russian language that is in bad shape, not the titular language, Tuva, which is in much better shape. In 2008, a report noted that Russian was in terrible shape in Tuva.

According to Valerie Kahn, a researcher in the Sociology and Political Science Departments at the Tuvan Institute of Humanitarian Research, the authorities were forced to pay attention to this problem. 2014 was declared the Year of the Russian Language in Tuva. As a consequence, systematic measures have been taken to ensure that children in rural areas can learn Russian.

According to Khan, the Tuvan language is in excellent shape. Travelers also note that residents of the republic mostly communicate in Tuvan, although most signs on the streets are in Russian.

Meanwhile Tuvan journalist Oyumaa Dongak believes that the national language is oppressed. On her blog she notes that it is difficult to find Tuvans who speak pure Tuvan without Russian admixture, and even in the government, most employees do not know Tuvan. At the same time, she points out that the state allocated $210 million for the development of the Russian language and nothing for Tuvan.


The State Council of Udmurtia recently rejected an initiative on compulsory study of the Udmurt language  in the schools of the republic.

Earlier, a similar initiative was made by the association “Udmurt Kenesh.” According to them, the compulsory study of the Udmurt will fight the loss of the Udmurt language in families where the parents do not speak Udmurt with their children as well as develop a culture of multilingualism among citizens. Russian activists have sharply opposed the proposals.

According to the interim head of Udmurtia, Alexander Solovyov, the budget annually allocates money for teaching and training in the titular language.


According to the law of the Sakha Republic “On Languages”, the languages ​​of instruction in secondary schools are Sakha or Yakut, Evenki, Even, Yukaghir, Dolgan, and Chukchi, and Russian in Russian-language schools.

In the non-Russian medium schools, Russian is taught as a subject. Local official languages of various parts of the republic ​​are also taught as a subject in Russian schools in areas in the north where there are large numbers of Evenki, Even, Yukaghir, Dolgan, and Chukchi speakers. In spite of the measures to preserve native languages other than Yakut, all except Yakut have been losing speakers in recent years.

In fact, Evenki, Even, Yukaghir, Dolgan, and Chukchi are only used as the principal means of communication in seven villages and towns. In all other places, most residents no longer speak those languages, and the languages are used mostly by the middle aged and elderly, and even then only in the home or in families that preserve traditional lifestyles like reindeer herding.

In Even areas, Even is taught as a subject from preschool through primary school. Even is an  endangered language. Even has 5,500 speakers.

In areas where the Evenki live, Evenki is taught from preschool through primary school, with an optional course in the eighth grade. Evenki is considered an endangered language. It has 25,000 speakers.

Dolgan, a language very closely related to Sakha, only has 1,000 speakers, and the number continues to decline. Mixed marriages are a problem as when a Dolgan speaker marries a speaker of another language, the children are raised in Russian and hence inter-generational transmission is broken. However, Dolgan is still spoken by all ages and is still being learned by children.

Chukchi still has 5,000 speakers and is considered to be in good shape. It is used in mother tongue education in regions where Chukchis predominate.

Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug faces problems common to republics where languages with only small numbers of speakers remain. The main indigenous languages ​​spoken here are Nenets, Khanty, and Selkup.

YaNAO has problems with  shortages of teachers for all three languages for both native language study classes and mother tongue education, which is offered in the nomadic schools. Other problems these languages face are language teachers who lack language teaching skills for beginning language learners and a shortage of instructional materials in the languages.

The Selkup language has 1,000 speakers, but it is in fairly good shape. It is only taught in the north of the speaker region and even there only until the fourth grade. In a couple of areas of the north, the language is still spoken by Selkups of all ages and also spoken by non-Selkups who reside there. In the north, 90% of Selkups continue to speak their language. In the south it is down to 30%.


Virtually all minority languages in Russia suffer because parents and students themselves prefer to learn and speak Russian. This is not surprising, as Russian is not only spoken by the majority of the population, but it also remains the main language of interethnic communication in multinational Russia.

Students must pass the compulsory USE exam, a Russian proficiency test, in order to graduate from high school, hence students tend to study Russian more than other languages, including their own native language, in order to pass the test.

Nevertheless the fact remains that the native language remains the basis for the culture and preservation of the ethnic group. If the languages dies, the culture and in a sense the group itself die with it. Hence, promotion of native languages remains an important goal in Russia. Each region is trying to solve the native language problem in its own particular way.

Compulsory study of the official language of the particular region for all students has not had good results. For example, in Tatarstan, all students are required to study Tatar whether even if their native language is not Tatar.

This led to opposition by Russian-speaking parents who saw no use in their children studying Tatar. Further, it has led to the feeling that people who do not speak the language of the titular republic are being oppressed on the basis of their nationality.

Voluntary native language classes in schools do not lead to increased interest in native languages among youth. Realizing this, many regional governments have begun moving the national native language more into day to day life; for instance, by translating books and street signs into the national language.

Communication in the family itself from p parents to children remains the best way to preserve native languages. Peoples who pursue traditional occupations also tend to preserve their languages longer. Also, not everything can be translated into Russian. For instance, in the north, people still use their native language for items and concepts that have no good translation in Russian.

With the Internet has come increased interest among native peoples in preserving their culture and consequently the Net now offers more opportunities to learn native languages. On the other hand, the presence of Russian on the Net had a bad effect on native languages.

For instance, with the advent of the Internet, many more Russian borrowings and neologisms went into native languages. In addition, people on the Net using native languages often do not write their languages properly. This leads to impaired learning of the correct rules and spelling of the language.

As the head of the Center for National Education Problems FIRO MES Artyomenko Olga, a number of republics are reducing the hours of Russian instruction in the schools.

According to her, changes in the laws are needed in order to remove tension between ethnic groups and improve the quality of language instruction.

In particular, she recommended the removal of terms such as “non-Russian native,” “nonnative Russian,” and “Russian as a foreign language” from the laws of Russia.

A bill to update the legal place of the native languages of Russia has been in the works for a long period of time by the State Duma Committee of Nationalities. The bill has been received positively by the regions. Nevertheless, it has not yet passed the Duma.

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Praise for my Work

I hope I haven’t published this before, but if I did, hey, chalk it up to vanity, eh?

These two glowing  recommendations are from  this fellow. I really like him a lot!

Peter S Piispanen
Stockholm University, Graduate Student

On my work below, presently a 242 page, well, let’s face it, at this point, it’s basically a book, right? I have not yet found a publisher for it, though I have received some rave reviews from such far-flung places as Japan and Russia.

Mutual Intelligibility of Languages in the Slavic Family

Intelligibility studies are both interesting and of importance for the study of phonology, grammar, historical linguistics, the effect of language contact situations, as well as the sociocultural factors influencing languages perceived as high or low status, and so on.

Lindsay here presents the intelligibility between many of the Slavic languages in great detail – and this clears up many common and unspoken questions about these languages…the paper comes well recommended!

This paper was actually published, believe it or not, and it had to go through two peer reviews to get there.  The second peer review included the world’s top Turkologists.

Here’s the cite in case any of you are interested:

Lindsay, Robert. 2016. “Mutual Intelligibility among the Turkic Languages,” in Süer Eker and Ülkü Şavk. Çelik. Endangered Turkic Languages Volume I: Theoretical and General Approaches: Before the Last Voices Are Gone (Tehlİkedekİ Türk Dİllerİ Cİlt I: Kuramsal Ve Genel Yaklaşimlar Son Sesler Duyulmadan), Ankara, Turkey/Astana, Kazakhstan: International Turkish-Kazakh University and International Turkic Academy.

I also came up with the subtitle of the series – “Before the Last Voices Are Gone.” We went round and round about a few choices until we settled on that one. It has a nice literary beauty to it, I think.

I never did get a hard copy of that book I am published in. It was extremely hard to get a copy in part because it cost $75 and also because it would have had to have been shipped from Turkey to the US, and I understand that shipping costs for such things are just awful.

I have an e-copy of course, but it’s just not the same thing as a book, right? A book – you know, that hard thing with pages in it that you actually hold in your hand? Remember those things from a long time ago, maybe before some of you were born? If you don’t remember what a book is, perhaps ask your parents. They should definitely know what a book is.

It seems that a lot of publications are going pretty much e-publication only with no hardcover. Color me disappointed. No folks, it’s not the same thing. It’s just not. Sorry.

Mutual Intelligibility Among the Turkic Languages

A massive paper by Robert Lindsay on the study of mutual intelligibility of the Turkic languages, dispelling many myths and including language examples, historical considerations, and more – heartily recommended for any Turkologist or student of any Turkic language!

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The Laz People of Turkey

The last Spot the Language piece was solved by a Turkish commenter who is one-half the ethnicity of the language: the Laz people. Here is his comment about the Laz and the region where they reside. Very nice comment and I would like to thank the commenter very much.

Ertuğrul Bilal: I am a Turco-Laz half-breed. There are at least half to close to one million people like me. I identify as a son of the homeland and as any particular ethnicity. This is also the primal identity adopted by almost all Lazes, who see themselves ethnically Laz only secondarily. Let’s put it his way: Black Sea people’s loyalty is more territorial than ethnic, just like cats.

FYI: Laz is not related to Turkish or any other Turkic language. It is part of the Kartvelian linguistic family, consisting of Georgian, Svan, and the Mingrelian-Laz twin peoples. The single substantial difference between the last two being that Mingrelians remained Orthodox, while Laz converted to Islam in late 15th and 16th century; otherwise the discrepancy is solely dialectal.

Laz people live on Northeastern Black Sea coast, actually at the eastern end towards the Turkish-Georgian frontier. This region has always been multi-cultural just as Anatolia used to be, only somewhat more so; even if superficially it is less obvious nowadays.

The local populace was originally mainly Tzans, a rather obscure culture, apparently resulting from an amalgamation of indigenous populace with immigrating/invading Cimmerians, westward-advancing Kartvelians and perhaps some other not well-known tribes ancestral to both Mingrelians and Laz in Antiquity when Greek colonizers founded practically all cities and most of the towns.

Today, you may find Turks (Alevi Turcomans forcibly relocated there by the Ottoman empire in 16th century who converted to Sunnism, except for a few thousand who remained Alevi) and other people of Turkic origin like my late father who told me his paternal lineage emigrated from Northern Dagestan and was either Nogay or Kumyk.

In addition, there are now Lazes, Georgians, Armenians (Hemshinids Islamicized long ago and some others forcibly assimilated to Turks in 1915), and Islamized Greeks, to mention only the most numerous.

Let’s put it this way – we are accustomed to quite a wide diversity of ethnicities in our country and especially in my parents’ native region, even if the official doctrine still tends to disregard the fact, and while it is not outright denial as in the past, a more subtle denial yet exists.

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Praise for Two of My Papers

Mutual Intelligibility of Languages in the Slavic Family

Intelligibility studies are both interesting and of importance for the study of phonology, grammar, historical linguistics, and the effect of language contact situations, as well as the sociocultural factors influencing languages perceived as high or low status, and so on.

Lindsay here presents the intelligibility between many of the Slavic languages in great detail – and this clears up many common and unspoken questions about these languages…the paper comes well recommended!

This work yet remains unpublished. At the moment, it is 260 pages. At this point it is pretty much a book. It is simply a massive overview of all of the Slavic languages and it does add some new languages to Slavic. It also changes the classification around a bit. This might be harder to publish, as Slavicists are a pretty stuck-up lot and if you are not a Slavicist yourself, they pretty much don’t want to talk to you or publish your work.

Turkologists are a bit like that too, but there are not nearly as many of them, and they accepted my work as an amateur.

I did have one Slavicist tell me that all of this data has never been published before in a single work. Sure it has mostly been published, but most of it is in obscure journal papers that no one reads.  And no doubt a lot of good Slavicist work is being done in Slavic languages themselves and not in English. I know it is true in the Balkans as much of the work is still published in Serbo-Croatian.

I sent the paper out to a few Slavicists, including some of the top ones in the field, but I never heard back from them. All of these folks are extremely busy even at an advanced age and this is pretty much a book after all. They are always behind in their reading, preparing new papers, teaching, etc.

Mutual Intelligibility Among the Turkic Languages

A massive paper by Robert Lindsay on the study of mutual intelligibility of the Turkic languages, dispelling many myths and including language examples, historical considerations, and more – heartily recommended for any Turkologist or student of any Turkic language!

This paper was published as an 81 page chapter in The Handbook of Endangered Turkic Languages, Volume 1. There is a url of it in published form if you would like to it.

I haven’t got much other feedback from it except from a major Turkologist who said she really liked it. I was amazed.

A Turkologist whose work was quoted incorrectly was very angry at me for misquoting what she said. I am not a Turkologist myself so this stuff is going to happen. I tried to assuage her but she wasn’t having anything of it.

No one yet has written a book review on this book, nor has anyone commented on my re-do of Turkic, cumulatively adding 14 new languages and changing the classification a bit. The Wikipedia article about Turkic classification does not include mine. There is a chart at the end with my classification in it.

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English as a Genocidal Language Attacking Other Tongues Spoken in the Anglosphere – USA

English has had a genocidal affect on the other languages spoken here, but many non-English languages still survive and some are quite thriving.

Pennsylvania Dutch is still quite alive with 300,000 native speakers. I think is is just a dialect of Rhenish German. It’s actually two separate languages and they can’t understand each other.

There are many other languages in the US that have been taken out by English. Most of the Indian languages spoken here have been driven extinct or moribund by English. A few like Cherokee, Sioux, Navajo, Mohawk, Pueblo, some Alaskan languages, a couple of Indian languages of the US South, are still doing well.

Most of the others are in bad to very bad shape, often moribund with only 10 or fewer speakers, often elderly. Many others are extinct. However, quite a few of these languages have had a small number of middle aged to elderly speakers for the last 25 years, so the situation is somewhat stable at least at the moment.

Almost all Indian languages are not being  learned by children. But there are still children being raised speaking Cherokee, Navajo, Pueblo, Mohawk, and some Alaskan and Southern US Indian languages. Navajo is so difficult that when Navajo children show up at school, they still have  problems with Navajo. They often don’t get the  language in full until they are twelve.

However, there are revitalization efforts going on with many to most Indian languages, with varying amounts of success. Some are developing quite competent native speakers, often young people who learn the language starting at 18-20. I know that Wikchamni Yokuts has a new native speaker, a 23 year old man who learned from an old who is a native speaker. In California, there is a master apprentice program going on along these lines.

There are a number of preschool programs where elders try to teach the  languages to young children. I am not sure how well they are working. There are problems with funding, orthographies and mostly apathy that are getting in the way of a lot of these programs.

There are many semi-speakers. For instance in the tribe I worked with, many of the Indians knew at least a few words, and some of the leadership knew quite a few words. But they could hardly make a sentence.

Eskimo-Aleut languages are still widely spoken in Alaska. I know that Inuktitut is still spoken, and  there are children being raised in the language. Aleut is in poor shape.

Hawaiian was almost driven extinct but it was revived with a revitalization program. I understand that the language still has problems. I believe that there are Hawaiian medium schools that you can send your child to. There may be only ~10,000 fluent speakers but there are many more second language speakers with varying fluency.

There are actually some European based languages and creoles spoken in the US.  A noncontroversial one is Gullah, spoken on the islands of South Carolina. There may be less than 5,000 speakers, but the situation has been stable for 30-35 years. Speakers are all Black. It is an English creole and it is not intelligible with English at all.

There is at least one form of French creole spoken in Louisiana.  There is also an archaic form of French Proper called Continental French that resembles French from 1800. It has 2,000 speakers. Louisiana French Creole still has ~50,000 speakers. People worry about it but it has been stable for a long time. Many of the speakers are Black.

Texas German is really just a dialect of German spoken in Texas. There are only a few elderly speakers left.

There are a few Croatian languages spoken in the US that have diverged dramatically from the languages back home that they are now different languages. The status of these languages vary. Some are in good shape and others are almost dead. One of these is called Strawberry Hill Gorski Kotar Kaikavian spoken in Missouri. It is absolutely a full separate language and is no longer intelligible with the Gorski Kotar Kaikavian spoken back home.

There are other European languages spoken in the US, but they are not separate from those back home. Most are going out.

There are many Mandarin and especially Cantonese speakers in the US.

There are many Korean speakers in the US, especially in California.

There are a fair number of Japanese speakers in the US, mostly in California.

There are many speakers of Khmer, Lao, Hmong, and Vietnamese in the US. Most are in California but there are Hmong speakers in Minnesota also.

There are quite a few speakers of Arabic languages in the US. Yemeni, Syrian, and Palestinian Arabic are widely spoken. There are many in New York City, Michigan and California.

There are also some Assyrian speakers in  the US and there are still children being raised in Assyrian. Most are in California.

There are quite a few Punjabi and Gujarati speakers in the US now. We have many Punjabi speakers in my city.

There are quite a few Urdu speakers here. Most of all of these speakers are in California.

Obviously there are many Spanish speakers in the US. English is definitely not taking out Spanish. They are mostly in the Southwest, Florida, and New York City, but they are spreading out all across the country now.

There are a few Portuguese speakers in the US. All also speak English. They are mostly in California but some are back east around Massachusetts.

The Sicilian Italian spoken in the US by Italian immigrants is still spoken fairly widely to this day. It has diverged so much from the Sicilian back home that when they go back to Sicily, they are not understood. This is mostly spoken in large cities back east.

There are quite a few Armenian speakers in the US and children are still being raised in Armenian. Most are in California.

There are some Persian speakers in the US, but not a lot. Most of these are in California too.

All of these languages are the same languages as spoken back home.

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A Look at the Altaic Question, a Current Controversy in Linguistics

               Turkic    Tungusic*        Written Mongolian
1P sing.:
nominative      ban      bi               bi
oblique stem    man-     min-             min-
2P sing.:
nominative      san      chi    (<*ti)    si
oblique stem    san-     chiin- (<*tin)   sin-
(e.g. Evenki and Manchu)

The Altaic argument is one of the biggest controversies in current linguistics. It is said that Linguistics has decided that Altaic does not exist. Actually, the field has not decided that at all. The consensus in the field is that Altaic is still an open question. In other words, they are fighting about it.
The field is split up into Pro-Altaicists and Anti-Altaicists. It’s not true that the field has decided in favor of the Anti-Altaicists. The Antis say that there is no such thing as Altaic. The Pros said that Altaic exists, and here is the evidence. The consensus instead rejects both positions and says we don’t know if Altaic exists or not. There is a big difference between we don’t know if it exists (maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t) and it doesn’t exist. One statement is uncertainty and the other statement is negative.
According to Anti-Ataicists, every time a human can’t make up their mind about something yes or no, they actually are saying no. No they’re not! They’re not saying yes or no. They are rejecting both positions and saying instead that they are undecided. What the Anti-Altaicists are doing is akin to saying everyone who answers undecided on a political candidate poll is actually saying that want to vote against the person! The entire basis of political polling would change.
The Anti-Altaicists are typically quite vicious, while the other side is not. The safe position is Anti-Altaicism, so a lot of wimpy linguists too scared to stand up and fight have sought refuge in the negative position. Furthermore, Linguistics is like an 8th grade playground. Some positions are openly ridiculed. Pro-Altaicism is openly ridiculed, and taking that position is seen as prima facie evidence that a linguist is a crank, an idiot or a fool. I would imagine that if you told a hiring committee that you believed in Altaic, it would be harder to get hired than if you took the negative stand. And I could imagine that being pro-Altaic might keep you from getting tenure.
Not only are the Antis vicious (all of them are vicious, bar none), but many of them are complete idiots and fools, as seen above in the preposterous conflation of uncertain opinions with negative opinions above. The fools on Bad Linguistics Reddit are evidence of this. They all hate Altaic because they are wimps who are too afraid of a fight, so they take a safe position. They bashed me for saying Altaic was real, saying it was evidence of what a kook and crank I am, when in fact, Altaic exists is a completely acceptable position to take. Many famous linguists have supported Altaic in the past, and a number of top linguists currently support it.
Anti-Altaic papers are often vicious from an academic paper standpoint. In academic papers, you are supposed to be restrained and keep your strong opinions to yourself. Not so with anti-Altaicists. They are over the top insulting and ridiculing towards Altaicists.
Altaicists have accumulated quite a bit of evidence in support of their position. The pronouns above prove Altaic for me. All I have to do is look at those pronoun sets (and there are other pronouns that also line up precisely like above) and I know it’s real.
This is what Joseph Greenberg means when he says that proving whether language families exist and reconstructing proto-languages are two different things.
You figure out a language family by simple inspection. Greenberg uses the mass comparison method, and it has worked very well for him for African languages. His Amerindian languages proposals have not been well accepted, but it’s clear that there is a large family called Amerind. There is 1st person m and second person n all through the family, occurring ~450 times. Personal pronouns are rarely borrowed, and entire personal pronoun sets are almost never borrowed (Piraha did borrow all of its pronouns, but Piraha is bizarre in many ways).
Joanna Nichols, a current spokesperson for the conservative Linguistics Establishment as good as any other (and a fine linguist to boot) states that the current consensus is that there is no such thing as Amerind and that those 450 similar pronouns are all cases of borrowing. Wow! Personal pronoun sets (not just one pronoun but an entire paradigm) were borrowed 450 times in the Americas! That’s one of the most idiotic statements that one could make, but this is the current consensus of linguistic “science.” Dumb or what?
A much better position would be to say that Amerind is uncertain (maybe it exists, maybe it doesn’t), as the negative position is preposterous and idiotic right on its face. Nichols has also stated that all of the Altaic pronouns were borrowed.
That’s even more idiotic because unlike in the Americas, entire large pronoun paradigms exist in Altaic where they do not exist in Amerind. Paradigms, especially pronoun paradigms, are almost never borrowed, and paradigm evidence is considered excellent evidence of genetic relationship. English good, better, best is the same paradigm as German gut, besser, besten. That’s an odd way to set up comparatives, and the fact that that comparative set lines up perfectly is what is known as a paradigm. That one paradigm right there ought to be enough to prove the relatedness of English and German, even leaving out all other massive evidence for relatedness.
Greenberg says that after you decide that languages form a family, then you set about using the comparative method of reconstructing proto-languages, finding sound correspondences and whatnot. The current conservative or reactionary position of the field is that first you reconstruct the proto-languages and then and only then can you prove a language family. That’s absurd. They’re in effect doing everything ass backwards. Incidentally, long ago Edward Sapir agreed with Greenberg that language families were proven first by inspection and only later did reconstruction take place. Sapir also came up with the Amerind hypothesis decades before Greenberg. Sapir is quoted as saying:

Getting down to brass tacks, how are you going to prove Amerind 1st person m and second person n other than genetic relatedness?
– Edward Sapir, 1917?

Who was Edward Sapir? Only one of the greatest linguists in history.
I can look right there at that pronoun paradigm set and tell you flat out that those three language families are related. It’s not possible that all of those languages borrowed all of those pronouns. It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because it couldn’t happen. It’s beyond the realm of statistical probability. A statement that is outside the realm of statistical probability is considered to be for all intents and purposes nonfactual. Ask anyone Statistics major.
Not only has Proto-Altaic been reconstructed at least in a tentative and initial form, but there are regular sound correspondences running through all of the comparative lexicon of the three proto-languages: Proto-Turkic, Proto-Tungusic and Proto-Mongolian.
Regular sound correspondences are another thing we look for. It would mean that every time you have VlV in Language A, you have VnV in Language B (V = vowel). We then say that Language A l -> Language B n. Regular sound correspondences are considered to be excellent evidence of genetic relatedness.
In fact, an entire etymological dictionary of Altaic has been produced, reconstructing a lot of Proto-Altaic lexicon along with the cognates in the daughter languages. This dictionary runs to over 1,000 pages, and it is a true work of art in the social sciences. The entire etymological dictionary has been rejected out of hand by the Anti-Altaicists. However, they have not directly attacked or tried to prove many of the etymologies wrong. They simply looked at it, said it’s junk, laughed at it and ridiculed it, and moved on.
This conservative or even reactionary mood has been the norm in Historic Linguistics for decades now. The field has become very stick in the mud about this.
However, in much of the rest of Linguistics, especially Sociolinguistics, Language Acquisition, and Applied Linguistics, the field has reached consensus on many a silly thing that makes little to no sense at all other than that it sounds very Politically Correct. Linguistics being a social science, PC and SJW Cultural Left culture has infected the field in an awful way.
You must understand that Cultural Left views did not just appear in a few select social sciences. Instead this ideology swept through the entire social sciences, sparing not a one. In terms of a March Through the Institutions for this ideology, it was akin to a rapid hostile takeover. Cultural Left and SJW views are now mandatory in Linguistics. If you refuse to go along, you will not get hired or get tenured. If your reputation is too bad, you may not be able to publish in academic journals or books.
Alas, my field has been poisoned with this Cultural Left toxin or venom like all the rest of them!

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Possible Origin of the Black Plague

The standard view is that twelve ships from Florence docked at Messina in 1347, bringing the Plague to Europe. It would later kill 1/3 of all Europeans and an incredible 20% of all humans. It would be as if 1.6 billion people died in only seven years or as if 66 million Americans died over a seven year period. Can you imagine? In my city alone, 12,000 people would be dead. Of every five people you knew at the start of the period, one would be dead after seven years. Can you imagine? That would not have left one person unscathed.
A new view though is that the Plague, which had already been active in Asia for a while, came to Europe via a biological warfare attack by Genghis Khan’s raiders on the city of Caffa in the Crimea. The Caffans were probably Turkic speakers at this time, but it is hard to say what Turkic lect they may have spoken. Perhaps a dead language called Cuman.
Khan’s raiders besieged the city and a number of people died of the Black Plague in the conflict. Khan’s men suspected a thing or two about biological warfare, so they loaded up the bodies that had died of the plague and catapulted them over the walls of the city into the population. Can you  imagine the horror of looking out your window and see a dead, bubonic plague ridden corpse fly by in the air at rapid speed to splatter nearby. Good Lord. In due time, this biological warfare killed a lot of the people in  the city.
Khan knew nothing of the  germ theory of disease, but experience with the plague showed that those who came in contact with victims tended to sicken and die. No one knew what was causing it. One European physician posited that plague victims radiated some sort of death vapors or essence out of their very eyes. Without medical science, people had to fall back on spiritual theories.
But people caught on quickly that being around plague victims could quickly make you a victim yourself. Physicians refused to treat plague patients and patients were often abandoned wherever they sickened. Family members even fled from their own sickened members, leaving them to die in the home while countless people fled to the countryside. But even there they were not safe. Even farm animals, cows, pigs, goats and sheep, caught the plague. So many sheep died that there was an acute wool shortage all over Europe for years afterwards. There was no solace or respite anywhere. The epidemic ended almost as fast as it began in 1354, but Europe was ruined. Entire cities had been abandoned as thousands of residents fled to the false safety of the countryside.
Many people escaped from Khan”s raid on Caffa, and survivors fled all over the Mediterranean. This people soon sickened and died. It was possibly from some of this group, fled to Florence, that the ill-fated death ships docked in Messina on that warm October night. The disease was in Southern France the next year and Germany soon after that. Not long afterwards, it hit Paris. And despite the primitive conditions of the day, it was not long in  Paris before London was also hit. People did have ships in those days you know.
Despite the enticing new theory, the medical journal concludes that the entrance of the Plague to Europe was multifactorial and the infection of the Caffa population did not play an important role in the European pandemic.

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How I Determined Intelligibility For Turkic Lects

Steve: This is amazing. Well done. But how can you possibly know the degree of mutual intelligibility between two languages you don’t speak or know if something is a language or dialect when you don’t speak it? That seems strange. How is it worked out?

Linguists don’t speak all these languages we study. We just study languages, we don’t necessarily speak them. This is confused with the archaic use of the word linguist to mean polyglot. Honestly, many linguists do in fact speak more than one language, and quite a few of them have a pretty good knowledge of at least some of the languages that they study. But my mentor speaks only Turkish and English though he studies all Turkic languages. I don’t believe he has ever learned to speak any Turkic lect other than Turkish.
In reference to my paper here.
We are not looking for raw numbers. We just want to know if they can understand each other or not.
A lot of it is from talking to native speakers and also there was a lot of reading papers by other linguists. I also talked to other linguists a lot. Linguists typically simply state if two lects are intelligible or not. Also there is a basic idea among linguists of what the boundary is between a language and a dialect, and I used this knowledge a lot.
Can they understand each other? Yes or no. That’s pretty much about it. Also at some degree of structural difference, we can see the difference between a language and a dialect. It’s a judgement call, but linguists are pretty good at this.
There is a subsection of very loud linguists, mostly on the Internet, who like to screech a lot about this question cannot be answered by answered because of this or that red herring or some odd conundrums that work their way in. The thing is if you ask around enough, you will be able to get around all of the conundrums and you should be able to eventually reconcile all of the divergent responses to get some sort of a holistic or “big picture.” You finally “figure it out.” The answer to the question comes to you in a sort of a “seeing the answer as part of a larger picture” sort of thing.
The worst red herring is this notion that speakers from Group A will lie and say they do not understand speakers of Group B simply because they hate them so much. If this was such a concern, you would have think I would have run into it at some point. A much worse problem were ethnic nationalists who lie and say that they can understand neighboring tongues when they can’t.
The toxin called Pan-Turkism or Turkish ultranationalism comes into play here. It is almost normal for Turks to believe that there is only one Turkic languages, and it is called Turkish. All of the rest of the languages simply do not exist and are dialects of Turkish. I had to deal with regular attacks by extremely aggressive Ataturkists who insisted that any Turk could easily understand any other Turkic language. Actually my adviser told me that my piece would not be popular with the Pan-Turkics at all. I don’t really care as I consider them to be pond scum.
Granted, some of it was quite controversial and I got variable reports on intelligibility for some lects like Siberian Tatar vs. Tatar, the Altai languages, Kazakh vs. Kirghiz, Crimean Tatar vs. Turkish.
Where native speakers differ on such questions, often vociferously, you simply ask enough of them, talk to some experts and try to get a feel for that what best answer to the question is.
Some cases like Gagauz vs. Turkish probably need raw intelligibility testing. That’s the only one that is up in the air right now, but it is up in the air because the lects are so close. Intelligibility between Gagauz and Turkish is somewhere between  70-100%. In other words, they have marginal intelligibility at worst. My Gagauz expert who knows this language better than anyone though feels that Turkish intelligibility of Gagauz is less than 90%, which is where I drew the line at language and dialect.
It is also starting to look like Nogay is a simply a dialect of Kazakh instead of a separate language, but that might be a hard sell.
Some of these are seen as separate languages simply because they are spoken by different ethnies who do not want to be seen as part of the same group. Also they have different literary norms. Karapalkak is just a Kazakh dialect, but the speakers want to say they speak a separate language. Same with Bashkir, which is simply a dialect of Tatar. The case of Kazakh and Kirghiz is more controversial, but even here, we seem to be dealing with one language, yet the two dialects are spoken by different ethnies that have actually differentiated into two separate states, each with their own literary norm. Kazakhs wish to say they speak a language c called Kazakh and Kirghiz wish to say they speak a language called Kirghiz although they are probably really just one language.
We see a similar thing with Czech and Slovak. My recent research has proven that Czech and Slovak are actually a single language. But the dialects are spoken by different ethnic groups who claim different cultures and histories and they have actually divided into two different states, and each has its own literary norm.
It is here, where dialects become languages not via science by via politics, culture, history and sociology, that Weinrich’s famous dictum that “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy” comes into play.
Scientifically, these are all simply dialects of a single tongue but we call them languages for sociological, cultural and political reasons.

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A Few Words on Language Endangerment

Carlos Lam: Congrats! However, isn’t language death a rather standard occurrence among societies?

It is, but we linguists don’t really like it. It is quite a debate going on, but the bottom line seems to be that ethnic groups and speaker groups have the right to ownership of their languages. We worry that a lot of speaker groups are being pressured into blowing up their languages prematurely. We like to study these languages and we are not real happy about seeing them vanish into the horizon. On the other hand, is cultural death a natural thing too? Both cultural death and language death are occurring at rates far beyond the normal background rates. English and some of the other major languages are like weapons of mass destruction in taking out languages. You really want a world with one language and one culture? I don’t.
The best position seems to be that speakers have the right to decide the fate of their languages. If speakers wish to continue speaking their languages, then governments and linguists should help them to preserve and continue to develop their languages. Quite a few groups do not seem to care that their languages are going are extinct or they are even driving or drove their languages extinct, and they have the full right to do so. In these cases, we will simply do salvage linguistics. There are many salvage linguistics projects going on in the world today.
You won’t get very far with linguists arguing that language death is a good thing. Most people don’t think so.
Occurring at the same time as language death is a lot of language revitalization. Even fully dead languages are being resurrected from the grave. Also in addition to language death, we are creating new languages all the time. In this piece, I created a total of net 13 new languages. And new languages are occurring on their own.
To give you an example. A group of Crimean Tatars moved from Crimea to Turkey about 200 years ago in the course of the Crimean War. They have been speaking Crimean Tatar in Turkey ever since, for 200 years now. But in that time, Crimean Tatar in Turkey and Crimean Tatar in Ukraine has diverged so much that Turkish Crimean Tatar is now, in my opinion, a fully separate tongue from the Ukrainian language. This is because in Turkey, a lot of Turkish has gone into Turkish Crimean Tatar which is not well understand in the Ukraine. And in the Ukraine, a lot of Russian has gone in which is not well understood in Turkey. Hence, Crimean Tatar speakers in Turkey and Ukraine can no longer understand each other well.
To give you another example, there are many Kazakh speakers in China. However, Kazakh speakers in China can no longer understand Standard Kazakh broadcasts from Kazakhstan because so many Russian loans have gone into Standard Kazakh that it is no longer intelligible with Chinese Kazakh speakers. I learned this too late for my paper, otherwise I would have split Chinese Kazakh off as a separate language.
There are many cases like this.
Further, many languages are being discovered. Sonqori, Western Khalaj, Todzhin, Duha, Dukha and Siberian Tatar are just a few of the new languages that I created. Khorosani Turkic was split into three different languages. Dayi was subsumed into one of the Khorosani Turkic languages. Altai was split from one into five separate languages, but the truth is that it is six languages, not five. Salar was split into Western Salara and Eastern Salar. Ili Turki was eliminated becuase it does not even exist. It is simply a form of Uighur. Kabardian and Balkar, Tatar and Bashkir, Kazakh and Kirghiz were some languages that were eliminated and subsumed into single tongues such as Tatar-Bashkir, Kazakh-Kirghiz, and Kabardian-Balkar. And on and on.
Languages and of course dialects are dying all the time, but new languages are being created by humans and by linguists as we continue our splitting projects. Many lects referred to as dialects are more properly seen as separate languages. Chinese is at least 450 separate languages, only 14 of which are recognized. German may be up to 130 separate languages, only 20 of which are recognized.
There are quite a few more languages to be created out there, but there is a lot of resistance to splitters like me from more conservative linguists and especially from linguistic nationalists. For while Chinese may well be over 1,000 languages, the Chinese government is anti-scientifically insistent that there is but one Chinese language and maybe 2,000 “dialects,” most of which are probably separate languages. The German government is quite resistant to the idea that there is more than one form of German, though I believe Bavarian and Swiss German have official status in Austria and Switzerland.

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I Am Now a Published Author

You can download my first published work above. I was published for the first time this spring in a book called:

Before the Last Voices Are Gone: Endangered Turkic Languages, Volume 1: Theoretical and General Approaches

This is the first volume of a four volume set called:

The Handbook of Endangered Turkic Languages

The first volume alone runs to 512 pages. Articles are in English, Russian and Turkish, variably. It was published out of the International Turkish-Kazakh University in Istanbul, Turkey and the International Turkic Academy in Astana, Kazakhstan. These are two campuses that are part of one joint Turkey-Kazakhstan shared university.
I contributed one chapter that runs from pages 311-384 titled:

Mutual Intelligibility among the Turkic Languages

It’s 83 pages long and has ~100 references. It may have taken me 500 hours to write that chapter. Tell that to my enemies who claim I do not work, ok? When all is said and done, I figure I may make 75 cents an hour on this work. But this is how academic publishing works. There’s just no money in it. It’s all a labor of love. In addition, most work is done by professors who have to publish as part of their professorship (publish or perish), so in effect, their professor salary is covering their publishing.
That document had to go through two rather grueling peer reviews. I had to make many changes in it to get it to publication. The second peer review had to get past the top Turkologists in the world today, and I am amazed that I made it through review to be honest.
Most people publishing in academic books or journals are academics, professors working at universities. There are only a few of us independent scholars out there (I am an independent scholar because I am not at a university). Also most folks have PhD’s, and I only have a Masters, but there are some folks with Masters publishing academically.
In general, this is a rather selective game where everyone is hyperspecializing as is the trend nowadays. Although my mentor at the project calls me a Renaissance Man, I wonder if the autodidact/polymath is an endangered species if not extinct. Everyone has to specialize nowadays.
For instance, common knowledge in this particular field would be that the only folks who could publish in Turkology would be linguists with a PhD in Linguistics, preferably with a emphasis in Turkology. Beyond that, they may prefer say 5-10 years publishing in the field of Turkology in addition to a professorship in Turkic linguistics. You can see where this is headed. I am not knocking it. I am just pointing out that microspecialization is the game now.
What follows is that since I lack the PhD or professorship or any background at all in Turkology, I should not be allowed to be published in this field, or if by some error I am somehow mispublished, all of my work should be promptly ignored as done by a nonspecialist who could not possibly know what he is talking about. Needless to say, I don’t agree with that, and I carry on tilting at windmills like a good deluded Renaissance Man who never got the memo and wouldn’t read it if he did.
The odd thing is that I knew nothing about Turkology until I plunged into this mess. I had written a short piece of mutual intelligibility in Turkic, as MI is one of my pet subjects and put it up on Academia on my scholarly papers site, and a professor in Turkey happened to read it. He wrote to me telling me he agreed with me, he wanted me to expand it into a document, and they would publish it for me. So off I went, down the Turkic rabbit hole. If you study the very high IQ types (140+), they tend to go on “crazes” like this. They also lose interest after a bit, drop the craze and move on to some new craze. Dilettantism for the win.
I also have an anxiety disorder called OCD which is well controlled. A good side of it though is that you tend to do dive down rabbit holes a lot, and the OCD makes you burrow maniacally into the rabbit hole with the notion that one is going to become the world’s leading expert on whatever rabbit hole you are digging in now. So for one or two years, I went absolutely berserk into Turkic, whereas before I scarcely knew a thing about it. The end result can be read above.
The sad result is that either due to the savant stuff or the mental quirk, I also tend to lose interest in my rabbit holes after a bit. I follow them about halfway to China, make several revolutions around the molten core, and after a year or so, come up for air gasping with incipient Black Lung, and next thing you know, I am bored, and it’s onto a new craze. It’s a bit silly, but we all have our crosses to lug, and as eccentricities go, there are many worse things that dabbling, er hobbyism, er dilettantism, er polymathy, er autodidactism, er Renaissance Manism.
Most of you will probably not find this very interesting, as it is pretty specialized stuff that is mostly of interest to people in the specialty, linguists and those interested in the subject. It’s not exactly for the general reader. But if you have any interest in these languages, you might enjoy it.
I expanded Turkic from 41 to 53 languages, eliminated some languages, turned some into dialects, turned some dialects into full languages, combined languages into a single tongue, created some new languages out of scratch and did quite a bit of work on the history of the languages.
I also reworked the classification a bit because I thought it could be done better. Even though this work does not pay much, the pay is in fame if it is at all. My work will either be accepted by the field or rejected outright or somewhere in between. I have already earned the praises of some of the world’s top Turkologists, much to my surprise. If I get fame, well, I get quoted in papers, maybe invited to conferences, and maybe even referenced in Wikipedia. There are groupies in all status fields, and what the heck, there may even be linguist groupies. If not, there are always starry eyed coeds dreaming of professor types to mentor them. I am already working that angle as it is. Writer Game, Scholar Game, there’s Game for everything.
Or my work does not go over and maybe the field decides I do not know what I am talking about.
Crap shoot, like most of life’s endeavors. Roll em, and wish upon a star…snake eyes!
PS. The title of the series, Before the Last Voices Are Gone, was created by me. I think it has a nice little song.

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External Relations of Japanese and Apache

Jason Voorhees: YEE – There is some similarity between the language of an Apache and that of the Japanese for example.
Yee: That seems far fetched. My ancestors moved from Central China, but I can’t understand any of their dialect now. Language is easy to lose

Actually this is not correct. Apache does have external relations in the new Yenisien-Na Dene family (already under fierce attack by splitters), and in a larger sense to Chinese but not Japanese. But there is no similarity whatsoever between Japanese and Apache, other than that probably all human languages are related at some distant level. There is no clear or obvious relationship between Japanese (really Japonic) and any other language. Japanese is not one language. It is a group of languages called Japonic. Most of the Japonic languages are spoken the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa), where there are 5-6 separate languages spoken. These languages still have many speakers, but they are in very bad shape as the Japanese have been waging war on them for some time now. Most of the speakers are middle aged or older and transmission to the young is at a low level.
However, it is clear to me that Japanese does have external relations. The most obvious external relation would be with Korean. Even some of the hardest-core anti-Altaicists agree that there is a good chance that Korean and Japanese are related. Looking at the larger picture, Japanese and Korean are both related to Turkic, Tungusic and Mongolic in a superfamily called Altaic. Mainstream linguistics has refused to accept Altaic although the evidence for its existence is striking.
The evidence for the existence of Altaic is just as good as the evidence for Austroasiatic,l and that is a universally accepted family. Worse, people who believe in Altaic are attacked and ridiculed mercilessly to the point where if you believe in it,  you might actually have a hard time getting a professorship.
Of course, Altaicists are accused of being anti-scientific because “science” has not yet shown that there is any relationship. Adults who think like this are children. Science doesn’t know everything and science is flat out wrong about countless things. That is because many theories are simply true that are presently rejected by science due to so-called lack of evidence.
Having to go ask Mommy Science whether everything you encounter in the world is true or not is like what a child does. A child is always running up to Mommy asking is it is true that so and so etc etc. Mommy says yes or no and the kid is satisfied. The are adults who are still tied to their mothers apron strings who never learned to differentiate themselves as mature individuals. Hence they have to run the Mommy Science and ask whether something is true or not instead of sitting down and looking at the evidence and deciding for yourself.
Not all things that are true have been accepted by science. If you are going to learn anything in life, it should be that right there. Time to cut the apron strings, babies.

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Is There a Language That is (Nearly) Impossible to Learn to Speak Without Growing up with It?

Answer from Quora
I recently talked to a man who is learning Min Nan, which is a Sinitic language often called a dialect of Chinese. He told me that Min Nan speakers say that the tones are so hard that no one who doesn’t grow up speaking Min Nan ever seems to get it very well.
Cantonese is a similar language that is very difficult. It is much harder than Mandarin, and many native Mandarin speakers say they tried to learn Cantonese and gave up on it because it was too hard. Cantonese has nine tones.
Basque is said to be very hard to learn unless you grow up with it. There is a joke that the Devil spent seven years trying to learn Basque, and he only learned how to say Hello and Goodbye.
Navajo would also be hard. Even Navajo children struggle quite a bit learning Navajo and don’t seem to get it well until maybe age 12. When Navajo children arrive at school, they often do not speak Navajo well yet.
Korean is a surprise, but apparently it is very hard to learn well. A native Korean speaker told me that Korean is so hard that no Korean speaker ever speaks it with 100% accuracy, and everyone makes errors.
Czech is also hard. Even most Czech speakers never get Czech all the way. They have TV contests in Czechoslovakia where they try to stump native speakers with hard forms in the language. If you can last 30 minutes without making even one error, you win. I think only two men have been able to do it, but one was a non-native speaker!
Piraha, spoken in the Brazilian Amazon, is also very hard. Over the course of a few centuries, several Portuguese speaking priests had tried to learn Piraha, but they had all given up because it was too hard. And these same priests had been able to master a number of other Indian languages, but Piraha was just too much. Daniel Everett learned the language and wrote important papers on it. He is only of the only non-native speakers who was able to learn the language.
Tsez, spoken in the Caucasus, is also murderously hard. Every verb can have over 100,000’s of possible forms. I understand that even native speakers make regular errors when speaking Tsez.

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The Basque-Caucasian Hypothesis

I have gotten a lot of crap from my enemies for being on the site in the first place, but really anyone can join.
The following was posted by one of the reviewers in an Academia session by one of the leading lights of the Basque-Caucasian theory. As you can see, the mythological and multiple lines of genetic evidence are starting to pile up pretty nicely too. This is neat stuff if you are interested in the Basque-Caucasian link in addition to work going on into the remains of the Neolithic Farmers who were subsumed in the Indo-European waves. It turns out there is quite a bit left in different parts of Europe, especially in terms of Neolithic Farmer mythology.
From a discussion among academics and independent scholars on a paper on the Basque-Caucasian Theory in Historical Linguistics during a session in on Academia:

I am not a linguist but interested in the topic as it proposes a linguistic correlation between Caucasic languages and Basque, as it parallels my own current research on reconstructing European Paleolithic mythologies using ethnographic analogies constrained by on archaeogenetics and language macrofamily correlations.
Tuite (2006, 2004, 1998, 1997) has pointed out the hunter-gatherer beliefs and myth motifs shared across a ‘macro-Caucasic’ area to the Hindu Kush and into Western Europe. Basque deities Mari, Sugaar, and Ama Lurra and their associated mythologems have striking similarities to the macro-Caucasic hunter mythologies (not found in Finno-Ugric or Middle Eastern ancient mythologies.)
I am currently writing a paper identifying many examples of Southern/Western Gravettian art in Italy, Spain, southern France that appear to depict imagery only explicable by analogy to Macro-Caucasic religious myth and ritual.
With respect to mtDNA fossil genetics, three skeleton samples are from Paglicci Cave, Italy, ~25 cal BP: one is macro-N-mtDNA (homeland Caucasus/Caspian/Iran; currently highest frequencies Caucasus, Arabia), and two skeletons, RO/HV-mtDNA (homeland northern Middle East; currently highest frequencies, Basque, Syria, Gilaki, Daghestan).
During the later Magdalenian another diffusion occurs apparently by a similar route: HV4-mtDNA emerges in Belarus-Ukraine (~14±2 ka) and under Late Glacial Maximum HV4a (~13.5 ka) moves south and splits in the three refugia: southern Italy, southern Russia (HV4a1, ~10 ka), the Middle East (HV4a2, ~9 ka), and Basque area (HV4a1a, ~5 ka, suggesting full emergence of distinct Basque culture and language), (Gómez-Carballa, Olivieri et al 2012).
These studies further support the existence of a Macro-Basque-Caucasic mythological stratum as well as shared language substrate.

The cutting-edge liberal theory is that Basque (and some other odd far-flung languages) is part of the Caucasian language family. In other words, at one time, the Basques and the peoples of the Caucasus like Chechens were all one people.
What this probably represents is the ancient Neolithic farmers who covered Europe before the Indo-European invasion replaced almost all of the languages of Europe. All that is left is Basque and the peoples of the Caucasus. Everything in between got taken by IE except for some late movements by Uralic and Turkic speakers. Up in the north, the Lapp Uralic speakers are, like Basques, the last remains of the Neolithic farmers. The Sardinians also an ancient remaining group of these people, but their language has been surmounted recently by a Latinate tongue.
As it turns out, the Basques and Caucasians also share a number of cultural similarities. There are also some similar placenames. And there is some good genetic evidence connecting the Basques with the Caucasian speakers.
It’s all there, but the conservatives are balking, to put it mildly, about linking Basque with the Caucasian languages.
I have long believed in this theory.
I read a book over 20 years ago comparing Basque to the Caucasian languages and a few other distant tongues and thought the case was proved even via overkill by the book. And recent work is so super that one wonders why the conservatives are still winning. I feel that the link between Basque and the Caucasus languages is now proven to an obvious and detailed degree.

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The Whites of East Asia

Ultra Cool writes:

There was a White tribe in China called Yuezhi, I think.

Turks. Almost Proto-Turkics. I think their descendants today would be best described as the Uighur people, who are ~1/2 White and 1/2 East Asian. However, a number of Uighur people, especially the women, look quite Caucasian. So I suppose these would be the farthest east of the Caucasians.
I have an 80 page paper on Turkic languages that is in line to be published in a book whenever they get around to publishing it. I believe that I discuss the Yuehzi in there, and if I am not mistaken, they were precursors of the the Uighurs or even better yet the Tocharians. If you want a truly White tribe in East Asia, the Tocharians would be your best bet. They have Tocharian mummies that have blue and green eyes and blond hair. They were found in China!
The Yuezhi were around ~2,000 YBP I believe. Most of the references we have to groups like that are from the Chinese. The Chinese were very helpful in that they developed a writing system early.
As a comparison, the earliest written Turkic we can find is the Orkhon Inscriptions (also very near China) which are these hard-to-decipher runic-type characters inscribed on stone pillars. I believe they have deciphered these inscriptions. So our attested Turkic only goes back to ~400 AD. Mongolic is even worse with earliest transcriptions ~1400 with Middle Mongolian. Tungusic is catastrophic with nothing at all written down other than transcriptions of the languages from early Russian settlers.
The Yukaghir have some odd Orkhon like inscriptions, but they are not Altaic. They are said speak an isolated language, but I think Yukaghir is related to Uralic.
With the lack of early attestations, you can see why Altaic is so hard to reconstruct and prove.

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A Look at the Georgian Language

This post will look at the Georgian language in terms of how hard it would be for an English speaker to learn it. Suffice to say that Georgian is probably one of the most complicated languages in the world, and that it would be quite difficult for an English speaker to learn this language.

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.


One problem with Georgian is the strange alphabet: ქართულია ერთ ერთი რთული ენა. It also has lots of glottal stops that are hard for many foreigners to speak; consonant clusters can be huge – up to eight consonants stuck together (CCCCCCCCVC)- and many consonant sounds are strange. In addition, there are uvulars and ejectives. Georgian is one of the hardest languages on Earth to pronounce. It regularly makes it onto craziest phonologies lists.

Its grammar is exceedingly complex. Georgian is both highly agglutinative and highly irregular, which is the worst of two worlds. Other agglutinative languages such as Turkish and Finnish at least have the benefit of being highly regular. The verbs in particular seem nearly random with no pattern to them at all. The system of argument and tense marking on the verb is exceedingly complex, with tense, aspect, mood on the verb, person and number marking for the subject, and direct and indirect objects.

Although it is an ergative language, the ergative (or active-stative case marking as it is called) oddly enough is only used in the aorist and perfect tenses where the agent in the sentence receives a different case, while the aorist also masquerades as imperative. In the present, there is standard nominative-accusative marking. A single verb can have up to 12 different parts, similar to Polish, and there are six cases and six tenses.

Georgian also features something called polypersonal agreement, a highly complex type of morphological feature that is often associated with polysynthetic languages and to a lesser extent with ergativity.

In a polypersonal language, the verb has agreement morphemes attached to it dealing with one or more of the verbs arguments (usually up to four arguments). In a non polypersonal language like English, the verb either shows no agreement or agrees with only one of its arguments, usually the subject. Whereas in a polypersonal language, the verb agrees with one or more of the subject, the direct object, the indirect object, the beneficiary of the verb, etc. The polypersonal marking may be obligatory or optional.

In Georgian, the polypersonal morphemes appear as either suffixes or prefixes, depending on the verb class and the person, number, aspect and tense of the verb. The affixes also modify each other phonologically when they are next to each other. In the Georgian system, the polypersonal affixes convey subject, direct object, indirect object, genitive, locative and causative meanings.

g-mal-av-en   = “they hide you”
= “they hide it from you”

mal “to hide” is the verb, and the other four forms are polypersonal affixes.

In the case below,

xelebi ga-m-i-tsiv-d-a = “My hands got cold”.

xelebi means “hands”. The m marker indicates genitive or “my”. With intransitive verbs, Georgian often omits my before the subject and instead puts the genitive onto the verb to indicate possession.

Georgian verbs of motion focus on deixis, whether the goal of the motion is towards the speaker or the hearer. You use a particle to signify who the motion is heading towards. If it heading towards neither of you, you use no deixis marker. You specify the path taken to reach the goal through the use or prefixes called preverbs, similar to “verbal case.” These come after the deixis marker:

up                     a-
out                    ga-
in                      sha-
down into         cha-
across/through garda-
thither               mi-
away                 c’a-
or down            da-


“up towards me” = amo-. The deixis marker is mo- and “up” is a-

On the plus side, Georgian has borrowed a great deal of Latinate foreign vocabulary, so that will help anyone coming from a Latinate or Latinate-heavy language background.

Georgian is rated 5, extremely difficult.

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The Roots of the Alphabet(s)

Probably most of you do not know that we are all using a variant of the ancient Phoenician alphabet. Actually I am not sure if that is precisely true, as I think the Phoenician alphabet was preceded by an Assyrian one. But at any rate, our classic Western alphabets all came out of the Levant and Mesopotamia in some way or other. Indeed, it is even theorized that many of the syllabaries in use in Central, South and Southeast Asia are also rooted in this original alphabet from the Levant.

Of course, Chinese and consequently Korean and Japanese alphabets have another origin.

One might wish to throw the odd SE Asian orthographies such as Thai, Lao, Burmese, Vietnamese, Javanese, Sundanese and Khmer there, but my understanding is that all of those SE Asian orthographies were actually derived from syllabaries originally designed in India.

A few writing systems such as Georgian, Armenian and Cree may have been created de novo, but I might have to look that up. The only non-Middle Eastern derived orthography that immediately comes to my mind is the Chinese ideographs.

The origins of the Assyrian/Phoenician alphabet appear to have been ultimately in Egyptian hieroglyphics. So the ancient Egyptians really started it all when it comes to writing down words, at least for the West.

Chinese ideographs may date from even earlier. Chinese bone writing goes way back.

Very early European writing such as runic systems and similar systems in Asia such as the Turkic Orkhon inscriptions may not be related to the Phoenician system at all. The Yukaghir in Siberia and the Yi in South China may also have designed de novo systems.

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Is There a Language That Is Almost Impossible to Learn Without Growing Up with It?

A question was recently asked on Quora. Here is my answer.

Hello, I recently talked to a Westerner who is learning Min Nan, which is a Sinitic language often called a dialect of Chinese. He already speaks Mandarin, but he told me Min Nan if vastly harder than Mandarin. At age 35, he was studying it 2 hours a day, and at some point, he hit a wall, and he didn’t seem to be making any progress. He kept adding more study hours to the day  – four hours, six hours – with little effect. Finally when he was studying it for eight hours a day, he started making some good progress. I believe he said contour tones and tone sandhi were the major roadblocks.

Min Nan speakers say that even Cantonese is easier than Min Nan, and Cantonese is deadly hard. They also say that Min Nan tones are so hard that no one who did not learn Min Nan growing up gets anywhere near native fluency.

Cantonese is a similar language that is very difficult. It is much harder than Mandarin, and many native Mandarin speakers say they tried to learn Cantonese and gave up on it because it was too hard. Cantonese has 9 tones. The general consensus among Chinese is that Cantonese is much harder to learn than Mandarin.

Basque is said to be very hard to learn unless you grow up with it. There is a joke that the Devil spent seven years trying to learn Basque, and he only learned how to say Hello and Goodbye.

Navajo would also be murderously hard. Even Navajo children struggle quite a bit learning Navajo. When they show up at school at age 5-6, they are still struggling with Navajo. There are reports that Navajo children don’t seem to get Navajo well until maybe age 12.

Korean is a surprise, but apparently it is very hard to learn well. A native Korean speaker told me that Korean is so hard that no Korean speaker ever speaks it with 100% accuracy, and everyone makes errors.

As another respondent pointed out, Japanese is also quite notorious, and most Westerners get nowhere near native fluency.

Czech is also hard. Even most Czech speakers never get Czech all the way. They have TV contests in Czechoslovakia where they try to stump native speakers with hard forms in the language. If you can last 30 minutes without making even one error, you win. I think only two men have been able to do it, but one was a non-native speaker! Czech also has a strange r sound found only in one other language on Earth. It is said that no native speaker ever gets this phoneme quite right.

Piraja is also very hard as another respondent pointed out. Only two non-natives have ever been able to speak Piraha with any fluency. When Daniel Everett went to study the language, he found a number of reports from priests who had tried to learn Piraha since the early 1800’s, and only one had succeeded. The others tried to learn but gave up because they said it was too hard.

Tsez, spoken in the Caucasus, is also murderously hard. Every verb can have tens of thousands of possible forms. Reports say that even native speakers make regular errors when speaking Tsez.

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Abstract of an Upcoming Publication of Mine

The following is an abstract of a long paper that will be published in one of three or four books of the series The Handbook of Endangered Turkic Languages which will be published in late September by the Turkish-Kazakh Joint University in Ankara, Turkey. The article is 88 pages along and is one of the most important articles in the series. I will also be the official English editor for all of the English articles in the series which total ~500 pages.

Mutual Intelligibility Among the Turkic Languages

By Robert Lindsay

Abstract: The Turkic family of languages with all important related dialects was analyzed on the basis of mutual intelligibility, with the following goals: (1) To determine the extent to which various Turkic lects can understand each other. (2) To ascertain whether various Turkic lects are better characterized as full languages in the own right in need of ISO codes from SIL or rather as dialects of another language. (3) The history of various Turkic lects was analyzed in an attempt to write a proper history of the important lects. (4) An attempt was made at classifying the Turkic languages in terms of subfamilies, sub-sub families, etc.
The results were: (1) Rough intelligibility figures for various Turkic lects, related lects and Turkish itself were determined. Surprisingly, it was not difficult to arrive at these rough estimates. (2) The Turkic family was expanded from Ethnologue‘s 41 languages to 53 languages. (3) Full and detailed histories for many Turkic lects were written up in a coherent, easy to understand way, a task sorely needed in Turkic as histories of Turkic lects are often confused, inaccurate, controversial, and incomplete. (4) A new classification of Turkic is proposed that rejects and rewrites some of the better-known classifications.

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Is Dravidian Related to Japanese?

Thirdeye writes:

The Tamil-Japonic connection isn’t quite as off the wall as one might think at first glance. There’s apparently a strong Andaman-Indonesian language connection. The convention of repeat plurals seems to have found its way to Japan. There’s also some similarity between the Finno-Ugric languages, which are Uralic outliers in a sea of Indo-European languages, and Dravidian languages that have a remnant in Pakistan. Contact between proto-Dravidian-Uralic and Altaic languages is a real possibility.

If Uralic is close to anything, it is close to Altaic and Indo-European and probably even closer to Chukto-Kamchatkan, Eskimo-Aleut, Yukaghir and Nivkhi. Yukaghir may actually be Uralic itself, or maybe the family is called “Uralic-Yukaghir.”
There is no connection between Austronesian (Indonesian) and the Andaman Islanders. Austronesian is indeed related to Thai though (Austro-Tai); in my opinion, this has been proven. If the Andaman languages are related to anything at all, they may be related to some Papuan languages and an isolate in Nepal called Nihali. A good case can be made connecting Nihali with some of the Papuan languages.
Typology is not that great of way to classify. Typology is areal and it spreads via convergence. What you are looking in search genetic relationship among languages more more than anything else is morphology. After that, a nice set of cognates.
There is probably no connection between Dravidian and Uralic in particular. Dravidian is outside of most everything in Eurasia. It if is close to anything, it might be close to Afro-Asiatic. There also looks to be a connection with Elamite.
Dravidian and Afro-Asiatic are probably older than the rest of the Eurasian languages, and they were located further to the south. Afro-Asiatic is very old, probably ~15,000 YBP.

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Australoids As the Basic Asian Phenotype

Thirdeye writes:

Not sure if this has been mentioned or not, but human settlement in India has been dated to >74 Ka by the Toba volcanic ash overlying stone tools. The Toba event made the subcontinent uninhabitable and isolated the Australasian survivors in southeast Asia from the rest of humanity.

The remnants of the decimated human population were confronted with a very sudden planetary cooling as a result of the Toba event, and the adaptive pressure has been hypothesized as the driving factor in the development of a cold-adapted east Asian branch from the Australasian trunk, enhanced by the importance of founder effects among the surviving remnants.

The Dravidian settlement was the re-occupation of the Bengal shore by Australasians. The tone language trait of east Asian/Australasian cultures (along with an isolated tone language group in the Indus Valley) is believed to reflect African-derived tone language among the original migrants.
Looking closely at the faces of Australasian-derived Indians, the similarities between Australasian and east Asian facial shapes are striking: round, with broad cheekbones and low facial topography. It’s looking more and more like certain northeast Asian facial features (Ainu brows and heavy Korean jaws) are the result of proto-Mongoloid/Caucasian admixture in Siberia. And the closest languages to the Japonic languages are Turkic.

The truth is that the Australoid is the dominant Asian phenotype. All Asians were Australoids until recently. The homeland of the Mongoloid race is in Northern Vietnam. This race was birthed 53,000 YBP. I am not sure what they looked like, but no doubt they were Australoids, possibly a Melanesian type. The Mongoloid phenotype we are so familiar with emerged quite late, 15,000 YBP in Siberia and 9,000 YBP in Northern China. Later it become generalized throughout Asia, moving from north to south.
It is true that in SE Asians, the transition occurred quite late. Vietnamese only transitioned from Australoid to Mongoloid 2,300 YBP with a massive invasion from Southern China. In some groups such as Malays, Filipinos, and Indonesians, the transition was not 100% completed. They are all Mongoloid people, but as the transition from Australoid to Mongoloid was not completed, some Australoid traits remain. These types are best seen as Mongoloids with some residual Australoid traits.
Clearly there are still some pure Australoids in SE Asia such as various Negrito peoples of Malaysia, Thailand (the Mani), the Philippines (the Agta) and Indonesia and the Senoi of Thailand, but these are the minority.
Indeed, Tamil (Dravidian) skulls from South India plot with Melanesian, Papuan, Aborigine, Negrito, Ainu, and Senoi skulls. Therefore on skulls, Tamil types are Australoids. The tribal types such as the Panyers, the Gondis and the Veddoids look very Australoid and probably represent the remnants of a derived group of the earliest Australoid settlers to India. The true first colonists of India are represented by the Andaman Islander Negrito types who came a very long time ago, possibly 40-50,000 YBP.
I have never heard the theory about tone languages deriving from African languages before.
Indeed there was some interbreeding between far NE Asians and Caucasoids. But also keep in mind that when you cross an Australoid with a Mongoloid, you sometimes coincidentally get a phenotype that looks Caucasoid. The early Samurai in Japan often appeared quite Caucasoid.
I agree that the Japonic languages are part of Altaic of which Turkic is a part, but Linguistics has not yet accepted this.
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Minority Languages in Siberia

John writes:

I read that the ancestors of modern day Aboriginal Canadians/Americans still live in parts of Siberia but they are fading away linguistically and culturally due to Russian culture, do you know anything about this? I know that the indigenous people of Russia were all Mongoloid and Siberia was all Mongoloid type people before the Russians came. So how is it that Russia is not causing harm to these cultures?

Russia has a pretty progressive attitude towards these folks. None of them are separatists, so there is not much to worry about. Russia doesn’t settle it with Russians because no Russian wants to go live in Siberia. I suspect they might even let some of these groups separate because I am not sure how much Russia cares about all these frozen wastes.
I just wrote a huge paper on these groups that will appear soon in a new book.
Russia lets all of these groups use their languages as much as they want to. They can study them in schools, or they can even use them as a medium for instruction as long as kids end up fluent in Russian too. They can declare one or more of their languages as official state languages alongside Russian. They can use the language alongside Russian in government and universities. They can have newspapers, magazines, TV and radio in their languages. The USSR supported language rights, and the new Russia has more or less inherited that mindset.
Quite a few of even the small groups related to Amerindians still speak their languages. For instance, the Altai languages are still widely spoken. Children are still being raised as native speakers in some of these languages. However, many are on their way out with most speakers age 40+. Some languages have only elderly speakers and are moribund.
Speakers of these languages often suffer from lack of funds for learning materials in the schools, and their media productions either lack funding or tend to get shut down due to financial issues.

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A Look at the Turkish Language

From here.
A look at the Turkish language from the point of view of an English speaker trying to learn the language. Turkish is not a difficult language to learn, but it is not exactly simple either, and the agglutinative structure is very different from Indo-European.
Turkish is often considered to be hard to learn, and it’s rated one of the hardest in surveys of language teachers, however, it’s probably easier than its reputation made it out to be. It is agglutinative, so you can have one long word where in English you might have a sentence of shorter words. One word is
Were you one of those people whom we could not turn into a Czechoslovakian?

Many words have more than one meaning. However, the agglutination is very regular in that each particle of meaning has its own morpheme and falls into an exact place in the word. See here:

göz            eye
göz-lük        glasses
göz-lük-çü     optician
göz-lük-çü-lük the business of an optician

Nevertheless, agglutination means that you can always create new words or add new parts to words, and for this reason even a lot of Turkish adults have problems with their language.
Turkish is an imagery-heavy language, and if you try to translate straight from a dictionary, it often won’t make sense.
However, the suffixation in Turkish, along with the vowel harmony, are both precise. Nevertheless, many words have irregular vowel harmony. The rules for making plurals are very regular, with no exceptions (the only exceptions are in foreign loans). In Turkish, incredible as it sounds, you can make a plural out of anything, even a word like what, who or blood. However, there is some irregularity in the strengthening of adjectives, and the forms are not predictable and must be memorized.
Turkish is a language of precision in other ways. For instance, there are eight different forms of subjunctive mood that describe various degrees of uncertainty that one has about what one is talking about. This relates to the evidentiality discussed under Tuyuca above, and Turkish has an evidential form similar to Tamil and Bulgarian. On Turkish news, verbs are generally marked with miş, which means that the announcer believes it to be true though he has not seen it firsthand.
The Roman alphabet and almost mathematically precise grammar really help out. Turkish lacks gender and there are almost no irregular verbs.  However, this is controversial, and it depends on how you define grammatical irregularity. There is strangeness in some of the verb paradigms, but it is argued that these oddities are rule-based. The aorist tense is said to have irregularity. Nevertheless, weighing against the verbal regularity would be the large number of verbal forms.
There is some irregular morphophonology, but not much. The oblique relative clauses have complex morphosyntax. Turkish has two completely different ways of making relative clauses, one of which may have been borrowed from Persian. There are many gerunds for verbs, and these have many different uses. At the end of the day, Turkish grammar is not as regular or as simple as it is made out to be.
Words are pronounced nearly the same as they are written. A suggestion that Turkish may be easier to learn that many think is the research that shows that Turkish children learn attain basic grammatical mastery of Turkish at age 2-3, as compared to 4-5 for German and 12 for Arabic. The research was conducted in Germany in 2005.
In addition, Turkish has a phonetic orthography.
However, Turkish is hard for an English speaker to learn for a variety of reasons. It is agglutinative like Japanese, and all agglutinative languages are difficult for English speakers to learn. As in Japanese, you start your Turkish sentence the way you would end your English sentence. Turkish vowels are unusual to speakers of English (ö and ü are not in English), and Turkish learners say the vowels are hard to make or even tell apart from one another.
Turkish is rated 4, very hard to learn.

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A Look at the Korean Language

From here.
A look at the Korean from the perspective of an English speaker trying to learn the language. The truth is that Korean is one of the hardest languages on Earth for an English speaker to learn.
Most agree that Korean is a hard language to learn.
The alphabet, Hangul at least is reasonable; in fact, it is elegant. But there are four different Romanizations – Lukoff, Yale, Horne, and McCune-Reischauer – which is preposterous. It’s best to just blow off the Romanizations and dive straight into Hangul. This way you can learn a Romanization later, and you won’t mess up your Hangul with spelling errors, as can occur if you go from Romanization to Hangul. Hangul can be learned very quickly, but learning to read Korean books and newspapers fast is another matter altogether because you really need to know the hanja or Chinese character that is in back of the Hangul symbols.
Bizarrely, there are two different numeral sets used, but one is derived from Chinese so it should be familiar to Chinese, Japanese or Thai speakers who use similar or identical systems.
Korean has a wealth of homonyms, and this is one of the tricky aspects of the language. Any given combination of a couple of characters can have multiple meanings. Japanese has a similar problem with homonyms, but at least with Japanese you have the benefit of kanji to help you tell the homonyms apart. With Korean Hangul, you get no such advantage.
Similarly, there seem to be many ways to say the same thing in Korean. The learner will feel when people are using all of these different ways of saying the same thing that they are actually saying something different each time, but that is not the case.
One problem is that the bp, j, ch, t and d are pronounced differently than their English counterparts. The consonants, the pachim system and the morphing consonants at the end of the word that slide into the next word make Korean harder to pronounce than any major European language. Korean has a similar problem with Japanese, that is, if you mess up one vowel in sentence, you render it incomprehensible.
The vocabulary is very difficult for an English speaker who does not have knowledge of either Japanese or Chinese. On the other hand, Japanese or Chinese will help you a lot with Korean. Chinese and Japanese speakers can usually learn Korean quickly.
Korean is agglutinative and has a subject-topic discourse structure, and the logic of these systems is difficult for English speakers to understand.
Meanwhile, Korean has an honorific system that is even wackier than that of Japanese. However, the younger generation is not using the honorifics so much, and a foreigner isn’t expected to know the honorific system anyway.
Maybe 60% of the words are based on Chinese words, but unfortunately, much of this Chinese-based vocabulary intersects with Japanese versions of Chinese words in a confusing way.
Speakers of Korean can learn Japanese fairly easily. Korean seems to be a more difficult language to learn than Japanese. There are maybe twice as many particles as in Japanese, the grammar is dramatically more difficult and the verbs are quite a bit harder. The phonemic inventory in Korean is also larger and includes such oddities as double consonants.
Korean is rated by language professors as being one of the hardest languages to learn.
Korean is rated 5, hardest of all.

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A Look at the Japanese Language

From here.
A look at Japanese, with a view to how hard it is to learn for a speaker of English
Japanese also uses a symbolic alphabet, but the symbols themselves are sometime undecipherable in that even Japanese speakers will sometimes encounter written Japanese and will say that they don’t know how to pronounce it. I don’t mean that they mispronounce it; that would make sense. I mean they don’t have the slightest clue how to say the word! This problem is essentially nonexistent in a language like English.
The Japanese orthography is one of the most difficult to use of any orthography.
There are over 2,000 frequently used characters in three different symbolic alphabets that are frequently mixed together in confusing ways. Due to the large number of frequently used symbols, it’s said that even Japanese adults learn a new symbol a day a ways into adulthood.
The Japanese writing system is probably crazier than the Chinese writing system. Japanese borrowed Chinese characters. But then they gave each character several pronunciations, and in some cases as many as 24. Next they made two syllabaries using another set of characters, then over the next millenia came up with all sorts of contradictory and often senseless rules about when to use the syllabaries and when to use the character set. Later on they added a Romanization to make things even worse.
Chinese uses 5-6,000 characters regularly, while Japanese only uses around 2,000. But in Chinese, each character has only one or maybe two pronunciations. In Japanese, there are complicated rules about when and how to combine the hiragana with the characters. These rules are so hard that many native speakers still have problems with them. There are also personal and place names (proper nouns) which are given completely arbitrary pronunciations often totally at odds with the usual pronunciation of the character.
There are some writers, typically of literature, who deliberately choose to use kanji that even Japanese people cannot read. For instance, Ryuu  Murakami  uses the odd symbols 擽る、, 轢く、and 憑ける.
The Japanese system is made up of three different systems: the katakana and hiragana (the kana) and the kanji, similar to the hanzi used in Chinese. Chinese has at least 85,000 hanzi. The number of kanji is much less than that, but kanji often have more than one meaning in contrast to hanzi.
Speaking Japanese is not as difficult as everyone says, and many say it’s fairly easy. However, there is a problem similar to English in that one word can be pronounced in multiple ways, like read and read in English.
A common problem is that a perfectly grammatically correct sentence uttered by a Japanese language learner, while perfectly correct, is still not acceptable by Japanese speakers because “we just don’t say it that way.” The Japanese speaker often cannot tell why the unacceptable sentence you uttered is not ok. On the other hand, this problem may be common to more languages than Japanese.
There is also a class of Japanese called “honorifics” or “keigo” that is quite hard to master. Honorifics are meant to show respect and to indicate one’s place or status in the social hierarchy. These typically effect verbs but can also affect particles and prefixes. They are usually formed by archaic or highly irregular verbs. However, there are both regular and irregular honorific forms. Furthermore, there are five different levels of honorifics. Honorifics vary depending on who you are and who you are talking to. In addition, gender comes into play.
Although it is true the Japanese young people are said to not understand the intricacies of keigo, it is still expected that they know how to speak this well. Consequently, many young Japanese will opt out of certain conversations because they feel that their keigo is not very good. Books explaining how to use keigo properly have been big sellers among young people in Japan in recent years as young people try to appear classy, refined or cultured.
In addition, Japanese born overseas (especially in the US), while often learning Japanese pretty well, typically have a very poor understanding of keigo. Instead of embarrassing themselves by not using keigo or using it wrong, these Japanese speakers often prefer to speak in English to Japanese people rather than bother with keigo-less Japanese. Overcorrection in keigo is also a problem when hypercorrection leads to someone making errors in keigo due to “trying to hard.” This looks like phony or insincere politeness and is often worse than not using keigo at all.
One wild thing about Japanese is counting forms. You actually use different numeral sets depending on what it is you are counting! There are dozens of different ways of counting things which involve the use of a complex numerical noun classifier system.
Japanese grammar is often said to be simple, but that does not appear to be the case on closer examination. Particles are especially vexing. Verbs engage in all sorts of wild behavior, and adverbs often act like verbs. Meanwhile, honorifics change the behavior of all words. There are particles like ha and ga that have many different meanings. One problem is that all noun modifiers, even phrases, must precede the nouns they are modifying.
It’s often said that Japanese has no case, but this is not true. Actually, there are seven cases in Japanese. The aforementioned ga is a clitic meaning nominative, made is terminative case, -no is genitive and -o is accusative.
In this sentence:
The plane that was supposed to arrive at midnight, but which had been delayed by bad weather, finally arrived at 1 AM.
Everything underlined must precede the noun plane:
Was supposed to arrive at midnight, but had been delayed by bad weather, the plane finally arrived at 1 AM.

One of the main problems with Japanese grammar is that it is going to seem to so different from the sort of grammar and English speaker is likely to be used to.
Speaking Japanese is one thing, but reading and writing it is a whole new ballgame. It’s perfectly possible to know the meaning of every kanji and the meaning of every word in a sentence, but you still can’t figure out the meaning of the sentence because you can’t figure out how the sentence is stuck together in such a way as to create meaning.
However, Japanese grammar has the advantage of being quite regular. For instance, there are only four frequently used irregular verbs.
Like Chinese, the nouns are not marked for number or gender. However, while Chinese is forgiving of errors, if you mess up one vowel in a Japanese sentence, you may end up with incomprehension.
The real problem is that the Japanese you learn in class is one thing, and the Japanese of the street is another. One problem is that in street Japanese, the subject is typically not stated in a sentence. Instead it is inferred through such things as honorific terms or the choice of words you used in the sentence. Probably no one goes crazier on negatives than the Japanese. Particularly in academic writing, triple and quadruple negatives are common, and can be quite confusing.
Yet there are problems with the agglutinative nature of Japanese. It’s a completely different syntactic structure than English. Often if you translate a sentence from Japanese to English it will just look like a meaningless jumble of words.
Although many Japanese learners feel it’s fairly easy to learn, surveys of language professors continue to rate Japanese as one of the hardest languages to learn. A study by the US Navy concluded that the hardest language the corpsmen had to learn in the course of service was Japanese. However, it’s generally agreed that Japanese is easier to learn than Korean. Japanese speakers are able to learn Korean pretty easily.
Japanese is rated 5, hardest of all.
Classical Japanese is much harder to read than Modern Japanese. Though you can get by with much less kanji when reading the modern language, you will need a minimum knowledge of 3,000 kanji for reading Classical Japanese, and that’s using a dictionary. There are only about 500-1,000 frequently used characters, but there are countless other words that will come up in your reading especially say special words used in the Imperial Court. Many words have more than one meaning, and unless you know this, you will be lost. 東宮(とうぐう) for instance means Eastern Palace. However, it also means Crown Prince because his residence was to the east of the Emperor’s.
The movie The Seven Samurai (set in the late 1500’s) seems to use some sort of Classical Japanese, or at least Classical vocabulary and syntax with modern pronunciation. Japanese language learners say they can’t understand a word of the archaic Japanese used in this movie.
Classical Japanese gets 5, hardest of all.

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A Look at the Chinese Language

From here.
This post will look at how hard it is to learn Chinese for an English speaker.
It’s fairly easy to learn to speak Mandarin at a basic level, though the tones can be tough. This is because the grammar is very simple – short words, no case, gender, verb inflections or tense. But with Japanese, you can keep learning, and with Chinese, you hit a wall, often because the isolating syntactic structure is so strangely different from English.
Actually, the grammar is harder than it seems. At first it seems simple, like a simplified English with no tense or articles. But the simplicity makes it difficult. No tense means there is no easy way to mark time in a sentence. Furthermore, tense is not as easy as it seems. Sure, there are no verb conjugations, but instead you must learn some particles and special word orders that are used to mark tense.
Once you start digging into Chinese, there is a complex layer under all the surface simplicity. There are serial verbs, a complex classifier system, syntax marked by something called topic-prominence, preposed relative clauses, use of verbs rather than adverbs to mark direction, and all sorts of strange stuff. Verb complements can be baffling, especially potential and directional complements. The 了 character can have seemingly countless meanings. You also need to learn quite a bit of vocabulary just to speak simple sentences.
Chinese phonology is not as easy as some say. There are too many instances of the zh, ch, sh, j, q, and x sounds in the language such that many of the words seem to sound the same. There is a distinction between aspirated and nonaspirated consonants which does not exist in English.
Chinese orthography is probably the hardest orthography of any language. The alphabet uses symbols, so it’s not even a real alphabet. There are at least 85,000 symbols and actually many more (although this is controversial), but you only need to know about 4-6,000 of them, and many Chinese don’t even know 1,000. To be highly proficient in Chinese, you need to know 10,000 characters, and probably less than 5% of Chinese know that many.
The Communists tried to simplify the system (simplified Mandarin), but they simply decreased the number of strokes needed for each symbol. The Communists’ spelling reform left much to be desired.
To make matters worse, there are different ways to write each symbol – different styles of Chinese calligraphy. For instance, Classical Chinese may be written in so called “grass-style” calligraphy or in another style altogether.
It’s a real problem when you encounter a symbol you don’t know because there is often no good way to sound out the word as the system simply is not very phonetic. The Chinese alphabet is probably only 25% phonetic, and many frequently-used characters give tell you nothing about how to pronounce them. Further, you need to learn at least 300 characters before you can start to use the meager phonetics of the writing system at all.
Furthermore, word boundaries are not obvious, as one character does not necessarily equal one word. Therefore it is hard to tell where one word starts and stops and another one begins.
Similarly, a dictionary is not necessarily helpful when trying to read Chinese. You can have a Chinese sentence in front of you along with a dictionary, and the sentence still might not make sense even after looking it up in the dictionary.
Furthermore, merely learning how to look up words in the dictionary in the first place takes new Chinese learners several months and learning how to use a dictionary well is typically not possible until a year of study. Even people who have studied for several years sometimes encounter characters that they simply cannot find in the dictionary. In China, dictionary look-up contests are often held, showing that the process is not transparent at all.
A good student of Chinese often has more than one dictionary, and some have up to 20 different dictionaries. There are separate dictionaries for simplified and traditional characters and dictionaries that have both. There are entire dictionaries just for Classical Chinese particles and others for four character idioms (chéngyǔ), a type of allegorical sayings with two parts (xiēhòuyǔ), and another for proverbs (yànyǔ). There are separate dictionaries for terms that entered Chinese during the Chinese era and others for specifically Buddhist terms. There is an easier way to use a Chinese dictionary called four-part look-up, but it takes a long time to learn it and most learners never master it for whatever reason.
To solve all of these problems with the ideographic writing system, numerous romanization schemes have been invented. At last count, there were a dozen or so of them, but a number of those are rarely used. Certainly, there are 2-3 heavily used ones and that is not counting the bomofu phonetic alphabet used in Taiwan. One of the main problems with these romanization systems is that none of them are very good and they all have serious limitations. Furthermore, the romanization system you studied as a Chinese learner tends to affect your accent in Chinese.
Writing the characters is even harder than reading them. One wrong dot or wrong line either completely changes the meaning or turns the symbol into nonsense. The writing system is often so opaque that even native speakers forget how to write the characters of eve commonly used words.
Even leaving the characters aside, the stylistic and literary constraints required to write Chinese in an eloquent or formal (literary) manner would make your head swim. And just because you can read Chinese does not mean that you can read Classical Chinese (wenyanwen) prose. It’s actually written in a different language, so to learn to read Chinese properly like an educated Chinese person does, you will have to learn not one language but two.
One rejoinder is that Classical Chinese to Chinese people is similar to Greek and Latin to an English speaker, but this is a bad analogy, as Classical Chinese is widely studied in Chinese secondary schools and some of the finest Chinese prose is written in this language (see the Confucius and Mencius examples below). Further, after studying French for a few years, you should be able to read French authors who wrote 300 years ago, but after a similar period of studying Chinese, you will not be able to read Confucius or Mencius.
Hence most educated Chinese would be expected to know something about Classical Chinese, and if you wanted to learn Chinese like an educated Chinese speaker, you would have to learn this other language also.
In addition, you need to learn Classical Chinese even if you do not aspire to be an educated Chinese speaker because  one encounters Classical Chinese often in modern Chinese society, often in paintings or character scrolls.
The tones are often quite difficult for a Westerner to pick up. If you mess up the tones, you have said a completely different word. Often foreigners who know their tones well nevertheless do not say them correctly, and hence, they say one word when they mean another.
One problem with the tone system is that when you want to change the meaning of a sentence in a subtle manner via changing intonation of a word, you are bound to change the tone of the word in Chinese. Merely by placing semantic emphasis on a single word, you may deliver a gibberish sentence. Chinese speakers have their own way of using tone as a way of generating subtle semantic meaning, but they do so in an entirely different way than speakers of non-tonal languages do.
However, compared to other tone systems around the world, the tonal system in Chinese is comparatively easy.
A major problem with Chinese is homonyms. To some extent, this is true in many tonal languages. Since Chinese uses short words and is disyllabic, there is a limited repertoire of sounds that can be used. At a certain point, all of the sounds are used up, and you are into the realm of homophones.
Tonal distinctions are one way that monosyllabic and disyllabic languages attempt to deal with the homophone problem, but it’s not good enough, since Chinese still has many homophones even with the tones, and in that case, meaning is often discerned by context, stress, rhythm and intonation.
Chinese, like French and English, is heavily idiomatic.
It’s little known, but Chinese also uses different forms to count different things, like Japanese.
There is zero common vocabulary between English and Chinese, so you need to learn a whole new set of lexical forms and have no cognates to fall back on.
In addition, nouns often show relatedness or hierarchy. For instance, in English, you can simply say my brother or my sister, but in Chinese, you cannot do this. You have to indicate whether you are speaking of an older or younger sibling.
mei meiyounger sister
jie jie
older sister
ge ge
older brother
di di
younger brother
Many agree that Chinese is the hardest to learn of all of the major languages. In a recent international survey of language professors worldwide, these teachers rated Chinese as the hardest language to learn among languages that are commonly studied.
Mandarin gets a 5 rating for extremely hard.
However, Cantonese is even harder to learn than Mandarin. Cantonese has nine tones to Mandarin’s four, and in addition, they continue to use a lot of the older traditional Chinese characters that were superseded when China moved to a simplified script in 1949. Furthermore, since non-Mandarin characters are not standardized, Cantonese cannot be written down as it is spoken.
In addition, Cantonese has verbal aspect, possibly up to 20 different varieties. Modal particles are difficult in Cantonese. Clusters of up to the 3 sentence final particles are very common. 我食咗飯 and 我食咗飯架啦喎 are both grammatical for I have had a meal, but the particles add the meaning of I have already had a meal or answering a question or even to imply I have had a meal, so I don’t need to eat anymore.
Cantonese gets a 5.5 rating, close to hardest of all.
Min Nan is also said to be harder to learn than Mandarin, as it has a more complex tone system, with five tones on three different levels. Even many Taiwanese natives don’t seem to get it right these days, as it is falling out of favor and many fewer children are being raised speaking it than before.
Min Nan gets a 5.5 rating, close to hardest of all.
A recent 15 year survey out of Fudan University utilizing both the departments of Linguistics and Anthropology looked at 579 different languages in order to try to find the most complicated language in the world. The result was that a Wu language dialect (or perhaps a separate language) in the Fengxian district of Shanghai (Fengxian Wu) was the most complex language of all, with 20 separate vowels. The nearest competitor was Norwegian with 16 vowels.
Fengxian Wu gets a 5.5 rating, close to hardest of all.
Classical Chinese is still read by many Chinese people and Chinese language learners. Unless you have a very good grasp on modern Chinese, classical Chinese will be completely wasted on you. Classical Chinese is much harder to read than reading modern Chinese.
Classical Chinese covers an era extending over 3,000 years, and to attain a reading fluency in this language, you need to be familiar with all of the characters used during this period along with all of the literature of the period so you can understand all the allusions. Even with a knowledge of Classical Chinese, you need to read it in context. If you are good at Classical Chinese and someone throws you a random section of it, it will take you a good amount of time to figure it out unless you know context.
The language is much more to the point than Modern Chinese, but this is not as good as it sounds. This simplicity leaves a room for ambiguity and context plays an important role. A joke about some obscure historical or literary anecdote will be lost you unless you know what it refers to. For reading modern Chinese, you will need at least 5,000 characters, but even then, you will still need a dictionary. With Classical Chinese, there are no lower limits on the number of characters you need to know. The sky is the limit.
Classical Chinese gets a 5.5 rating, close to hardest of all.

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Evidence That Some Languages are Harder to Learn Than Others

From here and here.
The standard view in Linguistics is that there are no easy or hard languages for either children L1 learners or older and adult L2 learners. It is also said that all languages are equally complex and no language is more simple or more complex than any other. On its face, this seems preposterous, especially for L2 learners. Linguists say that it all depends on what L1 you are coming from.
There are anecdotal reports that Navajo children have a hard time learning Navajo as compared to children learning other languages, but Navajo kids definitely learn the language.
Reportedly, Nambikwara children do not pick up the language fully until age 10 or so, one of the latest recorded ages for full competence. Nambikwara is sometimes said to be the hardest language on Earth to learn, but it has some competition.
Adding weight to the commonly held belief that Arabic is hard to learn is research done in Germany in 2005 which showed that Turkish children learn their language at age 2-3, German children at age 4-5, but Arabic kids did not get Arabic until age 12.
This implies that from easiest to hardest, it is Turkish -> German -> Arabic.
Italian is still easier to learn than French, for evidence see the research that shows Italian children learning to write Italian properly by age 6, 6-7 years ahead of French children. So at least in terms of writing, it is much easier to learn to write Italian than it is to learn to write French.
Careful studies have shown that English-speaking children take longer to read than children speaking other languages (Finnish, Greek and various Romance and other Germanic languages) due to the difficulty of the spelling system. Romance languages were easier to read than Germanic ones. So in terms of learning to read, from easiest to hardest, it would be Romance languages -> Finnish/Greek -> Germanic languages except English -> English.
Suggesting that Danish may be harder to learn than Swedish or Norwegian, it’s said that Danish children speak later than Swedish or Norwegian children. One study comparing Danish children to Croatian tots found that the Croat children had learned over twice as many words by 15 months as the Danes. According to the study:

The University of Southern Denmark study shows that at 15 months, the average Danish toddler has mastered just 80 words, whereas a Croatian tot of the same age has a vocabulary of up to 200 terms.
[…] According to the study, the primary reason Danish children lag behind in language comprehension is because single words are difficult to extract from Danish’s slurring together of words in sentences. Danish is also one of the languages with the most vowel sounds, which leads to a ‘mushier’ pronunciation of words in everyday conversation.

Therefore, Danish is harder to learn to speak than Croatian, Norwegian or Swedish. From easiest to hardest to learn to speak, it is Norwegian/Swedish -> Danish and Croatian -> Danish.
Russian is harder to learn than English. We know this because Russian children take longer to learn their language than English speaking children do. The reason given was that Russian words tended to be longer, but there may be other reasons. So from easier to harder to speak, it is Russian -> English.
It is said English-speaking children reach full adult competency in the language (reading, writing, speaking, spelling) at age 12. Polish children do not reach this milestone until age 16. So from easier to harder, it would be Russian -> Polish -> English.
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An Anatolian Homeland For Indo-European?

That may be, but the part about “proto-Europeans” coming from the Lower Volga is bullshit. All archaeological, anthropological, linguistic, and genetic evidence (not to mention, evidence from indigenous pagan religions/mythologies) point to an Anatolian origin of the Indo-Europeans.

During the LGM, European hunter-gatherer groups gathered in some refugia in South Central Europe (Iberia, Western Balkans, Ukraine…) and Northern Europe was almost entirely covered in glaciers, as were the Alps, Caucasus, Pyrenees, and other major mountain ranges.

After the LGM, the scant remnant of Upper Paleolithic survivors moved back north, but Southern Europe was depopulated, only to be repopulated again by Near Eastern agriculturalists at the dawn of the Neolithic. These agro-pastoralists from the Anatolian-Levantine refugium brought farming, livestock, and copper to Europe. Among the earliest farmers were the Anatolian proto-Indo-Europeans.

The Basques are probably remnants of the Mesolithic survivor population. The purest descendants of these Near Eastern settlers are the Greeks, Albanians, Armenians, and at least some Italians – also the Turks, who inhabit the PIE origin land – ironically Turks, who speak a non-Indo-European Altaic language, are probably more Indo-European than most Indo-European speakers, especially Brits or Indians.

Of course, there were other migrations around that time. A people closely related to the Mongols expanded westward across Siberia, over the Urals and into Scandinavia following the deglaciation. They introduced Uralic languages (Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, Lappish) into Europe, and the Lapps are their most direct descendants.

But we have strong reason to believe that Indo-European spread from the Near East (most likely North-Central Anatolia) chiefly due to agriculture, not from Western Europe (as some White Nationalists might believe), from India/Pakistan (as many Hindu nationalists believe), or from Gimbutas’ fanciful Kurgan patriarchs (which Wikipedia deems as “official” and which you appear to take for granted).

[Actually, it surprises me that so many people take for granted some nutty hypothesis proposed by the Marxist-feminist Jewess Marija Gimbutas despite the lack of evidence or historical precedent. At least the Paleolithic Continuity Model is based on some evidence (albeit misinterpreted), and the Out-of-India hypothesis is based on understandable wishful thinking.]

Consider the following:

* As per your own model, virtually all Europeans cluster closely with each other and with Persians, Kurds, Caucasus folks, Jews, Turks, and some Semitic-speaking Levantines. Basques, North Africans, Arabs, and “West Asians” (i.e. Afghans) are minor outliers.

This interrelatedness suggests a strong demic diffusion and also implies that the stat that Europeans are 80% Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic remnants but only 20% Neolithic colonists is considerably off. How else do you explain that Europeans are generally closer to Iranians than to Basques?

* While Indo-Europeans are/were indeed fairly heavily male-dominated (Gimbutas was at least correct about this), this follows from a Near Eastern origin, as the Middle East was, and still is, very patriarchal. Ironically, Gimbutas located the homeland of those “evil patriarchal invaders” who decimated the “feminist utopia” that neolithic European society (allegedly) was in Scythia, which is believed to be the source of the Amazon legends…

* Indo-European languages show relatively strong affinities to Semitic languages, and probably Kartvelian and Pelasgian languages (the latter may have actually been Indo-European, related to Hittite), possibly Ligurian (probably Indo-European and related to both Celtic and Italic languages), and even Etruscan (controversially). No such closeness to Iberian (Basque), Ural-Altaic, or Dravidian languages.

* The oldest evidence of Indo-European languages comes from Anatolia (Hittite) and the Aegean (Greek in Linear B). Minoan (in Linear A) remains undeciphered and may have been related. Archaeological records demonstrate a settled native population.

* Even the pagan religions seem to cluster near the Anatolian center. Zoroastrianism and the Indic religions both descend from the Indo-Aryan religion, but the Persian religion is more similar to ancient European religious traditions than the Dharmic faiths are (because Hinduism absorbed some Harappan/Dravidian pre-Aryan influences.)

Greco-Roman and Germanic religions were more alike than either was akin to Celtic (Druidic) paganism, the Celts being more matriarchal and probably influenced by relatives of the Basques in Western Europe and the British Isles.

All this points to an origin for Indo-European in Neolithic Anatolia, but you are probably correct that the Aryans (Indo-Iranians, not blonde Germanic supermen) came into Iran and India via Central Asia. Most likely route being a clockwise migration around the Caspian Sea…

Excellent commentary, fascinating stuff.

I actually agree with an Anatolian homeland for PIE, however, I also agree with a secondary spread from the Lower Volga. So things are complicated. In fact, I argue that Indo-European is actually Indo-Hittite, with Anatolian being so far removed from the rest that it is actually a sister to the rest of the family. Just a look at Hittite shows you how archaic it is compared to the rest of the family.

The part about the Turks, Greeks, Albanians, Armenians, and at least some Italians being the remnants of the original IE people is probably true. So, in a sense, these are really the “original Whites.” Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Nordicists.

Gimbutas’ theory has always ween a bit nutty. There were no ancient matriarchies. As a female friend once said, men have always ruled. Why? She answered, “Men are bigger, men are stronger, men push women around and make them do what they want them to do.” Well, of course, and women are too weak to fight back.

As it is now, as it’s always been. In gender relations, it’s the law of the jungle. I also feel that matriarchies might have been inherently unstable, as I’m not sure that “female rule” works very well. We are having enough problems with what matriarchy we have in the West.

Patriarchy or male rule is sort of a bad deal for women, but at least it seems to “work.” And I have noticed that women from patriarchal cultures seem to be happiest in their femininity and in general. The men are masculine, the women are feminine, and everyone’s happy.

The more women rule, the more miserable women seem to be, and men never seem to be happy under female rule. For one thing, oddly enough, female rule tends to make women act masculine and men act feminine.

Neither is a normal role model, and I argue that the more masculine a woman is, the more unhappy she is, and the more feminine a man is, the more unhappy he is. That ‘s possibly because they are violating nature itself. When you do that, nature fights back, possibly by making you miserable.

Surely IE is related to Afro-Asiatic and Kartvelian, but I disagree that it is less related to Uralic or Altaic, and I also disagree that Uralic and Altaic represent some family. Ligurian and Pelasgian are probably IE, but no one knows what Etruscan is.

I definitely agree that almost all Europeans are quite close to Persians, Kurds, Caucasus folks, Jews, Turks, and some Semitic-speaking Levantines. It is interesting how close the Caucasians are to each other. Most Caucasians are much closer to each other than other major races are. There is much larger differentiation among NE and SE Asians, Aborigines, Papuans and for sure Africans than there is among Caucasians.

All around, a great comment. The rest of you may feel free to chime in if you have any thoughts or anything to add.

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