The three greatest novels in the English language in the last 170 years are the following:
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. Ulysses, by James Joyce. Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon.
I’ve read the first and the last and only read a tiny bit of the second. However, I have read Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man twice, and I’ve also read Dubliners, his collection of short stories. Both are highly recommended. I’ve dipped into Finnegans Wake, but it makes no sense to me, sorry. Nevertheless a copy sits on my shelf for the last 40 years, mocking me for being too stupid to understand it.
Of the first, I have also read Bartleby the Scrivener, a novella. Highly recommended.
Of the third author, I have also read three of his other novels V., The Crying of Lot 49, and Vineland. I’ve also read a collection of short stories called Slow Learner, a nonfiction piece called A Journey into the Mind of Watts, and a couple of book reviews.
If you have read anything by any of these three authors or have anything to say about any of them, feel free to let us know in the comments.
If you want to know why Moby Dick makes the list, simply consider this passage below, which also has echoes in much of Pynchon’s writing. It’s pretty incredible that he was writing like this in 1851. I can now understand much more of what he was getting at than when I first read this. As a hint, replace “necessity,” the 19th Century use of which correlates to our determinism.
I suppose Wikipedia should explain it pretty well, but fate, mixed with a notion of genetics, biology, universal culture, the constancy and cycles of history, human nature itself, and Natural Law, or the laws of God on this planet, all play a role. Positioned against determinism is the wild card of free will, about which endless discussions flow, mostly about just how much of it we have anyway.
The nature/nurture debate comes in here too, but nature can be as determined as biology, though I object to the strong determinist theory about life events.
All sorts of different events effect all sorts of different people in all sorts of different ways, often having to do with your culture. For instance, we now have behaviors which for 99% of human history were considered completely normal and non-pathological. These things happened to people, and everyone assumed it was the same state of affairs, so no one was especially damaged in any particular way, since claiming you were damaged by completely normal behavior makes you seem like a kook.
Now, this behavior, which never damaged a single human ever, is seen to be, in a deterministic sense, completely damaging in the same way to all who undergo it, and furthermore, the damage is permanent and lifelong. This behavior that was considered harmless when I was growing up 40 years ago is now thought to cause horrendous damage. Whole industries are set up to deal with the fake damage caused by this harmless behavior.
Humans are not real complex.
You tell people an experience is completely normal, and most will think of it as such, even if it is traumatizing.
You take the same behavior and tell the same people that is now terribly damaging for the rest of your life, and you now produce millions of people with fake damage from a harmless behavior.
Now this damage is quite real, but we must note that the person only got damaged because you told them it was damaging! The person experienced the behavior, thought little of it, the behavior was uncovered, everyone around the person screamed about what a terrible and traumatic crime had been done to them that would cause them horrible damage, and the person simply decided of their own free will to create damage in themselves. But even this is somewhat determined because it’s determined by society, as the free will with which they created their own damage was in a sense determined by society.
True free will is a wild card and does not exit. It says I can walk out into the world and do anything I am capable of and have people react the way I want them to. That won’t happen now, and it never would have in the past. Further, many of the things I think I should be good at, I’m not good at anymore, probably because my behavior has become determined as a result of whatever biology and experience has done to my brain, which has created a rather limiting brain that is pretty limited in the behaviors it can pull off and get away with. I’m hamstrong by genes and biology. I don’t have free will at all. I can’t do what I want.
Anyway, this is something like what Melville was getting at here, a long 170 years ago, and it shows why his book makes my best three list for the last 200 years:
I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat.
As I kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did there then reign all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates.
There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads.
Meantime, Queequeg’s impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage’s sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance – aye, chance, free will, and necessity – no wise incompatible – all interweavingly working together.
The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course – its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events.
Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a sound so strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that the ball of free will dropped from my hand, and I stood gazing up at the clouds whence that voice dropped like a wing. High aloft in the cross-trees was that mad Gay-Header, Tashtego. His body was reaching eagerly forward, his hand stretched out like a wand, and at brief sudden intervals he continued his cries.
To be sure the same sound was that very moment perhaps being heard all over the seas, from hundreds of whalemen’s look-outs perched as high in the air; but from few of those lungs could that accustomed old cry have derived such a marvelous cadence as from Tashtego the Indian’s.
As he stood hovering over you half suspended in air, so wildly and eagerly peering towards the horizon, you would have thought him some prophet or seer beholding the shadows of Fate, and by those wild cries announcing their coming. There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!”
I got this from a paper on Academia. We see many typical arguments here against the use of dialects and sub-languages of the main prescriptive official language – that speaking them indicates that one is rural, uneducated, backwards, stupid, and not modern, cool, hip, urban, intelligent, and educated. Hence this process of wanting to dissociate with the old backwards ways and associate with the new modern ways continues today.
I was involved for a bit with a German woman in the US. She spoken Hessian, which is actually a separate language under the rubric of High German or Standard German. It is spoken in the Hesse, a wine-growing region in the central-west. She still spoke Hessian, but she told me it was not popular for the reasons above – it meant you were backwards, stupid and uneducated.
We see also the unifying effect of the Jacobin French Revolution, one of the most progressive revolutions the world had seen up until that time. In fact the American and French revolutions were modeled on each other. This was a progressive, modernizing revolution the likes of which had never been seen before. Egalite, liberte, and fraternite – Equality, freedom, and fraternity. It was also quite anti-religious, giving rise to something called laicism or extreme secularism in France.
The idea was to unify all Frenchmen under a single language. The local patois in addition to the other languages non-related to French such as Flemish, Basque, Catalan, the various Occitan and Arpetin languages, Breton, Alsatian, Moselle Franconian, etc. were seen as impeding in particular the fraternite or assimilitory aspects of the Revolution. They also kept people backwards, stupid and perhaps even promoted inequality and lack of freedom, both of which were associated with the ancien regime.
We also see how the local patois were tied into the land, the landscape, the stars, the times of day, the seasons, the foods, the plants and animals, the very lifeblood of the people. To uproot the patois would be to destroy people’s intimate connection with all of these things.
As all of these earthly connections were considered the realm of savagery – after all, the modern man was to liberate himself from the natural world and rule over or move beyond it – the civilization versus savagery motif also came into play. As you can see, lack of patois was seen as due to healthier lives, better food and water, more human interaction, and more money and higher level of civilization. Patois was associated with poor food and water, even poor weather, lack of sociability, poverty, and lack of integration into the monied economy.
In epistemological terms the aim of Modernity is unequivocally to do away with the Old World, and the French Revolution provided precisely that opportunity. In order to align nature with productive forces, existing environmental regulations had to be done away with at the end of the 18th century (Chappey & Vincent, 2019, p. 109).
Not coincidentally it was also at that same period, from 1790 on, that the Revolutionary governments of France sought to survey the use of ‘patois’ in order to uproot them and replace them with the language of Reason (Certeau, Julia, & Revel, 1975) or at least a revolutionary version of it (Steuckardt, 2011). In line with the Ideologues’ project, this linguistic project was devised to gain knowledge and use this knowledge to transform (and improve) living conditions in the country.
So next, language.
Nowhere is the pre-modern vernacular connection between language and what we now call ‘nature’ better expressed than in a response given to Grégoire’s 1790 survey on patois by the Société des Amis de la Constitutions of Perpignan, in the Catalan-speaking part of France. Asked about how to eradicate the local patois, they retorted:
To destroy it, one would have to destroy the sun, the freshness of the nights, the kind of foods, the quality of waters, man in its entirety. (Certeau et al., 1975, p. 182).
Conversely, in a 1776 account of life in Burgundy, Rétif de la Bretonne accounted for the lack of patois in the village of Nitry in contrast with surrounding areas by resorting to natural explanations: purer air, better grains producing better bread, dairy products, superior eggs, and animal flesh. All those elements were then correlated with the practice of commerce, which brought inhabitants in contact with other localities and generated the need to speak politely (Certeau et al., 1975, pp. 277–278).
In the next village of Saci [where patois was apparently still spoken] one mile away, however, stagnant waters caused the air to be “devouring,” and the local inhabitants to be “heavy, ruminative, and taciturn” (ibid. 278).
In France, the patois are forms of non-language that index a state of wilderness and superstition and point to the savage (Certeau et al., 1975, Chapter 8) – forms of knowledge and practices which were to be uprooted pointing to an absence of a rational outlook on the world and a lack of industriousness (Bonneuil & Fressoz, 2016) and lust for more money over time.
In that particular view, the patois are immediately transparent forms of language: they are isomorphous with nature and with emotions. Along with the ways of life of their speakers and mores, they are susceptible to description in the natural science sense of the term: mere mechanical facts to be described (Certeau et al., 1975, p. 154). In this representation, mores are opposed to civilization (ibid. 155), rurality to urban life, and patois to language; access to language is thus tantamount to access to civilization.
I was involved with a German woman a while back who came from a part of Germany called Hesse. I asked about Palatinian, the language directly to the south spoken in and around Frankfurt in the Rhine River Valley. I asked if she could understand them, and she said,
If they don’t want you to understand them, you won’t understand them!
This shows how speakers of closely related dialects and languages can adjust their speech to become more or less intelligible to each other based on whether they wish to be either understood or not understood.
Many people in Germany say there are no more dialects or sublanguages and that everyone can understand everyone. I beg to disagree. For instance, an informant from a village 10 miles north of Frankfurt said that if he spoke the dialect of his village (technically simply a dialect of the Palatine language Frankfurtisch spoken in Frankfurt) in the city of Frankfurt, he will not be understood! In order to be fully understood, he would either have to speak Frankfurtisch Proper, the language of the city, or Hochdeutsch, the official language of the country.
If even dialects within “dialects of German” 10 miles away from each other can’t understand each other, I really doubt that the dialect situation in Germany is dead and they can all understand each other!
This is an example of a single purported etymology by Alan Bomhard. Keep in mind that according to standard Historical Linguistics, none of these forms across families have anything to do with each other. And Elamo-Dravidian and Altaic supposedly do not even exist, though I think they do. In addition, all of these forms are part of a purported family called Nostratic. The standard view in Linguistics is that Nostratic is some sort of a pathetic joke. But as you can see below, I think there’s something to it. People looking for links between major language families are called “long-rangers” or “lumpers.”
But the field is run by extremely conservative splitters who have set up some difficult standards to prove language families are related to each other that they have effectively made it all but impossible to prove new families or show relationships between existing families. In addition, they don’t want any new families or families related to other families. They want to freeze this enterprise in time exactly where it is. I find that disturbing to say the least! How many sciences have decided, “Ok we’re already proved all there is to prove here so we’re not going to accept any new conclusions in this field. That’s quite disturbing right there.
So the standard view in Linguistics is none of these forms across the major language families delineated by numbers are related. I beg to differ. This does look like a similar form. Problem is that you can cook up lists like this that are entirely spurious. In addition, there is no way to prove much of anything in this field because we weren’t around when these languages were being spoken and most never got written down. So it’s all speculative, even the Indo-European forms. They’re more best guesses than anything else.
Our task is to go through these lists and see if we are dealing with actual related forms here or just mirages.
Thought you might be interested because this is something most of you don’t know about.
A. Proto-Afrasian *p[a]t’- ‘(vb.) to hasten, to move quickly; (n.) foot’: Proto-Semitic *pat’-an- ‘to be quick, rapid, fast’ > Geez / Ethiopic faṭana [ፈጠነ] ‘to be fast, to be swift, to hurry, to be in a hurry, to be prompt, to speed up’; Tigrinya fäṭänä ‘to be rapid’; Harari fäṭäna ‘to be fast, quick, rapid’; Gurage fäṭänä ‘to be fast, quick’; Amharic fäṭṭänä ‘to be fast, quick’. Egyptian pd ‘foot, knee’, pd ‘to run away, to flee, to hasten’; Coptic pat [pat] ‘leg, shin, knee, foot’, pōt [pwt] ‘to run, to flee’.
B. Elamo-Dravidian: Middle Elamite ba-at, pa-at ‘foot; under’.
C. Proto-Indo-European *pʰet’-/*pʰot’- ‘foot’: Sanskrit pā́t ‘foot’ (gen. sg. padáḥ), padám ‘step, footstep, position, site’; Greek πούς ‘foot’ (gen. sg. ποδός), πέδον ‘the ground, earth’; Armenian otn ‘foot’, het ‘footprint’; Latin pēs ‘foot’ (gen. sg. pedis); Umbrian peřum, persom-e ‘ground’; Gothic fōtus ‘foot’; Old Icelandic fet ‘place, step’, fótr ‘foot’; Swedish fot ‘foot’; Norwegian fot ‘foot’; Danish fod ‘foot’; Old English fōt ‘foot’; Old Frisian fōt ‘foot’; Old Saxon fōt, fuot ‘foot’; Old High German fuoz ‘foot’ (New High German Fuß); Lithuanian pãdas ‘sole of foot’; Hittite pí-e-da-an ‘place’; Cuneiform Luwian pa-ta-a-aš ‘foot’; Lycian pddãt- ‘place’, pddẽn- ‘place, precinct’; Tocharian A pe, B paiyye ‘foot’, A päts, B patsa ‘bottom’.
D. (?) Yukaghir (Northern / Tundra) petnu- ‘to crawl, to go on all fours’, petteŋ ‘crawling’.
E. Proto-Altaic *pʰēta- ‘(vb.) to step, to walk; to hasten, to hurry; (n.) step, pace’: Proto-Tungus *pete- ‘to run quickly, to hurry; to jump’ > Evenki hetekēn- ‘to run quickly, to hurry’; Lamut / Even heteken- ‘to run quickly, to hurry’; Ulch peten- ‘to jump’; Orok potčo- ‘to jump’; Nanay / Gold petēn- ‘to jump’; Negidal χeteχen- ‘to jump’; Oroch χete- ‘to jump’; Udihe χetigen-e- ‘to jump’. Proto-Mongolian *(h)ada- ‘to hurry’ > Mongolian adaɣa- ‘to hurry, to speed, to strive’, adaɣam ‘hurry, speed’; Khalkha adga- ‘to hurry’; Kalmyk adɣə- ‘to hurry’, adm ‘hurry, speed’. Proto-Turkic *āt- ‘(vb.) to walk, to step; (n.) step, pace’ > Turkish adım ‘step, pace’; Azerbaijani adïm ‘step, pace’; Turkmen (dial.) āt-, ǟt-, ǟt-le- ‘to step’, ādïm ‘step, pace’; Uzbek ɔdim (dial. adïm) ‘step, pace’; Uighur atli- ‘to step’; Karaim adïm ‘step, pace’; Tatar atla- ‘to step’, adïm ‘step, pace’; Bashkir atla- ‘to step’, aðïm ‘step, pace’; Kirghiz atta- ‘to step’, adïm ‘step, pace’; Kazakh atla- ‘to step’, adïm ‘step, pace’; Noghay atla- ‘to step’, adïm ‘step, pace’; Chuvash ot-‘to walk’, odъm ‘step, pace’; Yakut atïllā- ‘to step’; Dolgan atïllā- ‘to jump, to hop’.
Gus Love: No, the Aragonese language looks different. I might put up a sample sometime. This is Catalan. Occitan looks different but I’m not sure how different or in what way. I’ve seen quite a bit of Occitan writing but that was a while back.
This is Catalan. Occitan looks different but I’m not sure how different or in what way. I’ve seen quite a bit of Occitan writing but that was a while back. There is a type of Occitan, the western half of which is nothing but Catalan. The eastern half of that Occitan language is not fully intelligible with Catalan. This is the Occitan language that is spoken across the border from Catalonia. I am not talking about Northern Catalan or French Catalan. That’s also spoken across the border but that’s more over by the coast.
No, the Aragonese language looks different. Aragonese looks much more Castillian and it’s not nearly as Frenchified as Catalan. The Kingdom of Aragon never came under the influence of France. Aragonese is spoken in the Pyrenees on the west side of those mountains. On the French side it’s not even French. It’s Occitan. For instance, Aranese Occitan is intelligible with Comminghese Occitan across the border in France. The Pyrenees are very high mountains, and they probably served as a barrier to French influence.
There were different lects of Macro-Spanish spoken in the various kingdoms in France. Aragonese was spoken in the Kingdom of Aragon. Asturian was spoken in the Kingdom of Asturias. Castillian split away from all of them around 1100 and started expanding south from its homeland in Cantabria on the north coast. It was a crapshoot fora while which kingdom would come to rule Spain and supplant the others. It turns out that the kingdom of Castille and Leon won the contest but it could just as easily have been the kingdoms of Aragon or Asturias.
Asturian-Leonese has been split from Castillian for 900 years. Aragonese split off much later around 1600. It used to be spoken in all of Aragon but Castillian took over Southern and Central Aragon, and Aragonese was relegated to the hinterlands of the inaccessible Pyrenees Mountains where it still holds out. There are children coming to school as Aragonese monolinguals in one town to this very day.
This man was a famous Professor of Latin at a prominent university such as Harvard, Yale, Oxford, or Cambridge. He was born ~90 years before into a “royalist” family in Budapest, Hungary and he was raised speaking Latin and I’m not sure what else as a first language. Both of his parents spoke Latin and Latin was the usual language of the home. He said that around 1850 in this part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Latin was still fairly widely spoken as a native language among this very wealthy elite cohort of people with royal blood. Perhaps they lived in castles, who knows? You may be able to find more on him in Wiki.
I know that ~1850, in Zagreb, Croatia, if you went into a bookstore, most of the books would be in German and Latin. Few people could read and write then, and Kaykavian was actually the official language of Croatia as official “Serbo-Croatian” – really Shtokavian – was not even created until decades hence by Vuk based on the Shtokavian dialect of Eastern Herzegovina. The academic journals in this part of the world, especially the former Yugoslavia, to this day often have Latin names.
Latin is the official language of the Vatican, but I think it is only used for writing. I’ve heard it’s not spoken. Also it is only learned as a second language there.
Faggots are “sticks.” Like bundles of sticks as in the fasces bundles that the Romans had. From faggots meaning sticks to fag meaning a “stick” = “cigarette” because a cigarette is shaped like a stick is a logical semantic progression.
I don’t know how faggot and fag for cigarette went to male homosexual though. I used to have a book called The Dictionary of American Slang that might answer that question.
Queer went to male homosexual because this behavior was seen as odd or twisted.
Bent is a British term for male homosexual along the same lines – that their behavior was “twisted” or “bent” away from the norm.
Fruit went to male homosexual because it has feminine connotations as in fruity.
Homo is an obvious shortening of the word homosexual.
Poof comes from poofter, a British term for a male homosexual. I am not sure what it means although the word itself sounds feminine.
Slang Words for Unmasculine Heterosexual Men
Wuss, pussy, sissy, mangina, soyboy, soy (adjective), girlyman, girl, woe-man, cuck, wimp, etc. all imply an unmasculine man but generally not a homosexual per se. The general connotation is an unmasculine heterosexual man. Those words are used by masculine straight men towards other men they wish to shame and call unmasculine for whatever reasons. It’s generally a way of policing masculinity, which is something I don’t necessarily object to although I don’t exactly engage in it myself because I don’t care if men are unmasculine as long as they leave the rest of us men alone.
Pussy is a word for female genitalia that got generalized into a slur against men who act like women. By associating him with female genitalia, you are calling him a woman.
Sissy may have derived from the word sister. Implies a man who acts like a woman, like your sister.
Mangina is a play on the word vagina, apparently implying a man with a vagina.
Soyboy and soy are references to the estrogenic qualities in soybeans, although it’s uncertain whether soybeans have the reported feminizing effect on men that they are rumored to have. Perhaps they do. So they’re saying he’s a man with too much estrogen who’s been rendered unmasculine in this way, in other words, a feminized man.
Girlyman is a combination of the words girly and man. Girly implies acting like a girl or a woman. The implication is a man who is acting like a woman.
Woe-man takes the word man and adds a “woe” onto it, turning the word man into the word woman. It’s saying he’s not a man. He’s really a woman.
Wimp is a word of unknown provenance. There was a man named “Wimpy” in the old Popeye cartoons, but I believe he was a big, strong guy. Perhaps it was meant to be ironic. The word sounds like the word limp, implying a limp penis or a man who is impotent and unable to have sex with a woman. Perhaps it is limp with a w replacing the l, the w as a stand-in for the word woman.
Cuck is from cuckold, a man whose wife is cheating on him with another man. In Shakespeare’s times, it was said that a man like this had “horns,” and a popular insult was to put a pair of horns by putting the index and middle fingers up over the man’s back of a man’s head when he was not looking. Apparently this is a reference to being a goat, and a goat somehow meant a man who is getting cuckolded. There are jokes in Shakespeare about this referring to men who “have horns.” Perhaps the word horny meaning sexually aroused also somehow derived from this word. It was a severe insult and boiled down to fighting or even killing words.
This is reflected in the supreme insult cabron, a Spanish word meaning a male goat from cabra = goat. It is an extreme insult to call a man a cabron, fighting or even killing words. It is also used by Spanish speaking women to mean bastard, sonofabitch, scumbag, asshole, lowlife, etc. generally referring to a masculine man who doesn’t treat women real well and is a bastard or is mean to women.
I remember a Spanish speaking woman once got furious at me after we had sex. Apparently we had engaged in a sex act that she didn’t want to engage in, and she was furious about that. No, I didn’t ask her if she wanted to do it. I just did it LOL. She acted like she wanted to hit me, and it seemed she was holding everything back from punching me. She was calling me “Cabron!” and she almost spit out the word when she said it.
I told my Spanish speaking friend at the local store that I was a good person, but I wasn’t a good person when it came to women because I didn’t treat them real well. I really do love women more than anything else in the whole world, and then on the other hand, I admit don’t treat them very well. He smiled, laughed, and shrugged his shoulders, acting like this was just fine. He referred to this behavior as being a “cabron” = a “bastard to women.” So it has that connotation too, the opposite, instead of a weak man who is cuckolded by his woman with stronger men, the meaning also is a masculine man who is “a bastard to women.”
I don’t like to attack men for being unmasculine because I’ve experienced quite a bit of abuse along those lines myself, and plus I don’t really care if men are masculine or not. That’s their business. Generally speaking it’s better to be masculine because women absolutely demand it (they are far worse about it than men), and you are hurting yourself by not manning up, but it’s not really my problem. Besides there are quite a few unmasculine men out there and perhaps for many of them it’s normal, natural behavior. I’m going to join in with the bullies and beat them for not manning up. They’re going to get pummeled their whole lives by women over this anyway. Why add insult to injury for the poor guys.
I only use those words towards straight men who are the enemies of the men who are working with the feminists to try to fire us from our jobs, destroy our careers and throw us in jail or prison for the crime of trying to get laid or God forbid actually getting laid. No real man tries to stop another man from getting laid. That’s so cucked and gay.
Real men don’t cockblock other men and white knight for women. That girlyman behavior. What are you, a girl? That’s the main question here. The feminists never would have gotten away for their all out War on Straight Men if it wasn’t for so many straight male sissies who helped them. Just pathetic the way so many “men” have sold out their brothers and gone over to the side of the women. In the War of the Sexes, you’re generally supposed to support your own gender, especially where it is being wronged. You don’t go over to the enemy.
Warning: Long, runs to 57 pages. This article is intended at the moment more for the general audience than for specialists, but specialists may also find it of interest. At the moment, it is not properly formatted or edited to be of use for publication in an academic journal, but perhaps it could be published in such a format some day.
For background into what Historical Linguistics is, see this Wikipedia article. Basically it involves determining which languages are related to each other via various means and once that is determined, reconstructing a proto-language that the related languages descended from, along with, hopefully, regular sound correspondences which supposedly proves the relationship once and for all. The argument in Historical Linguistics now is between conservatives or splitters or progressives or lumpers.
Splitters say that the comparative method – described above as reconstructing a proto-language with regular sound correspondences – is necessary in order to prove that two or more languages are related. However, they also say, probably correctly, that this method is not useful beyond ~6,000 years. Any relationships beyond that time frame would not be provable by the comparative method and hence could never be proven. This effectively shuts down all research into long-range older language families.
Some lumpers say that this method is not necessary and instead relationships can be determined by simply looking at the two or more languages, a process called comparison or mass comparison. I point out below that comparison need not be cursory but could mean deep study of languages over 10, 15, or 20 years.
They tend to focus on core vocabulary, numerals, family terms, pronouns, and deictics, in addition to small morphological particles – all things that are rarely borrowed. Once they find a number of these items that resemble one another greater than chance, they say that the two languages are related because chance and borrowing are ruled out.
They say that this is the way to prove language relatedness, not the comparative method. The comparative method instead is used to learn interesting things about language families that have already been discovered via comparison, such as reconstructing proto-languages and finding regular sound correspondences.
Splitters say that comparison or mass comparison is not a valid way of proving that languages are related and that only the comparative method can be used to prove this. However, as noted, they set a 6,000- year time limit on the method needed to prove this, and this walls off a lot of potential knowledge and about ancient and long-range language relationships as unprovable and hence undiscoverable. In a way, they are shutting the door to new scientific discovery beyond a certain time frame by claiming that the method needed to make these discoveries doesn’t work beyond X thousand years.
Other lumpers disagree that the comparative method has a time limit on it and are attempting to use the comparative method to reconstruct ancient long-range language families and find regular sound correspondences between them. Unfortunately, most of their efforts are in vain as splitters are using increasingly strict criteria for proof of language relationship and hence are shooting down most if not all of these efforts being done “in the proper way.”
So they are saying that proof must be done in a certain way, but when people try to play by the rules and use that way to find proof, they keep moving the goalposts and using increasingly strict, petty, and quibbling methods to in general say that the relationship is not proven.
So the say, “You must use this tool for your proof!” And then people play fair and use the tool, and almost always say, “Sorry, you didn’t prove it!” It all feels like a game that is rigged to fail is most if not all cases.
Hence, the current trend of extreme conservatism in Historical Linguistics has set up rules seem to be designed to prevent the discovery of most if not all new language families, in particular long-range families older than 6-8,000 years.
I am quite certain that long-range language families such as Altaic (with either three families or five), Indo-Uralic, Uralic-Yukaghir, Hokan, Penutian, Mosan, Almosan, Japanese-Korean, Gulf, Yuki-Gulf, Elamite-Dravidian, Quechumaran, Austroasiatic-Hmong Mien, Coahuiltecan, North Caucasian, or Na-Dene will never be proven in my lifetime, and that’s not to mention the more extreme proposals such as Eurasiatic, Nostratic, Dene-Caucasian, Austric, and Amerind, although the evidence for the first and last of these is quite powerful.
There are simply too many emotions tied up in any of these proposals. Further, many linguists have spent a good part of their careers arguing against these proposals. It is doubtful that any amount of evidence will cause them to change their minds. Scientists, like any other humans, don’t like to be shown that they’re wrong.
Lyle Campbell, Maryanne Mithun, Mauricio Mixco, Sarah Grey Thomason, Joanna Nichols, William Poser, Peter Daniels, Dell Hymes, Larry Trask, Gerrit Dimmendaal, Donald Ringe, Juha Janhunen, William Bright, and Paul Sidwell are among the leaders of this new conservatism.
At first I was very angry at what these people were doing, especially the most egregious cases such as Campbell. Then I realized that people lie and misrepresent things all day long every single day in my life and that this behavior is fairly normal behavior in humans, especially in a mushy area like this one where hard truths are hard to come by and most stated facts are more properly matters of opinion or could be construed that way.
I realized that they are simply defending a scientific paradigm and that unfortunately, this is the rather underhanded and emotion-ridden environment that defending paradigms tends to produce.
Though to be completely honest, I should not be singling these people out because the current conservatism is simply consensus and acts as the current paradigm on the language relatedness question in Historical Linguistics. The people listed above are at the top of the profession and are often considered the best historical linguists. They write books on historical linguistics. A number are considered to be ultimate authorities on questions of language relatedness. They are simply the leading edge of the current conservative consensus and paradigm in the field.
Although granted, of all of them, Campbell seems to be the most extreme conservative. He is also one of the top historical linguists in the world. Mixco, Mithun, and Poser are about on the same level as Campbell.
Campbell, Mithun, Thomason, and Mixco are Americanists whose conservatism was set off by the publication of Joseph Greenberg’s Language in the Americas (LIA) in 1987.
All of the linguists above are noted for the excellent scholarship.
The conservatives who are denying most if not all new families are are called splitters.They tend to be very angry if not out and out abusive, engaging in bullying, mockery, ridicule, ostracization, and all of the usual techniques used in science against the proposers of a new paradigm.
The people who propose long-range families are called lumpers. Lumpers are heavily disparaged in the field nowadays such that almost no one wants to be known as a lumper or associated with such. However, many other historical linguists seem to be taking a more moderate fence-sitter stance where they are open to questions of new language families, including long-range families.
Among the long-range families that the moderates are open to considering nowadays are Indo-Uralic, Dene-Yenisien, and Austro-Tai. Some of the smaller long-range families in the Americas even have supporters among the most hardline of splitters. I’m even dubious about well-argued proposals such as Dene-Yenisien.
Thomason takes extreme umbrage to the notion that splitters have a bias that will not allow few if any new families to be discovered after Greenberg compared them with Malcolm Guthrie’s objections to Greenberg’s new classification of Bantu. However, after thinking this over for some time now, I now believe that Greenberg is correct. The splitters have their minds made up. They are going to allow few if any new families to be discovered. A few of them have caved a bit.
I also work in mental health, and it’s pretty obvious to me when something is not right about a scientific debate. I’ve been getting that vibe about the splitters versus lumpers debate from the very start. When a debate in science has degenerated into bias, ideology and ideologues, propaganda, politics, and in particular extreme emotion, it gives off a certain intuitive feel about it. This debate has felt this way from Day One. To put it simply, the debate simply doesn’t smell right. I have a feeling that science left the room along time ago here.
One thing I noticed was that people who have worked on one particular language or family for much of their careers are especially angry and aggressive about the notion that their family could possibly be related to anything else. Indeed famous linguists were remarking on this tendency as early as 1901. Among the reasons given was that they had their hands full already without new work to take on and a disinclination to see their language family related to anything else as this would deny its specialness.
Trask is forceful that Basque could not possibly have any outside relatives.
I saw a debate on the Net some years ago with Trask and a Spanish assistant holding court over a debate over the external relations of Basque. Those who argued for external relations were pushing a relationship with the Caucasian languages, which is possible though not proven in my opinion. Trask and his assistant were very angry and aggressive in holding down the fort. Apparently everything was a Spanish borrowing. The debate didn’t smell right at all.
With a background in psychology, I wonder what is going on here. One possibility is as Greenberg suggests and as was suggested back in 1901 – simple narcissism. When one specializes in a language family for a long time, it probably become blurred with the self such that the self and the family become married to each other, and it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Yourself and the family you’ve spent your career working on become one and same thing. If your family is not related to anything else, it’s special.
We all think we are special. This is the essence of human narcissism. To say that their favorite language has relatives is to deny its specialness almost as if to say that our egos were not real but were instead extensions of other people’s egos. Actually if you read Sartre or study modern particle physics, that’s not a bad theory, but most people bristle at the notion.
I met Korean and Japanese people when I was doing my Masters. Both beamed when they told me that their language had no known relatives. Of course that made it special in their eyes and played right into their ethnocentrism.
Another problem may be the trajectory of one’s career. If one has been arguing forcefully for 30 years that there are no known relations to your family, your reputation is going to take a huge hit if you have to agree that you were wrong all those years.
There is also a politics question.
Another reason is Politics. We are dealing here with a Paradigm. For a good description of a Scientific Paradigm, see Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn holds that science is by its nature very conservative, some sciences being more conservative than others. A Paradigm is set up when the field reaches a satisfactory consensus that a particular theory is correct. After a while, serious barriers go up to any challenges to overthrow the proven theory.
The challenges are first ignored, then ridiculed (often severely), then attacked (often ferociously) and then, if the challenge is successful, it is accepted (often slowly and grudgingly). Kuhn pointed out that defenders of the old theory are usually so reluctant to see the paradigm overthrown that we often must wait literally until their deaths to finally overthrow the paradigm. They defend it to their deathbeds. I suggest we are dealing with something more than pure empiricism here.
It is quite risky to challenge a paradigm in science. People’s careers have suffered from it. A supporter of Keynesian economics, then challenging the current paradigm in economics, could not get hired at any university in the US during the 1930’s.
In the splitters versus lumpers debate, we have been in the Anger phase for some time now. We seem to be settling out of it, as many are taking a fence-sitting position and arguing for attempts to resolve the debate to make it less heated.
The Paradigm here involves extreme skepticism about any new language families to the point that any new families are simply going to be rejected on all sorts of grounds. Paradigms involve politics at the academic level. When a Paradigm is set up in science, almost all scientists write and do research within the paradigm. Anything outside of the paradigm is derided as pseudoscience or worse.
The problem is that when a Paradigm in in effect, all scholars are supposed to publish within the Paradigm. Publishing outside the paradigm is regarded as evidence that one is a kook, a crank, is practicing pseudoscience, or that one is crazy or a fool. It is instructive in this debate to note that most of the prominent lumpers are independent scholars operating outside of the politics of academia.
I have had them tell me that the only reason they can take the lumper position that they do is because they are independent and don’t have a university job, so there are no repercussions if they are wrong. They told me that if they had a professorship, they would not be able to do this work. They have also told me that they know for a fact that certain splitters might jeopardize their jobs, careers, and especially their funding if they took a lumper position. This was given as one of the reasons for their dogmatic splitterism.
In addition, science works according to fads, or more properly, standard beliefs. The trends for these beliefs are set by the biggest names in the field. The biggest names in Linguistics are all splitters now. They are the trendsetters, especially in whatever specialty of Historical Linguistics you are working in. Everyone else in the field is dutifully following in their footsteps. As an up and coming young scholar, you are supposed to follow the proper trends and hypotheses of your field to uphold the consensus of scholars in your area of specialty. As you can see there is a lot more than simple empiricism going on here.
With my background, I look for psychological motivations anywhere I can find them. And science is no stranger to bias and emotional psychological motivations driving, or usually distorting it. We are human and humans have emotions. Emotion is the enemy of logic. Logic is the basis of empiricism. Hence, emotions are the enemy of science.
Scientists are supposed to remain objective, but alas, they are humans themselves and subject to all of the emotional psychological motivations that the rest of them are. Scientists are supposed to police themselves for bias, but that’s probably hard to do, especially if the bias is rooted in psychological processes or in particular if it is unconscious, as many such processes are.
Campbell’s case is an extreme one, but I believe it is simply motivated by internal psychological process inside of the man himself.
Campbell is driven by psychological complexes. His entire turn towards extreme conservatism in this debate was set off by the huge feud he had with Greenberg, and everything since has flowed from that. He took a very angry position that LIA was completely false and did his best to trash its reputation far and wide. This disparagement is still the order of the day, and Greenberg’s name is as good as mud in the field.
Then Campbell generalized his extreme splitterist reaction to LIA out to all of the language families in the world because if he allowed any new families elsewhere in the world, he might have to allow them in the Americas, and he could not countenance that. Note also that Campbell has gone out of his way to specifically attack Greenberg’s four-family split in his proposal for language families in Africa.
This proposal, done with Greenberg’s derided method of mass comparison, has had a successful result in Africa and has been proven with the test of time. Campbell cannot allow this because if he admits that Greenberg was right in Africa, he might have to accept that he might be right in the Americas too, and that’s beyond the pale. So in his recent works he has specifically set out to state that Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Kordofanian, and Khoisan – the four families of Greenberg’s classification – have not been proven to exist yet. The truth is exactly the opposite, but the psychological process here is bald and naked for all to see.
Here he specifically trashes these language families because they were discovered by Joseph Greenberg, Campbell’s bete noir. Campbell’s agenda is to show the Greenberg is a preposterous kook and crank, although he was one of the greatest linguists of the 20th century. Greenberg’s African work is regarded as true, and this poses a problem if Campbell is to characterize Greenberg as a charlatan.
If Greenberg was right about one thing, could he not be right about another? In order to lay the foundation for the theory that Greenberg’s method doesn’t work and that it cannot discover any language relationships, Campbell will have to deny the method ever had any successes. So he sets about to deny that Greenberg’s four African families are proven.
Splitters have come up with a repertoire of reasons to shoot down proposed language relations and most are pretty poor.
They rely on overuse of the borrowing, chance, sound symbolism, nursery word, and onomatopoeia explanations for non-relatedness. There is also an overuse of the comparative method with excessively strict standards being set up for etymologies and sound correspondences. In a number of cases, linguists are going back to the etymologies of their proto-languages and reducing them by up to half.
In the last 20 years, Uralicists have gone back over the original Proto-Uralic etymologies and gotten rid of fully half of them (from 2,000 down to 1,000) on a variety of very poor reasons, mostly irregular sound correspondences. It appears to me that while there were some obvious bad etymologies in there, most of the ones that were thrown out were perfectly good.
Irregular sound correspondences is a bad reason to throw out an etymology. Keep in mind that 50% of Indo-European etymologies have irregular correspondences. By the logic of Uralicists we should throw out half of IE etymologies then. If Campbell finds any irregular sound correspondences in any new proposal, he automatically rejects it on those grounds alone. What the Uralicists have done is vandalism.
This is not just conservatism. It is out and out Reaction. Worse, it is nearly a Conservative Revolution, which I won’t define further. It is akin to a city council declaring that all of the old, beautiful buildings in the city are going to be torn down because they were not constructed properly. Will they be rebuilt? Well, of course not. Most of the top Uralicists are involved in this silly and destructive project.
In a recent paper, George Starostin warned that the splitters were not just conservatives determined to stop all progress. He pointed out that there was actually a trend towards rejection and going backwards in time to dismantle families that have already set up on the grounds that they were not done perfectly enough. As we can see, his warning was prescient.
There are statements being made by moderates that both sides, the splitters and the lumpers, are being equally unreasonable. As one linguist said, the debate is between lazy lumpers (Just believe us, don’t demand that we prove it!) and angry splitters (Not only is this new family false, but all new families proposed from now on will also be shot down!). He suggested that they are both wrong and that the solution lies in a point in the middle. I don’t have a problem with this moderate centrist belief
The splitter notion itself rests on an obvious falsehood, that there are hundreds of language families in the world that have no possible relationship with each other.
According to Campbell, there are 160 language families and isolates in the Americas. The question is where did all of these entities come from. Keep in mind, in Linguistics, the standard view is that these 160 entities are not related to each other in any way, shape, or form. Thinking back, this means that language would have had to have developed in humans 160 times among the Amerindians alone.
The truth is that there was no polygenesis of language.
Sit back and think for a moment. How could language possibly have been independently developed more than one time? Obviously it arose in one group. How could it have arose in other groups too? It couldn’t and it didn’t. Did some of the original speakers go deaf, become mutes, forget all their language, and then have children, raising them without language, in which case the children devised language for themselves?
Children need comprehensible input to develop language. No language to hear in the environment, no language for the children to acquire on their own. With coclear implants, formerly deaf people are now able to hear for the first time. A woman got hers at age 32. Since she missed the Critical Period for language development, the window of which closes at age 8, she has not, even at this late date, been able to acquire language satisfactorily. She missed the boat. No input, no language.
Obviously language arose only once among humans. It had to. And hence, all human languages are related to each other de facto whether we can “prove” it by out fancy methods or not. In other words, all human languages are related. Those 160 language families and isolates in the Americas? All related. Now we may not be able to prove which languages they are related to specifically and most closely, but we know they are all related to each other.
In the physical sciences, including Evolutionary Psychology, many things are simply assumed because the alternate theories could not have happened. But we have no evidence of much of anything in Evolutionary Psychology or Evolutionary Anthropology. We know our ancestors lived in X place at Y times, but we have no idea what they were doing there. We can’t go back in time to prove that this or that happened.
Using the logic of linguists, since we cannot make time machines to go back in time and make theories about Evolutionary Anthropology and Evolutionary Psychology of these peoples, we can make no statements about this matter, as the only way to prove it would be to see it. In physics, there are particles that we have never seen. We have simply posited their existence because according to our theories, they have to exist. According to linguists, we could not posit the discovery of these particles unless we see it.
Contrary to popular rumor, everything in science does not have to be “proven” by this or that rigorous method. Many things are simply posited, as no real evidence for their existence exists, either because we were not there or because we can’t see them, or in the case of pure physics, we can’t even test out our theories. They exist simply because they have to according to our existing theories, and all competing theories fall down flat.
Well, the Americanists beg to disagree. Greenberg’s theory was so extreme and radical that the entire field erupted in outrage. None of their alternate theories, not even one of them, make the slightest bit of sense.
Despite the fact that these languages are obviously related to each other, in order to “officially prove it” we have to use a method called the comparative method whereby proto-languages and families are reconstructed and regular sound correspondences are shown between the languages being studied.
This is the only way that we can prove one language is related to another. That’s simply absurd for a few reasons.
First of all, I concur with Joanna Nichols that the comparative method does not really work on language families older than 6-8,000 years. Beyond that time, so many sound changes have taken place, semantics have been distorted, and terms fallen out of use that there’s not much of anything left to reconstruct. Furthermore, time has washed away any evidence of sound correspondences.
Although Nichols is a splitter, I have to commend her. First, she’s right above.
Second, realizing this, she says that the comparative method will always fail beyond this time frame. I believe she thinks then that we need to use new methods if we are to prove that long-range families exist. The method she suggests is “individual-identifying evidence,” which seems to be another way of saying odd morpheme paradigms that were probably not borrowed and are hardly existent outside of that family.
This harkens back to Edward Sapir’s “submerged features,” where he says we can prove the existence of language families by these small morphemic resemblances alone.
The rest of the field remain sticks in the mud. They say that we must use the comparative method to discover that languages are related because no other method exists. The problem is that as noted, as splitters themselves note, if the comparative method fails beyond 6,000 years back, all attempts to prove language families that old or older are bound to fail.
The splitters seem positively gleeful that according to their paradigm, few if any new language families will be discovered. This delight in nihilism seems odd and disturbing. What sort of science is gleeful that no new knowledge will be found? Even in the even that this is true, it’s depressing. Why get excited about something so negative?
Many language families in the world were discovered by Greenberg’s “mass comparison” or simply comparing one language to another, which should be called “comparison.” And in fact, many of the smaller language families in the world are still being posited by the means of comparison or mass comparison. Comparison need not be the broad, sweeping, forest for the trees, holistic method Greenberg employs. I argue that it means lining up languages and looking for common features. We could be lining up one language against another and that would also be “comparison.”
It need not be a shallow examination. One could examine a possible language for five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years.
After studying a pair or group of languages for some time, if one finds a group of core vocabulary items that resemble one another and are above the rate found by chance (7%), and after which borrowing has been ruled out (core vocabulary is rarely borrowed), then you have proof positive of a language family.
I fail to understand why examining a language or group of languages for a long period of time to find resemblances and try to rule out chance or borrowings is a ridiculous method. What’s so ridiculous about that? Sure, it’s nice to reconstruct and get nice sound correspondences going, but it’s not always necessary, especially in long-range comparisons when such methods are doomed to failure.
One more thing: if splitters say that the comparative method fails beyond 6,000 years, why do they keep putting long-range families to the test using the comparative method? After all, the result will always come up negative, right? What’s the point of doing a study you know will come up negative? Just to get your punches in?
There are a number of folks who have bought into the splitters’ arguments and are trying to discover long-range families by the comparative method of reconstructing the proto-language and finding regular sound correspondences between them. A number of them claim to have been successful. There have been attempts to reconstruct proto-languages and find regular sound correspondences with Altaic, Nostratic, Dene-Caucasian, Dene-Yenisien, Austro-Tai, Totonozoquean, and Uralo-Yukaghir.
Altaic, Nostratic, and Dene-Caucasian all have proto-languages reconstructed with good sound correspondences running through them. Altaic and Nostratic have etymological dictionaries containing many words, 2,300 proto-forms in the case of Altaic in a 1,000 page volume. Further, a considerable Nostratic proto-language was reconstructed by Dogopolsky and Illich-Svitych.
All of these efforts claim that they have proven their hypotheses. However, the splitters such as Campbell have rejected all of them. So you see, even when people follow the mandated method and play it by the book the way they are supposed to, the splitters will nearly always say that the efforts come up short. It’s a rigged game.
How about another question? If the comparative method fails is doomed beyond 6,000 years, why don’t we use another method to discover these relationships? The splitter rejoinder is that there is no other method. It’s the comparative method or nothing. But how do they know this? Can they prove that other methods can never be used to successfully discover a language relationship?
The following quotes are from a textbook or general text on Historical Linguistics by Lyle Campbell and Mario Mixco, A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. The purpose of this paper will be misrepresented as critics who will say that I am a lumper who is saying criticizing splitters for their opposition to known language families.
There is some of that here, but more than lumper propaganda, what I am trying to do here more than anything else is to show how Campbell and Mixco have been untruthful about linguistic specialist consensus regarding these families. In most cases, they are openly misrepresenting the state of consensus in the field.
As will be shown, Campbell and Mixco repeatedly seriously distort the state of consensus regarding many language families, particularly long-range ones. They usually favor a more negative and conservative view, saying that a family has little support when it has significant support and saying it is controversial when the consensus in the field is that the family is real. Campbell and Mixco engage in serious distortions of fact all through this text:
Campbell and Mixco:
Afroasiatic: Enjoys wide support among linguists, but it is not uncontroversial, especially with regard to which of the groups assumed to be genetically related to one another are to be considered true members of the phylum.
There is disagreement concerning Cushitic, and Omotic (formerly called Sidama or West Cushitic) is disputed; the great linguistic diversity within Omotic makes it a questionable entity for some. Chadic is held to be uncertain by others. Typological and areal problems contribute to these doubts. For example, some treat Cushitic and Omotic together as a linguistic area (Sprachbund) of seven families within Afroasiatic.
Campbell and Mixco are wrong. Afroasiatic is not controversial at all. There is widespread consensus that the family exists and that all of the subfamilies are correct.
The “we can’t reconstruct the numerals” argument is much in evidence here too. See the Altaic debate below for more on this. One argument against Altaic is “We can’t reconstruct the numerals.” However, Afroasiatic is a recognized family and not only has reconstruction itself proved difficult, but the numerals in particular are a gigantic mess. It seems that one does not need to have a fully reconstructed numeral set after all to have a proven language family.
There is consensus that Cushitic is a valid entity. Granted, there has been some question about Omotic, but in the last 10-15 years, consensus has settled on an agreement that Omotic is part of Afroasiatic.
The great diversity of Omotic is no surprise. Omotic is probably 13,000 years old! It’s amazing that there’s anything left at all after all that time.
Where do we get the idea that a language family cannot possibly be highly diverse? Chadic is also uncontroversial by consensus. I am not aware of any serious proposals to see Cushitic and Omotic as an Altaic-like Sprachbund of mass borrowings. Campbell and Mixco’s comments above are simply not correct. The only people questioning the validity of Afroasiatic or any of its components are Campbell and Mixco, and they are not an experts on the family.
Campbell and Mixco:
Berber is usually believed to be one of the branches of Afroasiatic.
This is far too pessimistic. Berber is recognized by consensus as being one of the branches of Afroasiatic.
Campbell and Mixco:
Niger-Kordofanian (now often just called Niger-Congo): A hypothesis of distant genetic relationship proposed by Joseph H. Greenberg in his classification of African languages. Estimated counts of Niger-Kordofanian languages vary from around 900 to 1,500 languages. Greenberg grouped ‘West Sudanic’ and Bantu into a single large family, which he called Niger-Congo, after the two major rivers, the Niger and the Congo ‘in whose basins these languages predominate’ (Greenberg 1963: 7).
This included the subfamilies already recognized earlier: (1) West Atlantic (to which Greenberg joined Fulani, in a Serer-Wolof-Fulani [Fulfulde] group), (2) Mande (Mandingo) (thirty-five to forty languages), (3) Gur (or Voltaic), (4) Kwa (with Togo Remnant) and (5) Benue-Congo (Benue-Cross), with the addition of (6) Adamawa-Eastern, which had not previously been classified with these languages and whose classification remains controversial.
For Greenberg, Bantu was but a subgroup of Benue-Congo, not a separate subfamily on its own. In 1963 he joined Niger-Congo and the ‘Kordofanian’ languages into a larger postulated phylum, which he called Niger-Kordofanian.
Niger-Kordofanian has numerous supporters but is not well established; the classification of several of the language groups Greenberg assigned to Niger-Kordofanian is rejected or revised, though most scholars accept some form of Niger-Congo as a valid grouping.
As Nurse (1997: 368) points out, it is on the basis of general similarities and the noun-class system that most scholars have accepted Niger-Congo, but ‘the fact remains that no one has yet attempted a rigorous demonstration of the genetic unity of Niger-Congo by means of the Comparative Method.’
There is consensus among scholars that Niger-Kordofanian is a real thing.
Campbell and Mixco:
Nilo-Saharan: One of Greenberg’s four large phyla in his classification of African languages. In dismantling the inaccurate and racially biased ‘Hamitic,’ of which Nilo-Hamitic was held to be part, Greenberg demonstrated the inadequacy of those former classifications and argued for the connection between Nilotic and Eastern Sudanic.
He noted that ‘the Nilotic languages seem to be predominantly isolating, tend to monosyllabism, and employ tonal distinctions’ (Greenberg 1963: 92). To the extent that this classification is based on commonplace shared typology and perhaps areally diffused traits, it does not have a firm foundation. Nilo-Saharan is disputed, and many are not convinced of the proposed genetic relationships. It is generally seen as Greenberg’s wastebasket phylum, into which he placed all the otherwise unaffiliated languages of Africa.
First of all, Nilo-Saharan is not classified based on its language typology which were perhaps areally diffused. There is also a great deal of the more typical evidence in favor of this language family. Second, it is not true that it lacks a firm foundation and that many are not convinced of its reality. The consensus among experts is that this family exists and the overwhelming majority of the subfamilies and isolates Greenberg put it in are correct.
Saying that it is a wastebasket phylum does not make sense because the Nilo-Saharan languages are only found in a certain part of Africa. If it was truly such a phylum, there would be languages from all over Africa placed in this family.
According to Roger Bench, a moderate, there is now consensus in the last 10-15 years that Nilo-Saharan is a real thing.
Consensus has formed that 75% of the languages and families Greenberg put in Nilo-Saharan form a valid family. Controversy remains about the other 25% including Songhay, the Gumhuz family, and a few isolates. Some say these are part of Nilo-Saharan but others say they are not. Nilo-Saharan probably has a great time depth of ~13,000 years at least, such that little probably remains to reconstruct. Reconstruction of Nilo-Saharan has proved difficult.
Yes, Campbell and Mixco say that Nilo-Saharan is not real, but they are not specialists.
Campbell and Mixco:
Khoisan: A proposed distant genetic relationship associated with Greenberg’s (1963) classification of African languages, which holds some thirty non-Bantu click languages of southern and eastern Africa to be genetically related to one another. Greenberg originally called his Khoisan grouping ‘the Click Languages’ but later changed this to a name based on a created compound of the Hottentots’ name for themselves, Khoi, and their name for the Bushmen, San.
Khoisan is the least accepted of Greenberg’s four African phyla. Several scholars agree in using the term ‘Khoisan’ not to reflect a genetic relationship among the languages but, rather, as a cover term for all the non-Bantu and non-Cushitic click languages.
Although it is probably true that Khoisan is the least accepted of Greenberg’s families, that’s not saying much, as it only means that 80% of experts accept its reality instead of 100%. I do not know who these several scholars are who feel that Khoisan is a typological area for click languages, but they do not seem to be specialists. Overall, Campbell and Mixco seriously distort consensus on Khoisan in this passage.
According to George Starostin, in the last 5-10 years, there is now consensus that Khoisan exists. There are five major Khoisan scholars, and four of them agree that Khoisan is real, with all of them including Sandawe and most including Hadza. There is one, Traill, who says it’s not real, but he is also a notorious Africanist splitter.
Campbell and Mixco:
Eurasiatic: Greenberg’s hypothesis of a distant genetic relationship that would group Indo-European, Uralic–Yukaghir, Altaic, Korean–Japanese–Ainu, Nivkh, Chukotian and Eskimo–Aleut as members of a very large ‘linguistic stock’. While there is considerable overlap in the putative members of Eurasiatic and Nostratic there are also significant differences. Eurasiatic has been sharply criticized and is largely rejected by specialists.
I have no doubt that Eurasiatic has been sharply criticized, but apart from a negative review in Language by Peter Daniels, the controversy seems quite muted compared to the furor over Amerind. I am also not sure that it is largely rejected by specialists. It probably is, but most of them have not even bothered to comment on it. I believe that this family is one of the best long-range proposals out there.
Based on the data from the pronouns alone, it’s obviously a real entity, though I would include Indo-European, Uralic-Yukaghir, Altaic including Japanese and Korean, Chukotian, and Eskimo-Aleut, leaving out Nivki for the time being and certainly leaving out Ainu. Nivki does seem to be a Eurasiatic language but it’s not a separate node. Instead it may be a part of the Chukotian family. Or even better yet, it seems to be part of a family connected to the New World via the Almosan family in the Americas.
I feel that Eurasiatic is a much more solid entity than Nostratic. Not that I am against Nostratic, but it’s more that Eurasiatic is a simple hypothesis to prove and with Nostratic, I’m much less sure of that. On the other hand, to the extent that Nostratic overlaps with Eurasiatic, it is surely correct.
Campbell and Mixco:
Indo-Anatolian: The hypothesis, associated with Edgar Sturtevant, that Hittite (or better said, the Anatolian languages, of which Hittite is the best known member) was the earliest Indo-European language to split off from the others. That is, this hypothesis would have Anatolian and Indo-European as sisters, two branches of a Proto-Indo-Hittite.
The more accepted view is that Anatolian is just one subgroup of Indo-European, albeit perhaps the first to have branched off, hence not ‘Indo-Hittite’ but just ‘Indo-European’ with Anatolian as one of its branches. In fact the two views differ very little in substance, since, in either case, Anatolian ends up being a subfamily distinct from the other branches and in the view of many the first to branch off the family.
The view that Anatolian is just another subgroup of IE is not the more accepted view. In fact, it has been rejected by specialists. Indo-Europeanists have told me that Indo-Anatolian is now the consensus among Indo-Europeanists, so Campbell and Mixco’s statement that Indo-Anatolian is a minority view is false.
Campbell and Mixco:
Nostratic (< Latin nostra ‘our’): A proposed distant genetic relationship that, as formulated in the 1960s by Illich-Svitych, would group Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, Kartvelian, Dravidian and Hamito-Semitic (later Afroasiatic), though other versions of the hypothesis would include various other languages. Nostratic has a number of supporters, mostly associated with the Moscow school of Nostratic, though a majority of historical linguists do not accept the claims.
There are many problems with the evidence presented on behalf of the Nostratic hypothesis. In several instances the proposed reconstructions do not comply with typological expectations; numerous proposed cognates are lax in semantic associations, involve onomatopoeia, are forms too short to deny chance, include nursery forms and do not follow the sound correspondences formulated by supporters of Nostratic.
A large number of the putative cognate sets are considered problematic or doubtful even by its adherents. More than one-third of the sets are represented in only two of the putative Nostratic branches, though by its founder’s criteria, acceptable cases need to appear in at least three of the Nostratic language families. Numerous sets appear to involve borrowing. (See Campbell 1998, 1999.) It is for reasons of this sort that most historical linguists reject Nostratic.
It is probably correct that consensus among specialists is to reject Nostratic, but serious papers taking apart of the proposal seem to be lacking. Nevertheless, most dismiss it and it is beginning to enter into the emotionally charged terrain of Altaic and Amerind, particularly the former, and belief in it is becoming a thing of ridicule as it is for Altaic. Nevertheless, there have been a few excellent linguists doing work on this very long-range family for decades now.
Campbell and Mixco:
Indo-Uralic: The hypothesis that the Indo-European and Uralic language families are genetically related to one another. While there is some suggestive evidence for the hypothesis, it has not yet been possible to confirm the proposed relationship.
This summary seems too negative. Indo-Uralic is probably one of the most promising long-range proposals out there. I regard the relationship between the two as obvious, but to me it is only a smaller part of the larger Eurasiatic family. Frederick Kortland has done a lot of good work on this idea. Even some hardline splitters are open to this hypothesis.
Campbell and Mixco:
Altaic: While ‘Altaic’ is repeated in encyclopedias and handbooks most specialists in these languages no longer believe that the three traditional supposed Altaic groups, Turkic, Mongolian and Tungusic, are related. In spite of this, Altaic does have a few dedicated followers.
The most serious problems for the Altaic proposal are the extensive lexical borrowing across inner Asia and among the ‘Altaic’ languages, lack of significant numbers of convincing cognates, extensive areal diffusion and typologically commonplace traits presented as evidence of relationship.
The shared ‘Altaic’ traits typically cited include vowel harmony, relatively simple phoneme inventories, agglutination, their exclusively suffixing nature, (S)OV ([Subject]-Object-Verb) word order and the fact that their non-main clauses are mostly non-finite (participial) constructions.
These shared features are not only commonplace typological traits that occur with frequency in unrelated languages of the world and therefore could easily have developed independently, but they are also areal traits shared by a number of languages in surrounding regions the structural properties of which were not well-known when the hypothesis was first framed.
This one is still up in the air, but Campbell and Mixco are lying when they say that idea has been abandoned. Most US linguists regard it as a laughingstock, and if you say you believe in it you will experience intense bullying and taunting from them. Oddly enough, outside the US, in Europe in particular, Altaic is regarded as obviously true. However, notorious anti-Altaicist Alexander Vovin has camped out in Paris and is now spreading his nihilistic doctrine to Europeans there.
The problem is that almost all of the US linguists who will laugh in your face and call you an idiot if you believe in Altaic are not specialists in the language. However, I did a study of Altaic specialists, and 73% of them believe in some form of Altaic.
So the anti-Altaicists are pushing a massive lie – that critical consensus has completely abandoned Altaic and regards as a laughingstock, but their project is more Politics and Propaganda than Science. In particular, it’s a fad. So Altaic is in the preposterous position where almost all of the people who know nothing about it will laugh in your face and call you an idiot if you believe in it and the overwhelming majority of specialists will say it’s real.
Altaic must be the only nonexistent family that has an incredibly elaborate 1,000 page etymological dictionary, full reconstructions of the proto-languages, etymologies of over 2,000 Altaic terms, and elaborate sound correspondences running through it. The anti-Altaicists use the silly “we can’t reconstruct the numerals so it’s not real” line here.
Altaic is obviously true based on 1-2 person pronoun paradigms at an absolute minimum. The anti-Altaic argument of course, is preposterous. As noted, they dismiss a vast 1,000 page Etymological Dictionary with 2,300 reconstructed etymologies as a hallucinated work.
There are vast parallels in all three families at all levels, in particular in the Mongolic-Tungusic family, which gets a 100% with computer programs. The go-to argument here has always been that these changes are all due to borrowings, but for this to have occurred, borrowing would have had to occur between large far removed language families on such a vast scale the likes of which has never been seen anywhere on Earth.
The argument that entire 1-2 pronoun paradigms have been borrowed is particularly preposterous because 1-2 pronouns are almost never borrowed anyway, and there has never been a single case of on Earth of the borrowing of a 1-2 person pronoun paradigm, much less the borrowing of one at the proto-language level. So the anti-Altaicists are arguing that something that has never happened anywhere on Earth not only happened, but happened more than once among different proto-languages. So the anti-Altaic argument is that something that could not possibly have happened actually occurred.
This is the conclusion of every paper the splitters write. Something that has never occurred on Earth and probably could not possibly happen not only occurred, but occurred many times around the globe for thousands of years.
Many regard including Japonic and Koreanic in Altaic as dubious, although having looked over the data, I am certain that they are part of Altaic. But they seem to be further away from the traditional tripartite system than the traditional three families are to each other. If we follow the theory that Japanese and Korean have been split from Proto-Altaic for 8,000 years, this starts to make a lot more sense.
The ridiculous massive borrowings argument specifically fails for geographical reasons. Proto-Turkic was never next door to Proto-Mongolic and Proto-Tungusic. The Proto-Altaic homeland is in the Khingan Mountains in Western Manchuria and Eastern Mongolia. Tungusic split off from Altaic 5,300 years ago, leaving Proto-Turkic-Mongolic in Khingans. 3,400 years ago, Proto-Turkic broke from Proto-Turkic-Mongolic and headed west to Northern Kazakhstan and the southern part of the Western Siberian Plain, leaving Mongolic alone in the Khingans.
Proto-Transeurasian – Khingans 9,000 YBP
Proto-Korean – Liaojiang on the north shore of the Bohai Sea 8,000 YBP.
Proto-Japanese – Northern coast of the Shandong Peninsula on the southern shore of the Bohai Sea 8,000 YBP
Can someone explain to me how Mongolic and Tungusic borrow from Turkic 3,000 miles away in a different place at a different time in this scenario? Can someone explain to me how any of these proto-languages borrowed from each other at all, especially as they were in different places at different times?
Not only that but supposedly both Proto-Mongolic and Proto-Tungusic each borrowed from Proto-Turkic separately. These borrowings included massive amounts of core vocabulary in addition to an entire 1st and 2nd person pronoun paradigm.
Keep in mind that the borrowing of this paradigm, something that has never happened anywhere, supposedly occurred not just once but twice, between Proto-Tungusic 5,300 YBP on the Amur from Proto-Turkic in North Kazakhstan 3,000 miles away 2,000 later, and at the same time, between Proto-Mongolic in the Khingans and Proto-Turkic in Northern Kazakhstan 3,000 miles away. How exactly did this occur?
And can someone explain to me how Proto-Korean and Proto-Japanese borrow from either of the others under this scenario?
Campbell and Mixco:
Turkic: A family of about thirty languages, spoken across central Asia from China to Lithuania. The family has two branches: Chuvash (of the Volga region) and the non-Chuvash Turkic branch of relatively closely related languages. Some of the Turkic languages are Azeri, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Crimean Tatar, Uighur, Uzbek, Yakut, Tuvan, and Tofa. Turkic is often assigned to the ‘Altaic’ hypothesis, though specialists have largely abandoned Altaic.
As noted above, it is simply incorrect that specialists have largely abandoned Altaic. This is simply carefully crafted propaganda on the part of Campbell and Mixco. In fact, my own study showed that 73% of experts in these families felt that Altaic existed at least in some form, if only in a relationship with two out of the three-five languages.
Campbell and Mixco:
Some scholars classify Korean in a single family with Japanese; however, this is a controversial hypothesis. Korean is often said to belong with the Altaic hypothesis, often also with Japanese, though this is not widely supported.
Japonic-Koreanic has considerable support among specialists in these languages, although it is not universally accepted. Campbell and Mixco are excessively negative about the level of support for an expanded Altaic. In fact, an expanded Altaic which includes Japanese and Korean in some part of it has significant though probably not majority support. Perhaps 30-40% of specialists support it.
Proto-Japanic and Proto-Koreanic were both spoken in Northeastern China 8,000 YBP. Proto-Japonic was spoke on the north of the Shandong Peninsula and Proto-Koreanic was spoken across the Bohai Sea in Tianjin and especially across the Bohai Straights on the Liaodong Peninsula. They may have stayed here next to each other for 3,000 years until the Proto-Koreanics moved to the Korean Peninsula 5,000 YBP, displacing the Ainuid types there. Proto-Japonics probably stayed in Shandong until 2,3000 YBP when they left to populate Japan and the Ryukus, displacing the Ainu who were already there.
Campbell and Mixco:
Yeniseian, Yenisseian: Small language family of southern Siberia of which Ket (Khet) is the only surviving member. Yeniseian has no known broader relatives, though some have been hypothesized (see the Dené-Caucasian hypothesis).
Campbell and Mixco state and serious untruth here, including some weasel words. By discussing Dene-Caucasian in the same breath as relatives of Yenisien, they are able to deflect away from the more widely accepted proposal of a link between Yenisien in the Old World and Na-Dene in the New World. This is Edward Vajda’s Dene-Yenisien proposal.
The problem is that this long-range proposal has the support of many people, including splitter Johanna Nichols. Of the 17 experts who weighed in on Dene-Yenisien, 15 of them had a positive view of the hypothesis. Campbell and Mixco are the only two who are negative, but neither are experts on either family. All specialists in either or both families support the proposal. When 15 out of 17 is not enough, one wonders at what point the field reaches a consensus. Must we hold out for Campbell and Mixco’s approval for everything?
Campbell and Mixco:
Nivkh (also called Gilyak): A language isolate spoken in the northern part of Sakhalin Island and along the Amur River of Manchuria, in China. There have been various unsuccessful attempts to link Nivkh genetically with various other language groupings, including Eurasiatic and Nostratic.
Granted, there is no consensus on the affiliation of Nivkhi. However, a recent paper by Sergei Nikolaev proved to me that Nivkhi is related to Algonquian-Wakashan, a family of languages in the Americas. One of these languages is Wakashan, and there has been talk of links between Wakashan and the Old World for some time.
Michael Fortescue places Nivkhi in Chukotko-Kamchatkan. Greenberg places it is Eurasiatic as a separate node. But as Chukotko-Kamchatkan is part of Eurasiatic, they are both saying the same thing in a way. My theory is that Nivkhi is Eurasiatic, possibly related to Chukoto-Kamchatkan, and like Yeniseian, is also connected to languages in North America as some of the Nivkhi probably migrated to North America and became the American Indians. In this way, we can reconcile both hypotheses.
There are three specialist views on Nivkhi. One says it is Eurasiatic, the other that it is Chukotian, and the third that it is part of the Algonquian-Wakashan or Almosan family in the New World. Consensus is that Nivkhi is related to one of two other entities – other languages in Northeastern Asia or a New World Amerindian family. So expert consensus seems to have moved away from the view of Nivkhi as an isolate.
Campbell and Mixco:
Paleosiberian languages (also sometimes called Paleoasiatic, Hyperborean languages): A geographical (not genetic) designation for several otherwise unaffiliated languages (isolates) and small language families of Siberia.
Perhaps the main thing that unites these languages is that they are not Turkic, Russian or Tungusic, the better known languages of Siberia. Languages often listed as Paleosiberian are: Chukchi, Koryak, Kamchadal (Itelmen), Yukaghir, Yeniseian (Ket) and Nivkh (Gilyak). These have no known genetic relationship to one other.
Taken as a broad statement, of course this is true. However, Chukchi, Koryak, and Kamchadal or Itelmen are part of a family called Chukutko-Kamchatkan. This family has even been reconstructed. Campbell and Mixco’s statement that these languages have no known genetic relationship with each other is false.
Campbell and Mixco:
Austroasiatic: A proposed genetic relationship between Mon-Khmer and Munda, accepted as valid by many scholars but not by all.
The fact is that Austroasiatic is not a “proposed genetic relationship.” Instead it is now accepted by consensus. That there may be a few outliers who don’t believe in it is not important. I’m not aware of any linguists who doubt Austroasiatic other than Campbell and Mixco, and neither is a specialist. Austroasiatic-Hmong-Mien is the best long-range proposal for Austroasiatic, but it has probably not yet been proven. Austroasiatic is also part of the expanded version of the Austric hypothesis.
Campbell and Mixco:
Miao-Yao (also called Hmong-Mien): A language family spoken by the Miao and Yao peoples of southern China and Southeast Asia. Some proposals would classify Miao-Yao with Sino-Tibetan, others with Tai or Austronesian; none of these has much support.
This seems to be more weasel wording on the part of the authors. By listing Tai or Austronesian and Sino-Tibetan as possible relatives of Miao-Yao and then correctly dismissing it, they leave out a much better proposal linking Hmong-Mien to Austroasiatic.
This shows some promise, but the relationship is hard to see amidst all of the Chinese borrowing. As noted, the relationship between Hmong-Mien and Sino-Tibetan is one of borrowing. The relationship with Tai or Austronesian is part of Paul Benedict’s original Austric proposal. He later turned against this proposal and supported a more watered down Austric with Austronesian and Tai-Kadai, which seems to be nearing consensus support now.
Campbell and Mixco:
Austric: A mostly discounted hypothesis of distant genetic relationship proposed by Paul Benedict that would group together the Austronesian, Tai-Kadai and Miao-Yao.
More weasel wording. It is correct that Benedict’s original Austric (which also included Austroasiatic) was abandoned even by Benedict himself, a more watered down Austric that he later supported consisting of Austronesian and Tai-Kadai called Austro-Tai has much more support. They get around discussing the watered down Austro-Tai with good support by limiting Austric to Benedict’s own theory which even he rejected later in life. In this sense, they misrepresent the debate, probably deliberately.
In fact, evidence is building towards acceptance of Austro-Tai after papers by Weera Ostapirat and Laurence Sagart seem to have proved the case using the comparative method. Roger Blench also supports the concept. In addition, to Benedict, it is also supported by Lawrence Reid, Hui Li, and Lawrence Reid. It is opposed by Graham Thurgood, who is a specialist (he was my main academic advisor on my Master’s Degree in Linguistics). It is also opposed by Campbell and Mixco, but they are not specialists. Looking at expert opinion, we have seven arguing for the theory and one arguing against it. Specialist consensus then is that Austro-Tai is a real language family.
Even the larger version of Austric, including all of Benedict’s families plus Ainu and the South Indian isolate Nihali, has some supporters and some suggestive evidence that it may be correct.
Campbell and Mixco:
Tai-Kadai: A large language family, generally but not
universally accepted, of languages located in Southeast Asia and southern China. The family includes Tai, Kam-Sui, Kadai and various other languages. The genetic relatedness of several proposed Tai-Kadai languages is not yet settled.
Tai-Kadai is not “mostly but not universally accepted.” It is accepted by consensus as an existent language family. Perhaps whether some languages belong there is in doubt but the proposal itself is not controversial. Campbell and Mixco’s statement that Tai-Kadai remains controversial is a serious distortion of fact.
Campbell and Mixco:
Na-Dene: A disputed proposal of distant genetic relationship, put forward by Sapir, that would group Haida, Tlingit and Eyak-Athabaskan. There is considerable disagreement about whether Haida is related to the others. The relationship between Tlingit and Eyak-Athabaskan seems more likely, and some scholars misleadingly use the name ‘Na-Dené’ to mean a grouping of these two without Haida.
Levine and Michael Krauss, two top Na-Dene experts, are on record as opposing the addition of Haida to Na-Dene for 40 years. A recent conference about Edward Vajda’s Dene-Yenisien concluded that there was no evidence to include Haida in Na-Dene. However, a recent paper by Alexander Manaster-Ramer made the case that Haida is part of Na-Dene. This paper was enough to convince me. Further, the scholar with the most expertise on Haida has said that Haida is part of Na-Dene. So Campbell and Mixco are correct here that the subject is up in the air with both supporters and opponents.
The statement that a relationship between Tlingit and Eyak-Athabaskan seems “more than likely” is an understatement. I believe it is now linguistic consensus that Tlingit is part of Na-Dene, so Campbell and Mixco’s statement is not quite true.
Campbell and Mixco:
Tonkawa: An extinct language isolate of Texas. Proposals to link Tonkawa with the languages of the Coahuiltecan or Hokan-Coahuiltecan hypotheses have not generally been accepted.
I’m sure it is the case that Coahuiltecan and Hokan-Coahuiltecan affiliations of Tonkawa have been rejected. A Coahuiltecan connection was even denied by Manaster-Ramer, who recently proved that the family existed. That said, there are interesting parallels between Tonkawa and Coahuiltecan that I cannot explain. However, a recent paper by Manaster-Ramer made the much better case that Tonkawa was in fact Na-Dene.
Campbell and Mixco:
Amerind: The Amerind hypothesis is rejected by nearly all practicing American Indianists and by most historical linguists. Specialists maintain that valid methods do not at present permit classification of Native American languages into fewer than about 180 independent language families and isolates. Amerind has been highly criticized on various grounds.There is an excessive number of errors in Greenberg’s data.
Where Greenberg stops – after assembling superficial similarities and declaring them due to common ancestry – is where other linguists begin. Since such similarities can be due to chance similarity, borrowing, onomatopoeia, sound symbolism, nursery words (the mama, papa, nana, dada, caca sort), misanalysis, and much more, for a plausible proposal of remote linguistic relationship one must attempt to eliminate all other possible explanations, leaving a shared common ancestor as the most likely.
Greenberg made no attempt to eliminate these other explanations, and the similarities he amassed appear to be due mostly to accident and a combination of these other factors.
In various instances, Greenberg compared arbitrary segments of words, equated words with very different meanings (for example, ‘excrement/night/grass’), misidentified many languages, failed to analyze the morphology of some words and falsely analyzed that of others, neglected regular sound correspondences, failed to eliminate loanwords and misinterpreted well-established findings.
The Amerind ‘etymologies’ proposed are often limited to a very few languages of the many involved. Finnish, Japanese, Basque and other randomly chosen languages fit Greenberg’s Amerind data as well as or better than do any of the American Indian languages in his ‘etymologies’; Greenberg’s method has proven incapable of distinguishing implausible relationships from Amerind generally. In short, it is with good reason Amerind has been rejected.
The movement into the Americas came in three waves.
The first wave brought the Amerinds. It is here where the 160 language families reside. According to the reigning theory in Linguistics, this group of Amerindians came in one wave that spoke not only 160 different languages but spoke languages that came from 160 different language families, none of which were related to each other. These being language families which, by the way, we can find scarcely a trace of in the Old World.
The second wave was the Na-Dene people who came along the west coast and then went inland.
The last wave were the Inuits.
Greenberg simply lumped all of the 600 languages of the Americas into a single family. The argument was good, though I’m not sure he proved that every single one of those languages were all part of Amerind. But a lot of them were. The n-m- 1st and 2nd person pronouns are found in 450 of those languages. The ablauted t’ana, t’una, t’ina word, meaning respectively human child of either sex, all females including family terms, and all males including family terms are extremely common in Amerind.
So t’ana just means child. T’una means girl, woman, and includes various names for all sorts of female relatives – grandmother, cousin, aunt, niece, etc. T’ina means boy, man, and includes the family terms grandfather, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, and nephew. This ablauted paradigm is found across a vast number of these Amerind languages, and it is nonexistent in the rest of the world.
Quite probably most to all of those languages having that term are part of a single family. What are the other arguments? That 300 languages independently innovated these terms, in this precise ablauted paradigm, on their own? What is the likelihood of that?
That these items occurring across such vast swathes of languages is due to chance? But this paradigm does not exist anywhere else, so how could it be due to chance? That these core vocabulary items were borrowed massively all across the Americas, when family terms like that are rarely borrowed? That’s not possible. None of the alternate theories make the slightest bit of sense.
Hence, the Amerind languages that have the n-m- pronoun paradigm and the t’ana, t’una, t’ina ablauted names for the sexes and the terms of family relations by sex are quite probably part of a huge language family. I’m well aware that a few of the languages having those terms could be due to chance. I’m pretty sure that about zero of those pronouns and few, if any, of those family terms were borrowed.
However, not all Amerind languages have either the pronoun paradigm or the ablauted sex term. In those cases, I’m unsure if those languages are all part of the same language. But if you can put those languages in families and reconstruct to the proto-languages and end up with the pronoun paradigm or the ablauted family term reconstructed in the proto-language of that family, I’m sure that family would be part of Amerind. That’s about all you have to do to prove relationship in Amerind.
Campbell and Mixco:
Penutian: A very large proposed distant genetic relationship in western North America, suggested originally by Dixon and Kroeber for the Californian language families Wintuan, Maiduan, Yokutsan, and Miwok-Costanoan. The name is based on words for ‘two’, something like pen in Wintuan, Maiduan, and Yokutsan, and uti in Miwok-Costanoan, joined to form Penutian.
Sapir, impressed with the hypothesis, attempted to add an Oregon Penutian (Takelma, Coos, Siuslaw, and ‘Yakonan’), Chinook, Tsimshian, a Plateau Penutian (Sahaptian, ‘Molala-Cayuse,’ and Klamath-Modoc) and a Mexican Penutian (Mixe-Zoquean and Huave).
The Penutian grouping has been influential, and later proposals have attempted to unite various languages from Alaska to Bolivia with it. Nevertheless, it had a shaky foundation based on extremely limited evidence, and, in spite of extensive later research, it did not prove possible to demonstrate any version of the Penutian hypothesis and several prominent Penutian specialists abandoned it. Today it remains controversial and unconfirmed, with some supporters but with many who doubt it.
The statement that today it “remains controversial and unconfirmed, with some supporters but with many who doubt it,” has no basis in fact. It is surely controversial and it is probably unconfirmed by linguistic consensus. Yes, it has a number of supporters, and there are quite a few who doubt it. However, among those who doubt it, none of them are specialists in these languages. Hence, we are dealing with an Altaic situation here, where the specialists believe in it but the non-specialists insist it’s nonsense.
In fact, the consensus among the specialists on these languages is that Penutian exists. A Penutian family comprising Maiduan, Utian (Miwok-Costanoan), Wintuan, Yokutsan, Coosan, Siuslaw, Takelma, and Kalapuyan andAlsean (Yakonan), Chinookan, Tsimshianic, Klamath-Modoc (Lutuami), Cayuse and Molala (Waiilatpuan), Sahaptian has been proven to my satisfaction. I am uncertain of the Penutian status of Mixe-Zoque and Huave (Mexican Penutian), although I believe that Huave and Mixe-Zoque are related to each other, albeit at a very deep time depth of 9,000 years.
Anti-Penutianists have not published a paper in a long time. The last one I remembered was published by William Shipley, and he’s been gone for a while. I am not aware of one expert on these languages who says Penutian does not exist.
Campbell and Mixco:
Cayuse-Molala: A genetic classification no longer believed that linked Cayuse (of Oregon and Washington) and Molala (of Oregon) in a single assumed family. The evidence for this was later shown to be wrong and the hypothesis was abandoned.
According to Campbell and Mixco, Cayuse is an isolate. I assume they see Molala as an isolate too. There probably is no Cayuse-Molala family, but Molala is part of Plateau Penutian, and Cayuse may be part of the same group. Plateau Penutian is part of the Penutian hypothesis, which appears to be true. By not mentioning these facts, Campbell and Mixco’s statement is quite misleading.
Campbell and Mixco:
Mosan: A now abandoned proposal of distant genetic relationship that would group Salishan, Wakashan and Chimakuan together.
Another part of this proposal was that Mosan was part of a larger family with Algonquian called Almosan. An excellent series of papers was published recently by Sergei Nikolaev that validated Almosan and proved to me that it was related to Nivkhi in the Old World.
Michael Fortescue argued a few years before that Mosan was a valid entity and that was related to the Old World language Nivkhi. Recently, Murray Gell-Mann, Ilia Peiros, and Georgiy Starostin also supported Almosan and grouped it with Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Nivkhi. David Beck recently argued that Mosan is a language area or Sprachbund instead of a genetic family.
So far we have four specialists arguing that Mosan exists, and one saying it does not. The consensus among specialists seems to be that Mosan is a valid language family. At any rate, Campbell and Mixco’s statement that this proposal is “now abandoned” is false.
For Almosan, we have four specialists saying it exists and two apparently saying it does not. Expert consensus on Almosan is optimistic.
Hokan: A controversial hypothesis of distant genetic relationship proposed by Dixon and Kroeber among certain languages of California; the original list included Shastan, Chimariko, Pomoan, Karok, and Yana, to which they soon added Esselen, Yuman, and later Chumashan, Salinan, Seri, and Tequistlatecan. Later scholars, especially Edward Sapir, proposed various additions to Hokan. Many ‘Hokan’ specialists doubt the validity of the hypothesis.
It is not true that many Hokan specialists “doubt the validity of the hypothesis.” I can’t remember the last time I saw an anti-Hokan paper. Yes, Campbell, Mixco, and Mithun say Hokan does not exist, but they are not specialists. The consensus among specialists such as Mikhail Zhikov, Terence Kaufman, and Marcelo Jokelsy is that Hokan exists. I have only found one specialist who disagrees with the Hokan hypothesis, and she merely doubts the existence of Ch’imáriko.
I believe that a Hokan family consisting of Karuk, Shasta-Palaihnihan, Ch’imáriko, Yana, Salinan, Pomoan, Yuman, Seri, and Tequistlatecan exists, although I would leave out Chumashan, Washo, and Jicaquean or Tolan. Chumashan is an isolate, and while Washo and Tolan may be Hokan at a very deep time depth, the few possible cognates are not enough to provide evidence of this. I am agnostic on Esselen, which is only known from a 350 word list collected by friars at a California mission.
I have not seen any evidence that Coahuiltecan is Hokan. There is some evidence, though not probative enough for me, that Lencan and Misumalpan may be Hokan. Nevertheless, Lencan and Misumalpan form a language family that has even been accepted by Campbell himself. This is the only long-range family proposal he has supported since the publication of LIA.
Although Campbell’s opinion on many hypotheses may be waved away as he is not an expert on that family or language, Lencan and Misumalpan are right up his alley as he is an expert in languages in Central America. He has focused mostly on Mayan, but he also knows the other languages of the region well.
Campbell and Mixco:
Cochimí–Yuman: A family of languages from Arizona, California and Baja California, with two branches, extinct Cochimí (of Baja California) and the Yuman subfamily (members of which are Kiliwa, Diegueño, Cocopa, Mojave, Maricopa, Paipai, and Walapai–Havasupai–Yavapai, among others). Cochimí–Yuman is often associated with the controversial Hokan hypothesis, though evidence is insufficient to embrace the proposed relationship.
The consensus among experts in the Cochimí–Yuman family, including Mikhail Zhikov and Terence Kaufman, is that it is part of the Hokan family. Campbell disbelieves in the association but he is not an expert. However, Mixco opposes the Hokan affinity of Cochimi-Yuman, and granted, he is actually a specialist on these languages. So among specialists, we have two who support the Hokan association and one who opposes it. The specialist consensus then would be that they are this association is a promising hypothesis, but it is not yet proven. This is different from Campbell and Mixco’s wording, which is more negative.
Campbell and Mixco:
Coahuiltecan: A hypothesis of distant genetic relationship that proposed to group some languages of south Texas and northern Mexico: Coahuilteco, Comecrudo and Cotoname, and sometimes also Tonkawa, Karankawa, Atakapa and Maratino (with Aranama and Solano assumed to be varieties of Coahuilteco).
Sapir proposed a broader classification of Hokan–Coahuiltecan, joining the Coahuiltecan proposal with the broader Hokan hypothesis, and placed this in his even larger Hokan–Siouan super-stock. None of these proposals has proven sufficiently robust to be accepted generally.
I am not aware of any specialists who have recently argued against the existence of Coahuiltecan. Yes, Campbell and Mixco do not accept it, but they are not specialists. A recent paper by Alexander Manaster-Ramer proved the existence of Coahuiltecan to my satisfaction. I believe that a Coahuiltecan family consisting of Comecrudo, Cotoname, Aranama, Solano,Mamulique, Garza, and Coahuilteco absolutely exists. Karankawa is probably a part of this family. I am not aware that any specialist is arguing against the existence of this family at the moment.
I do not think there is good evidence for other postulated languages such as Atakapa and Tonkowa. First of all, Tonkawa is probably Na-Dene as per another paper by Manaster-Ramer. Atakapa is part of the Gulf family. However, I am not yet convinced that Coahuiltecan is as member of the Hokan language family.
Campbell and Mixco:
Gulf: Hypothesis of a distant genetic relationship proposed by Mary R. Haas that would group Muskogean, Natchez, Tunica, Atakapa and Chitimacha, no longer supported by most linguists.
The notion that Gulf is no longer supported by most linguists is simply incorrect. There have only been four linguists who studied this family.
The first was Mary Haas, who also proposed a relationship with Yuki as Yuki-Gulf. Haas was always dubious about Chitimacha’s addition to Gulf.
Greenberg resurrected Yuki-Gulf in LIA.
Pam Munro is an expert on these languages. A while back she published a paper on Yuki-Gulf. I read that paper. The resemblances are so stunning between Muskogean, Natchez, Tunica, Atakapa and Chitimacha that I was shocked that anyone doubted the relationship. Furthermore, the relationship with Yuki and Wappo, a full 2,500 miles away in Northern California, was shocking.
The fourth was Geoffrey Kimball, who concluded that Gulf was probably a family but that this could not be proven.
There evidence for Gulf in Munro’s paper was good, and there even appeared to be sound correspondences running through the relationship. What was shocking about it was that Yuki and Wappo could not possibly have borrowed from Gulf because Gulf is in Louisiana 2,500 miles away. So how did all these resemblances come in? Chance is ruled out. Borrowing could not have happened. Therefore a relationship at least between Yuki and the Gulf languages is obvious.
Munro’s paper took the position that Greenberg’s Yuki-Gulf hypothesis was correct. However, there are some problems. First, Atakapa as part of Gulf has been controversial, in part because it has also been tied in with Coahuiltecan. Indeed there are resemblances between the two, and they were not spoken next to each other so borrowing can be ruled out.
Perhaps a way of solving the matter is to posit not only Yuki-Gulf but a larger family that includes Coahuiltecan as Greenberg does in LIA. I have no idea how justified this is, but there are certainly surprising resemblances between Atakapa and the Coahuiltecan languages.
Furthermore, whether or not Chitimacha is part of Gulf has been up in the air from the beginning when Haas published her paper. Recent papers have made the case that Chitimacha is related to Mesoamerican language families of Mexico such as Mixe-Zoque and Totonacan. These papers used the comparative method. Campbell has rejected this hypothesis.
That Tunica at the very least shows a close relationship with Muskogean is not even controversial. The idea has a long pedigree and is presently supported by all experts in this family.
Geoffrey Kimball examined the data recently and concluded that from the evidence, it appears that Gulf exists, but we will never be able to prove it, as he puts it. However, he stated that Tunica is almost certainly related to Muskogean. At this point, I would think that Tunica-Muskogean at the very least should be considered consensus among specialists.
Kimball’s paper had a number of problems, mostly that he was operating with a negative stance towards the existence of the family. Further, there were issues with his notions of sound symbolism and borrowing in the paper where his explanations made no sense at all.
Let’s evaluate Campbell and Mixco’s statement that Gulf is no longer supported by most linguists.
We have four specialists on record about whether or not a Gulf family exists.
Mary Haas: Positive, minus Chitimacha
Joseph Greenberg: Positive
Pamela Munro: Positive
Geoffrey Kimball: Probably exists but it’s not possible to prove it.
Brown et al: Chitimacha is a part of the Totonozoquean family, not the Gulf family. The other members of Gulf are not members of this family.
Three out of the four specialists on the Gulf family say that the Gulf family is a reality. The other feels it exists but cannot be proven. And there is uncertainty about whether Chitimacha is probably not part of Gulf. The consensus among experts is that Gulf is a real language family.
Campbell and Mixco’s statement that Gulf is no longer supported by most linguists is simply false.
Furthermore, I would like to point out that a good case can be made for the existence of a Totonozoquean family consisting of the Mixe-Zoque and Totonacan languages. Whether this is consensus among experts is somewhat up in the air.
Campbell and Mixco:
Macro-Gê: A proposed distant genetic relationship composed of several language families and isolates, many now extinct, along the Atlantic coast (primarily of Brazil). These include Chiquitano, Bororoan, Botocudoan, Rikbaktsa, the Gê family proper, Jeikó, Kamakanan, Maxakalían, Purian, Fulnío, Ofayé and Guató. Many are sympathetic to the hypothesis and several of these languages will very probably be demonstrated to be related to one another eventually, though others will probably need to be separated out.
This is much too pessimistic. Macro-Gê is not a proposed long range family -it is a large language family in South America accepted by consensus. It is not true that many are sympathetic to it; instead, the consensus is that it is correct. Nor is it correct to say that it will probably be demonstrated eventually. In fact, it is already an accepted reality.
Campbell and Mixco:
Quechumaran: Proposed distant genetic relationship that would join Quechuan and Aymaran. While considerable evidence has been gathered in support of the hypothesis, it is extremely difficult in this case to distinguish what may be inherited (and therefore evidence of a genetic relationship) from what may be diffused (and therefore not reliable evidence of a genetic connection).
It is true that there is no consensus on the existence of Quechumaran. The consensus seems to be as above that it is not yet proven. Those opposed to the idea throw out the usual borrowing scenario, but they have had to push the large number of borrowings in core vocabulary all the way back to Proto-Aymara and Proto-Quechua. In my opinion, “massive borrowing of core vocabulary at the proto-language level” is simply another word for genetics.
Gerald Clauson, the famous Turkologist opponent of Altaic, had to keep pushing his massive borrowings of core vocabulary further and further back until he eventually had the scenario taking place at the Proto-Turkic, Proto-Tungusic, and Proto-Mongolic levels. See above for my analysis on why these three proto-languages could not possibly have borrowed from each other as they were in different places in different times.
A similar problem exists with opponents of the Uralo-Yukaghir theory, in which they are also forced to deal with a large amount of core vocabulary dating back a long time. Hakkinen tried to solve this problem by pushing the borrowing all the way back to not just Proto-Uralic but Pre-Proto-Uralic. Pre-Proto-Uralic at 8,000 years to me means nothing less than Uralo-Yukaghir. What else could it mean? He has heavy borrowing of core vocabulary between Pre-Proto-Uralic and Proto-Yukaghir. That’s another way of saying genetics.
Campbell and Mixco:
Macro-Guaicuruan (also spelled Macro-Waykuruan, Macro-Waikuruan): A proposed distant genetic relationship that would join the Guaicuruan and Matacoan families of the Gran Chaco in South America in a larger-scale genetic classification. Grammatical similarities, for example in the pronominal systems, have suggested the relationship to some scholars, but the extremely limited lexical evidence raises doubts for others. Some would also add Charruan and Mascoyan to these in an even larger ‘Macro-Waikuruan cluster.’
It is not true that this is a proposed long-range family suggested by some by doubted by others. In fact, Macro-Guaicuruan is accepted by consensus and is as uncontroversial as Macro-Gê, Pama-Nyungan, and other such families. There is however debate about which families are members outside of the Guaicuruan and Mataguayo language families that make up the essence of the family. There have been suggestions to add Lule-Vilela and the Zamucoan, Charruan, and Mascoyan families to this family. I do not feel that these additions are yet warranted.
Campbell and Mixco:
Pama-Nyungan: A very large, widely spread language family of Australia, some 175 languages. The name comes from Kenneth Hale, based on the words pama ‘man’ in the far northeast and nyunga ‘man’ in the southwest. Languages assigned to Pama-Nyungan extend over four-fifths of Australia, most of the continent except northern areas.
Pama-Nyungan is accepted by most Australianists as a legitimate language family, but not uncritically and not universally. It is rejected by Dixon; it is held by others to be plausible but inconclusive based on current evidence. Some Pama-Nyungan languages are Lardil, Kayardilt, Yukulta, Yidiny, Dyirbal, Pitta-Pitta, Arrente, Warlpiri, Western Desert language(s), and there are many more.
Actually, consensus now is that this family of Australian languages does indeed exist. True, Dixon challenged the existence of Pama-Nyungan recently, but his opposition was so outrageous and it prompted a quick surge of papers from Australianists defending the existence of Pama-Nyungan. The notion that other Australianists feel that Pama-Nyungan is possible but presently inconclusive is not correct. I am not aware of a single Australianist other than Dixon who feels this way. Instead, Pama-Nyungan is about as uncontroversial as Macro-Gê, Afroasiatic, or Austroasiatic.
Campbell and Mixco:
‘Papuan’ languages: A term of convenience used to refer to the languages of the western Pacific, most in New Guinea (Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya), that are neither Austronesian nor Australian. Papuan definitely does not refer to a genetic relationship among these languages for no such relationship can at present be shown.
That is, the term is defined negatively and does not imply a linguistic relationship. While most are spoken on the island of New Guinea, some are found in the Bismark Archipelago, Bougainville Island and the Solomon Islands to the east, and in Halmahera, Timor and the Alor Archipelago to the west.
There are some 800 Papuan languages divided in the a large number of mostly small language families and isolates not demonstrably related to one another.
For what it’s worth, this statement by Campbell and Mixco is correct.
Campbell and Mixco:
One large genetic grouping that has been posited for a number of Papuan languages is the Trans-New Guinea phylum, which is promising but not yet confirmed.
Trans-New Guinea is not “promising but not yet confirmed.” Instead it is an uncontroversial language family accepted by the consensus of all specialists.
Beck, David (1997). Mosan III: A Problem of Remote Common Proximity. International Conference on Salish (and Neighbo(u)ring) Languages.
Benedict, Paul K. (1942). “Thai, Kadai, and Indonesian: A New Alignment in Southeastern Asia.” American Anthropologist 44, 4: 576–601.
Benedict, Paul K. (1975). Austro-Thai Language and Culture, with a Glossary of Roots. New Haven: HRAF Press.
Blench, Roger (2008). The Prehistory of the Daic (Tai-Kadai) Speaking Peoples. Presented at the 12th EURASEAA Meeting in Leiden, the Netherlands, 1-5 September 2008.
Blench, Roger (2018). Tai-Kadai and Austronesian Are Related at Multiple Levels and Their Archaeological Interpretation (draft).
Blust, Robert (2014). “The Higher Phylogeny of Austronesian and the Position of Tai-Kadai: Another Look,” in The 14th International Symposium on Chinese Languages and Linguistics (IsCLL-14).
Campbell, Lyle and Marianne Mithun (Eds.) (1979). The Languages of Native America: An Historical and Comparative Assessment.
Campbell, Lyle and Mauricio J. Mixco (2007). A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. Edinburgh University Press.
Campbell, Lyle and William J. Poser (2008). Language Classification: History and Method. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Fortescue, M. (1998). Language Relations across Bering Strait: Reappraising the Archaeological and Linguistic Evidence. (Nivkhi is Mosan.)
Fortescue, Michael (2011). “The Relationship of Nivkh to Chukotko-Kamchatkan Revisited.” Lingua 121, 8: 1359-1376. (Nivkhi is Chukoto-Kamchatkan.)
Gell-Mann, Murray; Ilia Peiros, and George Starostin (2009). “Distant Language Relationship: The Current Perspective.” Journal of Language Relationship.
Greenberg, Joseph H. (2000). Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family. Volume 1, Grammar. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Greenberg, Joseph H. (2002). Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family. Volume 2, Lexicon. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Heine, Bernd (1992). African Languages. International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, ed. by William Bright, Vol. 1, pp. 31-36. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (No such thing as Nilo-Saharan.)
Krauss, Michael E. (1979). Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut. The Languages of Native America: Historical and comparative assessment, ed. by Lyle Campbell and Marianne Mithun, pp. 803-901. Austin: University of Texas Press. (Haida not part of Na-Dene.)
Levine, Robert D. (1979). Haida and Na-Dene: A New Look at the evidence. IJAL 45: 157-70. (Haida not part of Na-Dene.)
Mixco, Mauricio J. (1976). “Kiliwa Texts.” International Journal of American Linguistics Native American Text Series 1: 92-101
Mixco, Mauricio J. (1977). “The Linguistic Affiliation of the Ñakipa and Yakakwal of Lower California”. International Journal of American Linguistics 43: 189-200.
Nicola¨i, Robert (1990). Parent´es Linguistiques (`A Propos du Songhay). Paris: CNRS. (Dimmendaal says Songhay is Nilo-Saharan.)
Nikolaev, S. (2015). Toward the Reconstruction of Proto-Algonquian-Wakashan. Part 1: Proof of the Algonquian-Wakashan Relationship.
Nikolaev, S. (2016). Toward the Reconstruction of Proto-Algonquian-Wakashan. Part 2: Algonquian-Wakashan Sound Correspondences.
Ostapirat, Weera (2005). “Kra-Dai and Austronesian: Notes on Phonological Correspondences and Vocabulary Distribution,” in Laurent Sagart, Roger Blench and Alicia Sanchez-Mazas, eds. The Peopling of East Asia: Putting Together Archaeology, Linguistics, and Genetics, pp. 107-131. London: Routledge Curzon.
Ostapirat, Weera (2013). Austro-Tai Revisited. Paper Presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, 29-31 May 2013, Chulalongkorn University.
Reid, Lawrence A. (2006). “Austro-Tai Hypotheses.” In Keith Brown (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd Edition, pp. 609–610.
Sagart, Laurent (2005b). “Tai-Kadai as a Subgroup of Austronesian,” in L. Sagart, R. Blench, and A. Sanchez-Mazas (Eds.), The Peopling of East Asia: Putting Together Archaeology, Linguistics, and Genetics, pp. 177-181.
Sagart, Laurent (2019). “A Model of the Origin of Kra-Dai Tones.” Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale. 48, 1: 1–29.
Thurgood, Graham (1994). “Tai-Kadai and Austronesian: The Nature of the Relationship.” Oceanic Linguistics 33: 345-368.
This is pretty nice for a rough draft, but I have a lot more information on all of these languages and dialects, including lots of links. But this should do for now.
Spanish or Castillian hit the other languages hard, but after the dictatorship things got a lot better.
Catalan is the official language of the region. Catalan is not part of Macro-Spanish. Instead it is part of a larger family called Catalan-Occitan. I recently met several mostly-Castillian speakers from Catalonia and they told me that they all understood Catalan. Whether they spoke it or not was another matter. A young man there was a native speaker. Native Catalan speakers might be ~35% of the population, and many children are still being brought up in Catalan.
There are Catalan schools, Catalan media, Catalan as an official language in the government, etc. There is a huge pool of Catalan second-language speakers. There are probably not any Catalan monolinguals left, but if there are, it is some old lady in a tiny village in the mountains.
Island Catalan is a form of Catalan that is spoken on the Mallorca Islands in three different dialects. Some have difficult intelligibility with Catalan, and they are probably closer to Valencian. Whether these qualify as separate languages is not known. Mallorcan is one of these dialects of Catalan.
Valencian is spoken in Valencia and the Valencian speakers insist that they speak a different language from Catalan, although there is 94% intelligibility between the two. Catalan speakers do not want to break up the language. There is an Institute of the Valencian Language, an official orthography, etc. In particular, Valencians reject the Catalan orthography, as they say it does not suit the language that the speak. ~20% of Valencians speak Valencian. It is in much worse shape than Catalan. The Catalan authorities refuse to recognize Valencian as it is just a Catalan dialect, first, and second because they see Catalan as endangered and they do not wish to split it up.
Chapurillo is a form of Catalan spoken in La Franga and the Strip in Aragon that speakers say is a separate language. There are regular calls to have it recognized. However, Catalan speakers say that they understand this variety perfectly. Nevertheless, an attempt to call this dialect Catalan and have it translated into English resulted in a big mess. Its name is a variation on the term churro, etc. which means more or less broken Spanish or bad Spanish.
Many of the languages above are called churros or chapurros, and many Spaniards think they are just forms of broken Spanish spoken by poorly educated people. Even speakers of the languages often think that they simply speak broken Spanish or bad Spanish and are often ashamed of their speech and refuse to speak it. Speaking churro also implies ignorance, rural residence, poverty, lack of intelligence, etc. Any effort to get this lect recognized would run into a lot of opposition from the Catalan government, which would say is is just a form of Catalan, which in fact it is.
Aragonese is still spoken in Aragon. It is not fully intelligible with Castillian, and it is a separate language. This region was under the crown of Aragon, hence a different speech evolved here. It sounds a lot like Spanish. There are 30,000 Aragonese speakers. It is an official language in the state of Aragon, but Spain refuses to recognize it as it is seen as Macro-Spanish, which it is. It was formerly spoken in three forms like Extremaduran, and like that language, only the remote northern form survives.
Otherwise Southern Aragonese and Central Aragonese turned into dialects of Spanish called Aragonese Spanish. Aragonese is spoken in the very high mountains of the Pyrenees in villages that are often almost totally depopulated. There are still children being brought up in Aragonese though, especially around the Benasquesque-speaking region. The children show up at school as Aragonese monolinguals.
Churro is a Spanish dialect called spoken around La Franja on the border of Aragon and Catalonia. It is probably the most diverse dialect in Spain. It seems to be a form of Aragonese Spanish with a lot of Catalan or Valencian mixed in. It is not known how widely spoken this dialect is anymore. It’s apparently intelligible with Spanish, but an attempt to call a Churro text Spanish and translate it into English resulted in a complete mess.
Basque is actually doing quite well. ~20% of the population are native speakers, and there are quite a few second language speakers. There are Basque schools, Basque media, Basque signage, on and on. I recently met a young college-aged man who was a Basque native speaker. Quite a few children are still being brought up in Basque. I am not sure if there are any Basque monolinguals left. Basque is not related to any of the languages spoken in Spain. It is the remains of the original language of the area before it was conquered by the Romans. Basque is recognized as by the Spanish government.
Souletin is absolutely a separate language from Basque Proper or Official Basque. There are other dialects including Guipuzcaon and a few others which may also be separate languages, but that is much less clear. Souletin is spoken in France, where Basque is spoken by only 10% of the population.
Asturian-Leonese is a major language spoken in northern to northwestern Spain between Basque and Extremaduran and Galician. To the south, it extends to the Portuguese border. It consists of two major dialects, Asturian and Leonese and countless dialects therein. However, comprehension appears good between all of the Asturian and Leonese dialects, except that part of Eastern Asturian in the north and Eastern Leonese in far south have turned into a separate language called Extremaduan-Cantabrian.
Asturian one part of the Asturian-Leonese language. It is still very much alive, although it is not an official language of Spain. It is an official language of the state of Asturias. ~20% of Asturians speak Asturian and I believe there are children still being brought up in Asturian.
Leonese is the same language as Asturian spoken to the south and is in much worse shape. It is also not an official language of Spain, but it is an official language of Castille and Leon where it is spoken. Amazingly, there are still Leonese monolinguals in the high mountains in Northwestern Castille and Leon. Leonese was their first language and they learned Spanish in school but subsequently forgot Spanish and now speak only Leonese.
There are still children being brought up in Leonese in the tiny depopulated villages in the mountains of Southeastern Castille and Leon near the Portuguese border. This form of Leonese is often called Porteno, and it is quite close to the Mirandese language spoken in Portugal. Asturian-Leonese is seen as part of the general Castillian language family, but this is not really true.
Mirandese is spoken in a small part of northwestern Portugal by 15,000 people. It is a form of Asturian-Leonese that came under heavy Portuguese influence and became a separate language. It is similar to the Porteno form of Central Leonese spoken near the Portuguese and Galician borders of Castille and Leon. Mirandese proper is spoken in Portugal, but other dialects of it are spoken in a few small villages on the Spanish-Portuguese borders. Most of these are considered to be extinct, but recent field trips found that they are still spoken in a few of these places.
Rio de Onorese is a tiny lect spoken in Rio de Onoro, a village on the Portuguese border. Half of the village is in Spain, half of the village is in Portugal and all residents are fluent in both languages. Everyone thinks this language is extinct, but if you go to the village, you will see it is still spoken there. It is a form of Mirandese spoken in Spain and should be recognized. It is a form of Asturian-Leonese as Mirandese is part of that language family. As a form of Asturian-Leonese, this is not recognized by the Spanish government. However, Mirandese is recognized by the Portuguese government.
Eonavian-Ibino is a separate language spoken between Asturian/Leonese and Galician. Locally it is referred to as fabla. It is a completely separate language but no one will recognize it as such. It even has an organization for the standardization of the language. The name Eonavian is a reference to the Eo and Nava rivers in the area where it is spoken. Ibino is this same language spoken in the southern part of the Eonavian area and it borders Leonese instead of Asturian.
Galician speakers cannot fully understand Ibino. It is closer to Galician but it is not Galician. At one time, maybe 75-100 years ago, this was a Galician dialect, and the older generation still understands Galician completely. The younger generation does not understand Galician so well, as they have not been exposed to it as much. So in a sense this is a new language or an emergent language. There are still many native speakers of Ibino and Eonavian.
As is usual in such cases (see Benasquesque below) the language institutes of both the Asturian/Leonese language and the Galician language have claimed this language. It’s certainly not Asturian/Leonese. A much better case can be made that it is Galician, and it was a Galician dialect until quite recently. However, Eonavian informants state that when they go to Galicia, they speak Castillian to Galician speakers results in too many misunderstandings. Since both Asturian/Leonese and Galician claim this lect a dialect of their languages, Spain does not recognize it.
Galician is is a separate language spoken in Galicia that is close to Portuguese. It is still doing quite well. ~35% of the population of Galicia speak Galician. Almost all also speak Castillian. It is an official language of Galicia and Spain. There are Galician schools. There is some Galician media but not nearly enough. You hear Galician a lot more in the rural areas than in the big cities.
A very Castillianized Official Galician is used in the media, and it has high intelligibility with Spanish of 78%. A much harder Galician is spoken in the villages in the mountains where intelligibility with Spanish is as low as 40%. The form of Galician spoken in the far south on the border with Portugal is not intelligible with Portuguese or the rest of Galician and is not understood outside the region. It is actually a separate language, though no one will recognize it.
Minhoto is a form of Galician that is spoken in and around the Minho region of Portugal and the part of Galicia neighboring it to the north. It is generally not understood outside the region. It appears to be an aberrant form of Galician that perhaps came under heavy Portuguese influence.
Fala is a language spoken in the far northwest of Extremadura near the Portuguese border. It is spoken in four different dialects in as many towns. It is still very widely spoken as a native language in all of these towns. This is Old Galician from the 1200’s that got isolated from the rest of the language and underwent heavy influence from Leonese, especially the Asturian-Leonese language spoken in Portugal called Mirandese.
Technically this is not a separate language as Galician speakers understand it perfectly, but it is nevertheless recognized as a language by SIL. Fala speakers reject the Galician orthography as far from what they speak, adding ammunition to the notion that this is a separate language. Spain does not recognize this language for whatever reason, but if it is a part of Galician, it should at least be recognized as that.
Portuguese is spoken in a few places in Spain on the border of Portugal, mostly in the South around Extremadura and Bajadoz. These are forms of Old Portuguese dating from the 13th to the 16th Centuries. However, they all seem to be fully intelligible with Portuguese. They are mostly spoken by the elderly now.
Oliveno is a form of Portuguese heavily mixed with Spanish that is spoken on the border of Portugal. It’s not Portuguese; it is actually a separate language. It still has ~3,000 speakers. It is spoken in a single village. Officials refuse to recognize this language, and Portugal says it is just Portuguese, but Portuguese speakers can’t understand it at all. Spain refuses to recognize it for whatever reason, but if the argument is that it is just a form of Portuguese, then it should be recognized.
Extremaduan-Cantabrian is a language spoken to the east of Asturian in the north and to the south of Leonese in the south. These are parts of Eastern Asturian-Leonese that got isolated in the mountains of Cantabria and Extremadura and split off from the rest 500 years ago. In the north, it went into Cantabrian and in the south, it turned into Extremaduran.
Extremaduran is still spoken in Extremadura by 100,000 speakers. It is a highly Castillianized form of Eastern Leonese that got cut off from the rest of Leonese 400-500 years ago. Otherwise Eastern Leonese is nearly extinct. However, it is not intelligible with Asturian-Leonese. Extremaduran speakers say that if they go to Oveido in Central Asturias, they will not be understood. Nevertheless, this is part of the same language as Cantabrian, and these same speakers say that if they go to Cantabria, their Extremaduran will be understood. It is spoken in the mountains in tiny depopulating villages, which is where it originated.
One of my Castillian-speaking informants actually grew up in the region and has been hearing Extremaduran all his life, and he can only understand 17% of it. The accent is wild. There is much confusion, as Extremaduran is also called Castuo. Extremaduran is the northern form of Castuo from the mountains that survived, while Southern Castuo and Central Castuo turned into dialects of Spanish.
However there may be some “Extremaduran” spoken in the south too, as an informant has a word list from a tiny village in Bajadoz, and he said he could only understand 50% of the lexicon. This may be some far southern form of Extremaduran. Southern and Central Castuo are just Spanish dialects, albeit odd ones, but they are heavily spoken and often confused with Extremaduran because people refer to both by the same term. Extremaduran is an official language in Extremadura, but Spain refuses to recognize it because it is seen as part of the larger macro-Spanish although it is actually Asturian-Leonese.
Cantabrian is part of the same language as Extremaduran. This is the Asturian form of Asturian-Leonese that got cut off from the rest of Asturian 400-500 years ago and became very Castillianized. Cantabrian is not fully intelligible to Spanish speakers. It is still alive in the mountains where the children come to school as Cantabrian monolinguals, and the teachers from outside the region say that they can’t understand these children.
Mantegno is spoken in La Mancha and is part of a “Southern Castillian” that ranges to Andalucian and probably also includes Murcian. When Mantegno speakers go to Madrid, they say they are not understood. This is probably also a separate language. When spoken in rapid speech, intelligibility even with Castuo is 50%. Of course it is not recognized by the state as even native speakers hardly realize that it is a separate language.
Andalucian is mostly a Spanish dialect called Andalucian Spanish, albeit an extremely divergent one. However, there are a few villages in the mountains in the south where a hard Andalucian is spoken that is not intelligible even to other Andalucians. It would be valid to regard this form of Andalucian as a separate language, but no one is going to split it off.
There is also a hard Andalucian of the street associated with criminals and other street types. People from Northern Spain say they can’t understand it at all. There have been efforts to get Andalucian recognized by the state, but they always fail because all that remains is a Spanish dialect, and even if it were a separate language, Spain would argue that it is part of Macro-Spanish, which it is.
Murcian, spoken in Murcia, is mostly a Spanish dialect called Murcian Spanish, albeit quite a strange one. There are regular calls to have it recognized as an official language, but they go nowhere because it’s not really a separate language.
However, there is a hard form of it called Panocho spoken in the remote mountains in Eastern Murcia that cannot be understood outside the region. Andalucians cannot understand it either. It is probably a separate language. It has 6,000 speakers. There are efforts to get this recognized by the Spanish state, but they never go anywhere as what they try to legalize is simply a Spanish dialect called Murcian Spanish. The harder Panocho form would also not be recognized by Spain as they would see it as part of Macro-Spanish, which it is.
Aranese is a form of Occitan spoken in the tiny state of Andorra. It is still spoken by people of all ages, and children show up at school speaking Aranese. Although it is intelligible with the Occitan spoken directly across the border in the French Pyreneees, it is not fully intelligible with the rest of Occitan. It is not well understood by speakers of any of the surrounding speech forms. Aranese is actually recognized as a separate language by Spain.
Benasquesque is a form of speech spoken on the border of Catalonia and Aragon in the very high mountains that cannot be definitely shown to be either Catalan or Aragonese. It is certainly not Aragonese. It could be Catalan, but a Catalan informant told me that this lect is absolutely not Catalan. However, the official language institutes of Catalan and Aragon both claim these speech forms.
But as is usual in these cases, they are both wrong and it is a separate language altogether. This is a very remote mountain region. This is a sort of microlanguage transitional between Aragonese and Catalan. Since both Aragonese and Catalan language institutes claim this language, it is not recognized by Spain and there are no attempts to get it recognized.
The French language is only one of the langues d’oil, a group of languages that developed out of Old French around ~1000. They’ve all been separated from Old French for about 1,000 years. It’s uncertain how many of these are still alive. It’s also unknown how many are still full languages and how many have simply turned into dialects of regional French. Mutual intelligibility is also not known with most of these languages and few if any studies have been undertaken. Another problem is that the languages themselves range from forms of regional French to full-blown separate languages.
The French language itself is a langue d’oil called Francien that was chosen as the de facto French language several hundred years ago. However, as recently as 100 years ago, 80% of conscripts in the French Army in WW1 could not speak French!
Percheron, spoken very close to Paris. Said to be extinct but there are still some speakers. Together with Sarthois in Manceau.
Berrichon, spoken in Berry. Said to be extinct but still has speakers.
Tourangeou, spoken in Tours. Said to be extinct, but it is still spoken in the rural areas.
Orleanais, said to be extinct but still spoken in the rural areas.
Manceau or Mainot, spoken in Mans. Said to be a French dialect, but is really a language. Said to be extinct but still spoken. Includes Percheron and Sarthois.
Sarthois, spoken in Sarthe, probably a separate language. Together with Percheron in Manceau.
Mayennais, spoken in Mayenne, probably a separate language.
Gallo, still spoken in Brittany, 300,000 speakers. Lot of Breton words. Gallo was formed from Manceau, Sarthois, Mayennais, and Percheron.
Angevin, spoken in Anjou, together with Gallo but a separate language. Said to be nearly extinct but still spoken.
Poitevin, spoken in Poitiers, separate language. There are still native monolinguals in their 60’s who cannot even speak French!
Saintangenais, spoken in Western France, separate language. Still fairly widely spoken. This is together with Poitevin.
Norman or Normand, different types, separate language, still spoken. Cotentinais still has native speakers in their 40’s, farm workers.
Gernesiais Norman, spoken on Guernsey. Probably two different languages.
Jerriais, spoken on Jersey, separate language from Gernesiais.
Sercquiais, spoken on Sark Island, only 15 speakers left, separate language.
There are different Norman forms spoken on the mainland in Normandy. Cauchois, Cotentin, etc.
Picard, spoken in Picardy, still widely spoken in different forms that all seem to be dialects of one language. A separate language, still fairly widely spoken, especially by coal miners.
Champenois spoken in Champagne, still spoken but going extinct, separate language. Ardennois is a dialect spoken in the Ardennes, still spoken.
Lorrain spoken in the Loire, still spoken in different forms but going extinct.
Bourguignon, separate language, still spoken in Burgundy. Fairly widely spoken.
Bourbonnais, probably a separate language, spoken in Burgundy. Close to Berrichon.
Franche-Comte, still spoken in Franche-Comte mostly by old people.
In the comments to a previous post, Goyta made several comments. First of all he noted that the differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese are considerable, especially when a Brazilian hears a less educated, working class or rural Portuguese.
He also said that when European Portuguese are interviewed on Brazilian TV, Brazilians wish they had subtitles. Wanting to have subtitles when you see a video of someone speaking is actually a symptom that you are dealing with another language. He said the differences are particularly severe when it comes to IT. He said he cannot understand 99% of what is written in a European Portuguese IT magazine, whereas with a regular publication, he can get 99% of it.
It does appear that the differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese are pretty significant, more significant than the differences between US and British English.
On other hand, I find Hibernian English spoken in Ireland to be nearly incomprehensible, though it is said to be just a dialect of English. It’s clearly been influenced extensively by the Irish language. Scots, the regional English spoken in Scotland and exemplified by the movie Trainspotting , is actually a completely separate language from English. That movie actually needed subtitles. On the other hand, there is a Scottish English dialect that is not Scots that is pretty intelligible.
We can always understand British English no matter who is writing it. Same with understanding spoken Australian and New Zealand (Kiwi) English. British English is often written a bit differently in slang expressions, but we pick them up. The formal writing is totally understandable.
There have been huge fights on Wikipedia between British English and US English speakers with complaints from the Brits of bullying by the Americans. There was an attempt to fork the English Wiki into Br and US versions but it failed. Wikipedia demands that you have an ISO code in order to get a Wikipedia and ISO codes only come from SIL, who publishes Ethnologue. I petitioned for a few new languages a couple of years ago and they all got shot down.
There is an ongoing war between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese on the Portuguese Wikipedia with complaints from the European Portuguese of bullying on the part of the Brazilians. Gotya noted that he, a Brazilian, could not read Portuguese IT materials. This is unfortunate. All written British is intelligible to us. We can read anything written in the UK, though most of our reading material here is from the US. I can read The Economist and The New Standard and The Spectator with no problems at all.
As a Californian, I speak completely normally, of course, and have no accent whatsoever! Haha. We can understand the Midwest accent perfectly, though it can be different. It sounds “flat”. They also insert rhotic consonants before some consonants at the end of a word and the raising of the preceding vowel – “wash” becomes “worsh”.
The Oklahoma accent is different and sometimes it can be hard to understand. I heard some people speaking Oklahoman in the doctor’s office the other day for a minute or so I thought they were speaking a foreign language! Of course they were mumbling too. Then I asked them where they were from and they said Oklahoma. At that point, I had caught onto their accent and could understand them perfectly.
I do not know why the Texan accent is said to be hard to understand. We understand it perfectly, but it sounds funny. We make a lot of jokes about it. George Bush has a strong Texan accent. There is also an Arkansas accent (Arkies) that is different but understandable. This is also the source of jokes. In this part of California there are many Whites who still speak Arkie and Okie. They are the descendants of those who came out here from the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s. Steinbeck wrote a book about this called The Grapes of Wrath.
Other than that, there are no accents in the West.
There is some sort of a Kentucky-Tennessee accent, but I am not sure if they differ. This is also a source of jokes. It’s sort of a general Appalachian accent, and it’s the source of jokes about inbred hillbillies and whatnot.
The Southern accent is well-known but usually understandable. My brother went to live in Alabama though and he said that the workers in the factory he worked at were often completely unintelligible. The Blacks were worse than the Whites, and they had separate accents. He has imitated their incomprehensible accent to me and it’s pretty hilarious.
I have heard poor Blacks from Memphis on the Cops show who were completely unintelligible to me. People with more money and status tended to be more comprehensible. I sometimes have a hard time understanding a Mississippi or Alabama accent, but it’s no problem. Our Southern politicians all have thick Southern accents.
Cajun English from Louisiana is often unintelligible to us, but the people with more money and status are quite intelligible.
There is also a Black accent from the coast of South Carolina called Gullah that is hard to understand. The Blacks from around there speak something like it and you can pick it out if you are sharp. It has a pretty, lilting sound to it. It’s different from the standard Southern accent and is sort of charming.
Moving up the coast, there is a Virginia accent that is softer, pleasant and charming.
There is the famous New York accent, which to us laid back Californians sounds horribly rude, obnoxious, loud and belligerent. Some forms of it also sound ignorant – these tend to be associated with working class Whites in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
One thing they do is to glide and lengthen rhotic consonants – “New York” becomes New Yawwk” “Brooklyn” becomes “Bwwoklyn”.
A similar accent seems to be spoken in New Jersey, but it may be different. One again, it involves lenition of rhotic consonants, in this case turning them into dipthongs with long vowels. “New Jersey” becomes “New Joiisey”. This is also a source of jokes.
There is a Boston accent which is completely understandable. Ted Kennedy speaks that. It involves the lenition of hard consonants into glides and the end of a word – “car” becomes “caw”.
I believe there is a sort of a slow drawl from Vermont and New Hampshire too. Those people, especially the older men, are known for not talking much. Men of few words.
Some Blacks around here still talk with thick Black accents that sound Southern even though they were born in the Central Valley.
There is also an “Ebonics” English (for lack of a better word) that is spoken here by sort of ghettoish or semi-ghettoish Blacks. It is frankly, almost completely unintelligible. They seem like they are talking with their mouths full, mumbling and speaking extremely fast, running all of the sounds together.
Everyone who talks like this can also speak Standard English thank God, and they can quickly move in and out of that Ebonics talk when you talk to them. It’s sort of a language for them to talk so that we can’t understand them, I think. To us, it sounds sloppy, low class and ghetto, but it reportedly a full-fledged language.
The Blacks in the Caribbean do not speak English! That makes me feel good because I can hardly understand a word they say. Each island has its own form of Creole English which is a completely separate language.
I think that Indian English (Chichi derogatorily) and West African English need to be split into separate languages because they are often incomprehensible to us. This is a case of regional Englishes evolving on their own. Further, West African English often differs a lot in its written form.
Indian English is often so mangled in its written form that it is incomprehensible, but more educated writers are comprehensible. The tendency to drop articles is very annoying and makes written Indian English sound ignorant to us. Don’t mess with our damned useless articles!
Reading about the Chinese languages, there are efforts underway to get speakers to speak proper Putonghua, whatever that means. Speakers from different parts of China still speak Putonghua with an accent that can be heavy at times.
Here in the US, we do not have this problem. Even our politicians still speak in heavy regional accents, and no one cares. We can always understand them. There is no national effort to get everyone to speak proper English that involves wiping out regional accents, though I understand that in the corporate world, they are offering classes to help people get rid of Southern accents, which are stereotyped as sounding backwards, ignorant and racist. I think this is sad. Our regional accents are what makes this country great.
Goyta also notes that Brazilians are starting to speak Spanish and the neighboring Spanish speaking countries are starting to speak Portuguese. When I was dealing with them 5-10 years ago, most Brazilians did not speak much Spanish (They acted like it was extremely low on their list of priorities) and Spanish speakers had zero interest in learning Portuguese (In fact, they regarded the suggestion as offensive and preposterous!)
Goyta notes that with regional integration, more Portuguese are speaking Spanish and more Spanish speakers from nearby countries are learning Portuguese. Spanish is becoming a prerequisite to getting a good job in Brazil. This is good as it’s good to see Latin Americans getting together.
It is also true that in China there has been a big fight over Chinese language classification. The unificationist – fascist types, associated with the Communist government (and actually with the Nationalist government before also – this is really a Chinese elite project) insist that there is only one Chinese language.
This goes along with racism of Northern Chinese against Southern Chinese and to some extent vice versa. This racism is most evident in the Cantonese vs Mandarin war in China.
Cantonese speakers say that they speak the real Chinese and that Northern Chinese speak a bastardized tongue derived from the old Manchu language. Cantonese speakers also resent that a Northern Chinese was turned into the national tongue and imposed on them against their will. They also say that Northern Chinese are really from the South and that the real NE Asians are the Mongolians, Koreans, Manchu, Japanese, etc. Genetic studies show that this is not the case.
Northern Chinese say that Southern Chinese are not real Chinese and their blood is “contaminated” with Tai types like the Tai, Zhuang, Vietnamese, etc. There is probably something to this.
Although Putonghua is the only official language in China and there is a war going on against the regional Chineses, enforcement has been held off against Cantonese. And Cantonese areas are still where you will hear the least Putonghua and the most regional Chinese in all spheres of life. Cantonese is also allowed on the radio and TV, whereas regional Chineses had previously banned from the media.
The Putonghua-only campaign has been too successful and regional Chineses are being wiped out. There is now a regionalism movement arising in China to promote and retain regional Chineses.
I think that the Putonghua campaign has been good, but that China should promote bilingualism. The Putonghua campaign has not yet been successful. As of 2001, only 53% of Chinese could speak Putonghua, but it has probably risen a lot since then as the government is really pushing this hard.
China clearly needs a language that they can all speak. For its entire history, many Chinese have not been able to speak to each other, including folks from one village to the next if you go to the southeast and the central coast. Provinces like Fujian, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Henan and Hunan are notoriously multilingual.
Most of these places have a lot of very high mountains, and transportation was typically very poor. Even today, you can scarcely get around by vehicle and you sometimes have to walk from one place to the next, sometimes for dozens of miles! Bottom line is they were very isolated from each other.
These places also retained a tradition of being hideouts for “hillbilly” types where there was a lot of unemployment and many folks turned to crime. Also criminals fled to the mountains where they could hide. Upshot was that due to all of this, and people seen as backwards, lazy, stupid and thieving, people from the rest of China had no interest in going to these places anyway.
When people left these parts of China to go to big cities, they were stereotyped in a way similar to how ghetto Blacks and Browns are in the US. This made them want to stay in their mountains.
Claudius: Very interesting. Too me Afro-Asiatic seems very close to IE. But I don’t know anything about the other Eurasiatic or Nostratic families besides Uralic and Altaic (Japanese).
But IE is like AA with corrupted and limited ablaut. PIE verbs did have ablaut just not to the extreme of AA languages. Even PIE/IE some nouns exhibit ablaut.
Part of the problem is that AA is so old. Nostratic itself is 15-18,000 years old, and AA is 13-15,000 years old itself. The numerals are still a mess. They’re probably not even reconstructible. Numerals get replaced more than people think. This silly numerals argument is also used to invalidate Altaic. But in Altaic most of the original numerals were replaced. However, some of the originals held on in lesser semantic roles. So they were still there, just harder to see as the main numeral forms got replaced by innovations.
AA is the most ancient language family that is universally accepted. Some say that Omotic is not proven to be part of it, but those are wild splitters like Lyle Campbell who reflexively object to everything in a reactionary manner. This reaction has absurdly taken over the whole field now. We can’t even agree that Altaic is real. For God’s sake, there’s a 1,300 page etymological dictionary of Altaic out there, and people still insist it’s not real!
It’s not particularly close to IE.
Core Nostratic is Uralic, IE and Altaic.
Altaic (Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic, including Japanese and Korean), Uralic (including Yukaghir), Eskimo-Aleut and Chukchi-Kamchatkan are possibly core Nostratic. Some include Etruscan.
Whether Afroasiatic is core Nostratic is controversial. Aharon Dolgopolosky thought it was. Allan Bomhard followed Dolgopolosky.
Later Nostratic concepts have placed Afroasiatic and Elamite parallel to Nostratic (Sergei Starostin). Others put AA, Kartvelian, Elamo-Dravidian as sub-branches within Nostratic (Bomhard). Starostin’s followers, including his son George, have placed AA back in core Nostratic.
Joseph Greenberg posited a subgroup of Nostratic called Euroasiatic. He did not include Dravidian and AA. Greenberg felt that AA and Dravidian were sisters to Nostratic as a whole. Bomhard put Euroasiatic as a sub-family of Nostratic alongside AA and Dravidian. as two other sub-branches.
But there are definitely parallels with AA and IE all right. That’s clear.
Proto-Nostratic root *γor-:
(vb.) *γor- ‘to leave, to go away, to depart; to separate; to abandon’;
(n.) *γor-a ‘leaving, departure; separation; abandonment’
(vb.) *γor-V-b- ‘to leave, to go away, to depart; to separate; to abandon’;
(n.) *γor-b-a ‘leaving, departure; separation; abandonment’
Afrasian: Proto-Semitic *γar-ab- ‘to leave, to go away, to depart’ > Arabic ġaraba ‘to go away, to depart, to absent (oneself), to withdraw (from), to leave (someone, something); to go to a foreign country; to expel from the homeland, to banish, to exile’, ġarba-t ‘removal, departure’, ġurba-t ‘absence from one’s homeland; separation from one’s native country, banishment, exile; life, or place, away from home’; Mehri əġtərōb ‘to be abroad, away from home’, ġərbēt ‘strange place, unknown place’; Śḥeri/Jibbāli aġtéréb ‘to be abroad, away from home’, ġarbέt ‘strange, unknown place; abroad’. Perhaps also Punic «rbt ‘desolation’ (?) in ḳl «rbt ‘the voice of desolation’ (interpretation highly uncertain) (cf. Hoftijzer-Jongeling 1995:887).
Proto-Indo-European *H₃orbʰ- ‘to be or become separated, abandoned, bereft’, *H₃orbʰ-o-s ‘(n.) orphan, servant; (adj.) bereft, abandoned, deprived (of)’:
Sanskrit árbha-ḥ ‘little, small; child’; Armenian orb ‘orphan’; Greek ὀρφανός ‘orphan, without parents, fatherless; (metaph.) bereft, abandoned’; Latin orbus ‘bereft, deprived by death of a relative or other dear one; bereaved (of); childless; an orphan’; Old Irish orb ‘heir’, orb(b)e, orpe ‘inheritance’; Gothic arbi ‘inheritance,’ arbja ‘heir’ (f. arbjō ‘heiress’); Old Icelandic arfi ‘heir, heiress’, arfr ‘inheritance, patrimony’, erfa ‘to inherit’, erfð ‘inheritance’; Old Swedish arve, arver ‘heir’; Danish arv ‘heir’; Norwegian arv ‘heir’; Old English ierfa, irfa ‘heir’, ierfe ‘inheritance, bequest, property’, erfe, irfe, yrfe ‘inheritance, (inherited) property’, irfan, yrfan ‘to inherit’; Old Frisian erva ‘heir’, erve ‘inheritance, inherited land, landed property’; Old Saxon erƀi ‘inheritance’; Middle Dutch erve ‘heir’; Old High German arbi, erbi ‘inheritance’, arbeo, erbo ‘heir’ (New High German Erbe ‘inheritance; heir’); Old Church Slavic rabъ ‘servant, slave’; Russian rab [раб] ‘slave, serf, bondsman’ (f. rabá [раба] ‘slave, serf, bondmaid’); Hittite (3rd sg. pres. act.) ḫar-ap-zi ‘to separate oneself and(re)associate oneself elsewhere’. Pokorny 1959:781-782 *orbho- ‘weak, abandoned; slave, orphan’; Walde 1927-1932:183-184 *orbho-; Mallory-Adams 1997:411 *h₂/h₃orbhos ‘orphan, heir’; Mann 1984-1987:884 *orbhəkos ‘young, tender; deprived, blind’, 884 *orbhənikos ‘young, minor, underage’, 884-885 *orbhət-, *orbhit- ‘deprived, bereft; deprivation, bereavement’, 885 *orbhi̯os adjectival form of *orbhos, 885 *orbhm̥ mos (*orbhmos) ‘bereft, deprived’, 885—886 *orbhos, -i̯os, -i̯ə ‘deprived, bereft; child, orphan’; Watkins 1985:46 *orbh- ‘to put asunder, to separate’ (suffixed form *orbh-o- ‘bereft of father’) and 2000:60 *orbh- ‘to change allegiance, to pass from one status to another’ (oldest form *ə̯₃erbh-, colored to *ə̯₃orbh-) (suffixed form *orbh-o- ‘bereft of father’ also ‘deprived of free status’); Gamkrelidze-Ivanov 1995I:399, I:651 *orbʰo- ‘deprived of one’s share, deprived of possessions; orphan; servant, slave’, I:781 *orbʰo-; Mayrhofer 1956—1980.I:52 and 1986—2001.I:119—120; Boisacq 1950:719 *orbho-s; Beekes 2010:1113—1114 *h₃orbʰ-o-; Frisk 1970-1973:431 *orbho-s; Chantraine 1968-1980:829 *orbho-; Hofmann 1966:240 *orbhos; Hübschmann 1897:482, no. 335, *orbhos; Matirosyan 2008:535-536 *Horbʰ-o-; Walde-Hofmann 1965-1972:219-220 *orbhos, *orbhi̯o-; Ernout-Meillet 1979:466—467; De Vaan 2008:433 *h₃orbʰ-o-; Derksen 2008:373 *h₃erbʰ-; Kroonen 2013:33 Proto-Germanic *arbja- ‘inheritance’ (<*h₃orbʰ-i̯o-), 33 Proto-Germanic *arbjan – ‘heir’ (< *h₃orbʰ-i̯on-); Orël 2003:22 Proto-Germanic *arƀaz, 22 Proto-Germanic *arƀjaz; Lehmann 1986:41-42 *orbho-; Feist 1939:56 *orbhi̯o-; Falk-Torp 1910-1911.I:34; De Vries 1977:12 and 13; Boutkan-Siebinga 2005:93 *h₃erbʰ-; Walshe 1951:48; Kluge-Mitzka 1967:170 *orbho-; Kluge-Seebold 1989:183-184 *orbhijo-, *orbho-; Kloekhorst 2008b:311-312 *h₃erbʰ-to; Puhvel 1984:176—183.
Proto-Nostratic (n.) *t’orʸ-a ‘tree, the parts of a tree’ (> ‘leaf, branch, bark, etc.’):
Proto-Afrasian *t’[o]r- ‘tree’, preserved in various tree names or names of parts of trees (‘leaves, branches, etc.’): Semitic: Akkadian ṭarpa”u (ṭarpi”u) ‘a variety of tamarisk’; Arabic ṭarfā” ‘tamarisk tree’. Hebrew ṭārāφ [ טָרָף ] ‘leaf’ (a hapax legomenon in the Bible); Aramaic ṭarpā, ṭǝraφ ‘leaf’; Syriac ṭerpā ‘leaf, branch’; Samaritan Aramaic ṭrp ‘leaf, part of a tree, branch’. Klein 1987:252 Egyptian d&b ‘fig tree’ (< *drb); West Chadic: Hausa ɗoorawaa ‘locust-bean tree’; East Chadic: Bidiya tirip ‘a kind of tree’ (assimilation of vowels). Orël—Stolbova 1995:516, no. 2464, *ṭarip- ‘tree’.
Proto-Indo-European *t’er-w/u-/*t’or-w/u-, *t’r-ew-/*t’r-ow-/*t’r-u- ‘tree, wood’: Greek δόρυ ‘tree, beam’, δρῦς ‘oak’; Hittite ta-ru ‘wood’; Albanian dru ‘tree, bark, wood’; Sanskrit dā́ru ‘a piece of wood, wood, timber’, drú-ḥ ‘wood or any wooden implement’; Avestan drvaēna- ‘wooden’, dāuru- ‘wood (en object), log’; Welsh derwen ‘oak’; Gothic triu ‘tree, wood’; Old Icelandic tré ‘tree’, tjara ‘tar’; Old English trēow ‘tree, wood’, tierwe, teoru ‘tar, resin’; Old Frisian trē ‘tree’; Old Saxon triu, treo ‘tree, beam’; New High German Teer ‘tar’; Lithuanian dervà ‘resinous wood’, dãrva ‘tar’; Old Church Slavic drěvo‘tree’; Russian dérevo [дерево] ‘tree, wood’; Serbo-Croatian drȉjevo ‘tree, wood’; Czech dřevo ‘tree, wood’. Pokorny 1959:214—217 *deru-, *dō̆ru-, *dr(e)u-, *dreu̯ǝ-, *drū- ‘tree’; Walde 1927-1932:804-806 *dereu̯(o)-; Mann 1984-1987:142 *deru̯os, -ā, -i̯ǝ (*dreu̯-) ‘tree, wood, timber, pitchpine; pitch, tar, resin; hard, firm, solid, wooden’, 156 *dō̆ru ‘timber, pole, spike, spear’, 157 *doru̯os, -ā, -i̯ǝ ‘wood (timber); resin’, 161 *dru- (radical) ‘timber, wood’, 161 *drūi̯ō (*druu̯ō, *-i̯ō; *drūn-) ‘to harden, to strengthen’, 161 *drukos ‘hard, firm, wooden’, 162 *drus-, *drusos ‘firm, solid’, 162 *druu̯os, -om, -is ‘wooden, hard; wood’, 162 *drū̆tos ‘wooden, of oak, of hardwood; solid, firm, strong’, 165 *dr̥u̯is, -i̯ǝ ‘wood, trees, hardwood’, 165—166 *dr̥u̯os, -om; *drus-, *dru- ‘wood, timber, tree’; Gamkrelidze-Ivanov 1995:192 and 193 *t’er-w-, *t’or-w-, *t’r-eu-, *t’r-u- ‘oak (wood), tree’; Mallory-Adams 1997:598 *dóru ‘wood, tree’; Watkins 1985:12 *deru (also *dreu-) and 2000:16-17 *deru (also *dreu-) ‘to be firm, solid, steadfast’ (suffixed variant form *drew-o-; variant form *drou-; suffixed zero-grade form *dru-mo-; variant form *derw-; suffixed variant form *drū-ro-; lengthened zero-grade form *drū-; o-grade form *doru-; reduplicated form *der- drew-); Mayrhofer 1956-1980.II:36; Chantraine 1968-1980:294 *dor-w-, *dr-ew-; Frisk 1970-1973:411-412; Hofmann 1966:63 *dō̆ru; Beekes 2010.I:349 *doru; Boisacq 1950:197-198 *doru; Orël 1998:76 and 2003:405 Proto-Germanic *terwōn ~ *terwan, 409-410 *trewan; Kroonen 2013:514 Proto-Germanic *terwa/ōn- ‘tar’ and 522-523 Proto-Germanic *trewa- ‘tree’; Lehmann 1986:347-348 *deru-, *drewo-, *dr(e)w-(H-); Feist 1939:480-481 *der-eu̯-o-; De Vries 1977:591 *dreu-; Klein 1971:745 *derew(o)-, *drew(o)- and 779 *derow(o)-, *drew(o)-; Onions 1966:904 and 939 *deru-,*doru-; Kluge-Mitzka 1967:775 *deru-; Kluge-Seebold 1989:725 *deru-; Huld 1984:56 *dru-n-; Fraenkel 1962-1965:90-91; Derksen 2008:99 *deru-o- and 2015:123-124 *deru-o-; Smoczyński 2007:103; Osthoff 1901:98-180; Benveniste 1969:104-111 and 1973:85-91; P. Friedrich 1970:140-149 *dorw- ‘tree’ or ‘oak’.
Interesting stuff about Berber % in modern Europeans and speculations about the Berbers being the remains of some of the most ancient proto-Caucasians. In other words, if you are White, the Berbers are like your most ancient grandparents.
Berber Genes in Europeans
It seems reasonable that Southern Europeans especially would have a considerable amount of Berber genes in them. This has been disputed by certain Southern European White racist bloggers like Dienekes Pontikos and Racial Reality. These bloggers are vociferously opposed to the notion that Southern Europeans are anything but pretty near pure White.
For instance, here Dienekes states gives Berber percentages in Europeans as follows:
Nation Berber %
I am going to disagree with this assessment, though I admit I am not an expert on the subject. Looking at this journal article (table here). we come up with something a lot different. From Cruciani et al 2004:
Ethnic Group Berber %
Spain (Cantabrian Pasiegos) 30%
Spain (Cantabria) 17%
Southern Portugal 12.2%
Northern Portugal 4%
Spain (Basques) 3.6%
Spain (Asturias) 2.2%
Southern Spain 1.6%
Northern Italy 1.5%
Central Italy 1.2%
Italy (Sicily) .7%
The Berber genes seem to have come to Europe for the most part in the past 3,000 yrs. Cantabria is an interesting place. The Cantabrians, in particular the Pasiegos, are said to be quite distinct genetically, almost like the Basques. No one really knows what this is all about.
During the Moorish invasion, they conquered all the way up to the southern mountains of Cantabria, a province in the far north of Spain on the coast next to the Basque region. Perhaps this is where the Moorish (Berber) genes came in.
Looking at the figures above, most Berber genes appear to have gone into Iberia in tandem with the Moorish conquest. Strangely, they are concentrated in the North of Spain. This doesn’t make much sense to me.
The Cantabrian language is still spoken here. It is said to be a dialect of Spanish, but actually it is part of the Extremaduran language spoken in Caceres in Extremadura. People say it is dying out, but in the mountains children are still being raised speaking Cantabrian. They show up in school as Cantabrian monolinguals and their teachers cannot understand them.
Extremaduran-Cantabrian is really just Eastern Leonese, which got cut off from the rest of Leonese ~400 years ago and came under heavy influence from Old Castilian. Nowadays East Leonese proper scarcely exists in either Asturias or Leon. Extremaduran itself spoken in Caceres is endangered, has no official status, and but has 500,000 speakers, including monolinguals (!). A Spanish informant who grew up in the region told me that Extremaduran has only 17% intelligibility with Spanish. And he has been hearing it off and on his whole life.
Leonese has only 50,000 speakers, is considered very endangered, but does have special status in Castile and Leon. And children are still being raised speaking Southeastern Leonese or Porteno. Leonese is part of the Asturian-Leonese language, with Asturian spoken in the north in Asturias and Leonese spoken to the south in Castile y Leon.
Asturian has 550,000 speakers, but is considered endangered.
A related language is Mirandese, spoken in Portugal. This language looks a lot like Portuguese, but it is actually a branch of Asturian-Leonese. It has 83% intelligibility with Southeastern Leonese or Porteno. It has only 15,000 speakers, but it seems to be recovering. It is spoken in Miranda do Douro state, and this is another name for the language.
About the Berbers, I consider them to be one of the most ancient, if not the most ancient, Caucasian groups in existence. Berbers go back at least 20,000 years and possibly up to 50,000 years in North Africa. Much of the Berber group may have come from the Middle East in the past 10,000 years. There is a huge split between Berbers and Sub-Saharan Africans.
The Mozabites, the Tuaregs and the Chenini-Douiret are quite different from the rest of the Berbers. Why? Probably genetic drift.
These men are Mozabites, possibly some of the most ancient Caucasians on Earth, with a genetic line going back up to 50,000 years. Though White nationalists probably freak out if you say these people are White, they are most definitely Caucasians. The fellow in the right forefront also looks Caucasian – he looks somewhat East Indian.
The two men standing at the top could be East Indians or some strange Mediterranean type. Given that East Indians are also one of the most ancient Caucasian groups on Earth, it figures that these Berbers resemble Indians. Both groups came out of the Middle East – the Berbers probably 42,000 years ago, and the East Indians about 17,000 years ago.
There are few genetic differences between Berbers and North African Arabs, which means that North African Arabs are simply Arabized Berbers. There are lots of great photos of Berbers at this link.
The origin of the Berbers is nevertheless quite obscure. This article suggests that both Berbers and Europeans came out of the Levant about 40-45,000 years ago. Obviously, prior to that, they came out of Africa. A date of 40-45,000 years is about right for the genesis of the Caucasian race. The homeland of the Caucasians is often said to be located in the Caucasus itself.
This line rose in Southwest Asia (the Caucasus) and then moved to Africa along the Mediterranean, not via Somalia – Yemen as the Out of Africans went. They moved first into the Levant, and from there went to Europe and to North Africa, both at the same time. This line went to the Cro-Magnon as well as the Berber, and both came out of the Levant about 40-45,000 years ago.
Another very interesting looking Mozabite fellow. There are some Mediterranean types who look something like this, but I have a hard time pinning this phenotype down. Clearly, they are Caucasians, but other than that, they look pretty sui generis. A recent genetics study, though poorly done, seemed to show the Mozabites as one of the most ancient ethnic groups on Earth and a source population for many other groups outside of Africa.
The Uighurs in Central Asia were also a source population for many diverse groups all over the place. The Uighurs may be the remains of ancient Caucasian-Asian hybrids that go back up to 40,000 years.
The first Caucasians were probably a mixture of 1/2 Africans (possibly Maasai and Tutsi types from Central Africa) mixed with ancient proto-Asians from China (who may have resembled the Ainu). From this strange mixture arose the original Caucasians, probably in the Caucasus and southern Russia, but maybe also in Iran.
There is good evidence that the first Caucasians, including the Cro-Magnons, looked a lot like Black Africans, in particular the Caucasoid-appearing Africans such as the Maasai and the Tutsi. Cro-Magnon skeletons look like the Masai more than any other modern skeleton. Cro-Magnon skulls are more likely to be confused with Negroid skulls than any other.
Cruciani, F.; La Fratta, R.; Santolamazza, P.; Sellitto, D.; Pascone, R.; Moral, P.; Watson, E.; Guida, V.; Colomb, EB.; Zaharova, B.; Lavinha, J.; Vona, G.; Aman, R.; Cali, F.; Akar, N.; Richards, M.; Torroni, A.; Novelletto, A.; and Scozzari, R. 2004. “Phylogeographic Analysis Of Haplogroup E3b (E-M215) Y Chromosomes Reveals Multiple Migratory Events within and out of Africa.” American Journal of Human Genetics 74:1014-1022
This post will look into whether or not genes and language line up well. The question may seem academic, but it is important for linguists in the battle for whether or not there is anything to the large macro-families that the “lumpers” are creating.
It’s yet another skirmish in the lumpers versus splitters battle in Historical Linguistics. Historical is the branch that deals with language families, language relationships, and reconstruction of old languages that are no longer spoken.
The debate has heated up in recent years due to the prominence of lumper theories publicized by the late Joseph Greenberg and his disciples, notably Merritt Ruhlen at Stanford University. Ruhlen and Greenberg use a technique called mass comparison which has come under a lot of wild and irrational abuse but seems to be a valid scientific method in the hands of an expert.
Greenberg used it to come up with the four major language families of Africa a long time ago, and his classification there has remained pretty solid ever since.
He since published a book called Language in the Americas, which broke down all Amerindian languages into three large families – Amerind, Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut. I have read that book many times, and I concur with its analysis. Unfortunately, a detailed examination of the evidence goes beyond the scope of this post.
Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut are not very controversial, though the position of Haida within Na-Dene is regarded as unproven. However, looking at evidence mustered by Alexander Manaster-Ramer, I believe that Haida is definitely Na-Dene, though possibly a sister to the entire group as it is so distant.
In the same way, the ancient Indo-European Anatolian language is now regarded as a separate branch of Indo-European – Indo-Hittite or Indo-Anatolian. My Indo-Europeanist sources told me that Indo-Hittite or Indo-Anatolian is now regarded as consensus in the field.
Bengston promotes a family called Dene-Caucasian that involves the North Caucasian languages of the Caucasus, Basque, Na-Dene, Sino-Tibetan, Burushaski in northern Pakistan and the Ket Family in Siberia. I can’t speak for the whole family, but the evidence is definitely interesting. I think that Bengston has proven a case for Ket, Basque, and the Caucasian languages being related, as I read a book on that subject.
Recently, Edward Vajda conclusively proved that the Ket language is related to the Na-Dene languages.
A Ket man in Siberia. His phenotype looks a bit Japanese. He doesn’t look like an Amerindian. The situation of the Ket is deplorable, as most live in serious poverty and do not see any hope for improving themselves. The Ket language is also in bad shape, as hardly anyone under 35 can speak it well, and 30% of the population regard speaking Ket as useless.
The USSR did a better job with minority tongues than Putin.
There is good evidence of a link between the Ket and the Amerindians (broken link). The Selkup are a Samoyedic people who live near the Ket. There is also good evidence linking the peoples of the Altai with Amerindians. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, as the Selkup and Ket now live a long ways from the Altai region, but the Ket and Selkup are thought to have lived in the Altai long ago and came north later on.
Relating to the Ket, along with the Selkup nearby, the theory linking these groups to the Amerindians supports a single migration to the Americas 16,000 years ago, but it’s not at all definitive. According to this paper (broken link) linking the Ket with Amerindians, Proto-Caucasians are thought to have evolved in Central Asia. I would place it more near the Caucasus.
Click to enlarge. I believe that the latest evidence is showing that all of the various Altai peoples – Northern Turkics would be the various Altai groupings – the Altai, the Tofalar, the Khakass and the Shor – are related to the Amerindians. These are often referred to as Northern Turkics. They aren’t really Turks per se as in people from Turkey, but even the Turks from Turkey are thought to be partly related to these Northern Turkic tribes.
Northern Turkics are right on the border between Asians and Caucasians on gene charts, and some Amerinds are not so far genetically from that border either. If you look at the Cavalli-Sforza gene chart below, you can see that next to the Eskimo-Aleuts, the Chukchi, and the Northern Turkics are the people most closely related to the Amerindians.
It also looks like the Ket and Selkup came from what is now the Northern Turkic Altai region. Anthropologically, these various groups are either Uralics, South Siberian, Central Asian or North Asian Asiatics. The Altai region is where Russia, China and Mongolia all come together.
This is the first connection of a New World language family with an Old World language family.
Here is a Nenets woman from Siberia. She definitely looks Northern Chinese or Korean. They have a population of 44,000, and there are 31,000 speakers of the language. It’s really two languages – Forest Nenets and Tundra Nenets – but both are said to be endangered. I think at least Tundra Nenets will be around for a while though, as most kids are still learning it. The Nenets are Samoyedics like the Selkup, discussed above. The Selkup are related to the Amerindians.
It’s interesting that the Ket have also been linked genetically with the New World.
Here is a rare photo of Ed Vajda with two Ket women in Siberia described as “experts in the Ket language.” I’m not good at judging ages, but these women look to be about 40-60. If so, that is good, as I thought all of the speakers were elderly, and hardly anyone spoke the language well anymore. Ket has anywhere from 537-1,000 speakers. A related language, Yugh, is thought to have recently gone extinct. The rest of the Yeniseien languages went extinct about 150-250 years ago.
I would accept IE, Uralic, Altaic, Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Eskimo-Aleut in Nostratic. The Altaic family is itself controversial, but I regard it as fact, having studied it. Altaic also includes Japanese and Korean. I would toss Yukaghir in with Uralic.
Nostratic has a lot more going for it than some of the other long-range proposals, and since these scholars are using classic reconstruction, it gets respect from splitters. Starostin’s webpage is a great resource for looking into long-range theories, especially Nostratic and Altaic.
Bengston, Shevoroshkin, and the Starostins all worked on Dene-Caucasian. This hypothesis seems a lot more controversial.
Click to enlarge. Here is a tree of Luigi Cavalli-Sforza’s human genetic families on the left and various human language families on the right, including some big families. The only one that is seriously out of place is Tibetan. This is because the Tibetans are a genetically North Chinese people who have moved down into Southern China in recent years. They cluster with South Chinese linguistically but NE Asians genetically.
All the rest lines up pretty well, including super-families like Nostratic and Eurasiatic (a Nostratic-like family created by Greenberg).
The hypothesized Austric family is interesting. I’m not sure if I buy this super-family or not, but I have not really looked into it.
With recent genetic evidence linking Indonesians and Vietnamese to Daic peoples of South China and SE Asia, it seems worth looking into. At the very least Austro-Thai, a language family consisting of the Austronesian and Tai-Kadai families. seems to have been proven in the last 10 years with the publication of a couple of important articles. Laurence Sagart is doing good work in this area.
Campbell, Lyle & Mithun, Marianne (Eds.) 1979. The Languages of Native America: An Historical and Comparative Assessment. Austin: University of Texas Press.
A recent What Language Is Thispost featured Uzbek. A commenter just got the correct answer today. Hence it is time for a post on Uzbek and two neighboring Turkic languages, Kazakh and Kirghiz.
Uzbek. Uzbek is a well-developed language. I see scholarly papers written in Uzbek. In addition, Uzbek is two separate languages. The well known language to the north, Northern Uzbek, that is the official language of a nation and another language to south, Southern Uzbek, spoken by 2.5 million people in Afghanistan, which has no official status. The two Uzbeks are not mutually intelligible.
Kazakh has a lot of problems. A lot of people don’t speak it, and there are many ethnic Russians who speak Russian there. They live in the north. There was a lot of talk of them leaving with the independence of Kazakhstan, but most of them stayed. Insane Russian ultranationalists claim the northern part of Kazakhstan for the Russians and wish to incorporate it into Russia (just to show you how insane those lunatics are). A lot of people would rather speak Russian than Kazakh, even a lot of ethnic Kazakhs.
They have had a hard time developing Kazakh into a full modern language, and there are a lot of issues with Kazakh in the schools. Furthermore, there has been profound Russian influence on the language in terms of vocabulary, phonology, and possibly morphology.
There are many Kazakh speakers in China, over 2 million of them. They have gotten caught up in the Uyghur political mess.
New information shows that they speak a separate language from Kazakh in Kazakhstan. So many Russian words have gone into Kazakh since World War 2 that Kazakh speakers in China can no longer understand the Kazakh TV and radio broadcasts which can be heard in China. Therefore, Chinese Kazakh is a separate language, and within Macro-Kazakh, there are two languages, Kazakh and Chinese Kazakh. I didn’t get this new information in time to incorporate it into my book chapter published in a recent book (Lindsay 2016) when I redid the Turkic language family, creating a number of new languages.
First of all, it is not entirely certain that Kazakh and Kirghiz are separate languages. In my book chapter (Lindsay 2016), I decided that this was one language called Kirghiz-Kazakh, with two separate languages, Kirghiz and Kazakh. This is because they are largely mutually intelligible. However the communication is more one way than two ways. I believe that the Kazakhs can understand the Kirghiz well, but the Kirghiz have some problems understanding Kazakh. However the difficulties were not great enough for me to split it into a separate language.
However via communication with a Kazakh speaker, he insisted that Kazakh and Kirghiz were definitely separate languages. I forget the reasoning but he had an intuitive sense of whether a pair of languages consisted of one being a dialect of the other or whether they were two separate languages.
That is, native speakers have excellent intuition on the language/dialect question, which shows how preposterous the Linguistics profession is that the language/dialect split is not a scientific question. If it’s not a scientific question, how is it that native speakers the world over have an intuition over whether a lect is a separate language or a dialect of another language? Apparently humans have excellent intuitions about things that simply do not exist in a scientific sense. Who knew?
Kirghiz has a lot of problems. I think just about everyone speaks it, but the problem is the language is not well developed into a modern language yet, so all sorts of technical and modern terms have had to be invented. Even whole new dictionaries have been created. Bottom line is Kirghiz is not really ready to serve the functions of a national language even for the state. I believe they might use Russian, instead but I am not certain.
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.
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.
Polar Bear: There’s such a thing as Black stability. I went to college with a postal worker and had multiple black coworkers that remind me of the same black guy. Simple men that were easy to get along with.
More like Black practicality to me rather than stability. But practicality itself is rather stabilizing, no? Black people are pragmatic. They have common sense. That’s one thing I really like about Black people.
You know that phrase called jerry-rigging? Well, another name for that is nigger-rigging. I know, racist. But people around me (My peers, not my parents and their friends – are you kidding?!) have been using that word my whole life in reference to their own actions, so I’m not even sure if it’s an insult.
I mean is it really a racist insult? A White person says he nigger-rigged something. Ok? That means…what? It means he’s acting like a nigger, right? That’s why I’m not even sure it’s all that racist. It’s sort of Whites calling themselves niggers, which doesn’t seem all that racist.
Incidentally, we Whites do call ourselves and each other niggers. It’s a lot more acceptable than calling Black people that word. I just called my friend a nigger or called myself a nigger? How is that racist? I mean it’s an insult when you use it against a Black…when you use it against a White, what does it even mean?
It’s like straight guys calling each other fags, which is a lot more common nowadays than calling gay men that. How is that hatred of gays? I just called my friend a fag as a joke. That means I hate gay guys? Come on.
Anyway, back to the subject.
Even people who almost never called Black people niggers would use that phrase nigger-rigging.
“How did you fix it?”
“Oh, I just kinda nigger-rigged it. It’s good for now at least anyway.”
Usually chuckles follow because that word is always sort of funny for some reason.
To nigger-rig or to jerry-rig (let’s switch to jerry-rigging – enough with uncomfortable words) something means a cheap, adaptive, half-assed yet workable and ultimately ingenious sort of a half-fix that is “good for now” but is not a long-term solution for the problem. It’s just a cheap, temporary fix.
It’s not a half-assed fix because you are lazy. It’s half-assed because you don’t have the materials on hand to fix it properly. But it’s a temporary fix that “works for now.” There is also a hint of ingenuity, inventiveness, cleverness, and adaptability in it. Which is why, despite the racism, the phrase is ultimately a compliment to Blacks.
Black people perhaps historically being often short on the money and materials needed to do a proper fix on something would then master the art of jerry-rigging (hence the version with the slur) not out of laziness but out of the necessity of the moment. Necessity being the mother of invention after all. Why do it? Because you don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, that’s why.
What I like about the idea of the association of Blacks with jerry-rigging is that it suggests that Blacks are inventive, clever, adaptive, and ingenious in a sense (in a practical, not world-class inventor) way. And if you know Black people well, you know that is indeed a characteristic of them. Jerry-rigging isn’t good for long-term fixes. What’s it good for? Short-term fixes which are needed for…what? How about survival? Black people know how to survive. I’ll give them that.
The word berserk comes from two Danish brothers named Berserk who lived on an island off the coast of Denmark back in the ~1600’s or maybe even later. They lived there for some time, murdering everyone who visited the island in the most horrible ways and maybe even eating them to boot. This went on for a while, and at some point, a group of people undertook an expedition to the island and killed the brothers.
The brothers’ name became a word, Berserker, in the Danish language for anyone or anything that seemed out of control and maniacal. At some point, it got borrowed into English as berserk with the same meaning.
Ethnic nationalists in Sweden got several full-fledged language removed from the Swedish section of Ethnologue by petitioning the ISO committee at SIL, the organization that gives out new language codes. I can’t believe they fell for this, but SIL is not really that smart when it comes to individual languages and they are easily swayed by slick liars.
In Sweden for instance, there are at least six different languages and probably more.
Scanian or Skåne in Southeast Sweden is a separate language – it’s actually the same language as Bornholmian in Northeast Denmark which is also a separate language. Swedes have told me that the harder forms of Scanian are not fully intelligible with Swedish.
Jämtish in Jämtland in Southwest Sweden is a separate language – actually the same language as Trøndersk in Southeast Norway. Jamtish lacks full intelligibility with Swedish. It’s closer to Norwegian, but the Norwegian lect with which it is a part is not comprehensible at all to Norwegians.
Gutnish on the isle of Gotland is a completely separate language – closer to Old Norse and modern Icelandic than to Swedish. One Swedish man said he lived on Gotland, and after eight years, he still couldn’t understand the old farmers.
Dalecarlian in Dalarna in the west is surely several different languages – Elfdalian in Älvdalen being the best known, and even Swedish linguists confess that this is a separate language. Even Wikipedia admits that a lot of the Dalecarlian dialects are not intelligible with Swedish.
The Swedes in Finland speak a completely different language called Österbotten that is full of Finnish borrowings. I have heard that Swedes cannot understand this language well.
So “Swedish” then is at least six separate languages and probably more as a number of the Dalecarlian dialects can’t even understand each other.
Scanian (closer to Danish)
Jamtish (closer to Norwegian)
Dalecarlian (same as Jamtish)
Gutnish (ancient, closer to Icelandic)
Österbotten or Finnish Swedish
However, the Swedish government, probably worried about separatism, refuses to go along with this and insists that all of these are dialects of Swedish. To be fair, there is indeed a separatist movement in Scania, but I’m not sure how popular it is.
SHI: On Queera and a few other sites, they will often write that word as SJW’s. Isn’t that an object of preposition? Looks like SJW-era grammar rules to me, since I’m seeing it used so frequently. Also on Reddit.
Can’t we think up some faggy insulting name for Reddit and Redditors? I’m really want to troll those fucks so hard.
It is not an object of a proposition. These are two different ways of pluralizing nouns in all caps. No one understands how to do this and many morons are over-correcting are putting apostrophe’s on non-proper lower case nouns and obviously take no apostrophes: “melon’s for sale.”
What can I say? Your average 100 IQ person is just not that smart. As George Carlin said, “Think of how stupid the average person is. That person has an IQ of 100. Now imagine that half the population is even dumber than that!”
With all upper case nouns, there are two ways of pluralizing them, without an apostrophe and with one: SJWs or SJW’s.
You can do either with all pluralized nouns written in all upper case. Idiot Internet loudmouths like to scream that the version with the apostrophe (SJW’s) is wrong, and the new trend does seem to be without the apostrophe (SJWs). They’re wrong. I believe the apostrophe version is older and was first and the non-apostrophe version is newer and favored, but the older version with the apostrophe is still correct.
Of course, as an old-fashioned, increasingly socially conservative stick in the mud, near-old fogey and semi-Luddite, I continue to defiantly use the old method with the apostrophe. And like a typical old fashioned conservative jerk, I hate the new version, think it’s sloppy, and regard people who use it as idiots.
Of course, I’m also sort of an asshole, so I am of course deliberately using the old version to the troll the whole damn world, piss off Normies and loudmouths, and watch them squirm in self-righteous retarded ignorance while they scream that right is wrong, and I’m a dumbfuck for believing this, except of course right isn’t wrong. I mean a 6 year old could tell you that. Just shows you 6 year olds know a lot more than a lot of self-styled ivory tower eggheads.
SHI: A Welshman fluent in his native tongue must be the saddest person around.
Why would a Welshman be sad? 20% of the population speaks Welsh now.
SHI: I believe the last native Cornish speaker died sometime in the 19rh century.
Cornish supposedly died out in the late 1700’s. The last speaker was said to be a woman, a fishmonger or seller of fish. But incredibly enough, it actually looks like it lingered on all the way into the early 20th Century or maybe later. A recent article I read said that actually Cornish never really died and has always been with us.
SHI: Manx must be doing well though. A separate island breeds isolation and preservation.
Manx died out in 1974, but it’s been revived lately too with 2,500 speakers. Some speakers are even raising their kids in Manx! There are now ~35 native speakers who grew up speaking Manx!
There is a Manx-native school too. The last speaker was Ed Mandrell, a fisherman who died in 1974. He was the last native speaker of Manx, not the last speaker of Manx. At the time that Mandrel died, there were ~300 second language speakers who could speak it more or less fluently but were not native speakers. So Manx actually never even went away! That second language speakers learned it as students.
Mandrell speaking in 1964. He’s talking to Brian Stowell, who learned Manx when he was older. However, Stowell is still alive and he is one of the best modern Manx speakers out there, with a large vocabulary.
That English accent of Mandrell’s is a kicker. It sounds very much like Scots, the English-like language still spoken in parts of Scotland. It’s actually not English at all. It’s a separate language and English and Scots have ~41% intelligibility. They split 500 years ago. Modern speakers from Man sound a lot like Scousers or Liverpudlians.
There are speakers in the comments saying that they speak Irish, and they can understand a lot of his Manx. Manx was created after all by a movement of Irish speakers to the Isle of Man. One commenter says it sounds a lot like Ulster Irish, his dialect of Irish.
Sounds like Welsh or something in the Celtic languages family.
Perhaps, Breton or any other minority languages? I think it’s spoken in modern France.
Yes, it is Celtic. Good job for getting that.
Nope, it’s not Breton. Yes, Breton is spoken in Brittany in France at the far northwestern part of the country. It stems from a migration by Welsh speakers to that part of France in 1300, so it’s close to Welsh. Apparently they can’t really understand each other though. I would guess ~30% intelligibility, if that.
Both languages are part of a branch of Celtic called Byrthonic. Believe it or not, 2,000 years ago, Byrthonic languages were the only languages spoken in England and Wales. They’ve gone extinct now except for Welsh, Manx, and Cornish.
The other branch is called Goidelic and includes Irish and Scottish Gaelic.
Although Breton has 500,000 speakers, it’s not in very good shape because France tries to destroy every non-French language spoken in the country. Most speakers are older and there are few young speakers.
However, a number of private schools have been set up to teach children. The teach them a new form called Unified Breton, which oddly and comically enough is so different from the other Breton languages spoken that the older speakers cannot understand these New Breton speakers.
France has even attacked the other langues d’oil, of which French (Parisien) is only one. Parisien happened to be the langue d’oil spoken in Paris, so it became Standard French. However, in WW 1, 80% of French troops could not speak French! Can you imagine that?
They spoke the other langues d’oil, the various Occitan languages (perhaps as many as 18), Arpitan or Franco-Provencal (which may also be u to 20 languages), Souletin Basque, Breton (four different languages), Alsatian (German), or West Flemish. Incredible, isn’t it? The other langues d’oil are in horrible shape, though most have not gone extinct yet.
They split from Parisien and the other langues d’oil from Old French around 1,000 years ago, so they are very divergent. Intelligibility between Poitevin and Lorraine is estimated at 1%! Believe it or not, Poitevin still has monolinguals in their 60’s. A form of Norman spoken on the border of Normandy and Brittany also has monolinguals, usually farm workers in their 40’s and 50’s. Isn’t that incredible?
SHI: It’s clearly not Manx or Cornish.
Ha ha, what makes you so sure about that second opinion, my man?
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.
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.
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.
Or Asturian-Leonese, Galician, and Oliveno are halfway between Castilian and Portuguese, better. Or Catalan, like Occitan, is halfway between Spanish and French, better.
Getting even fancier, Extremaduran-Cantabrian is halfway between Asturian-Leonese and Castilian. Or how about Mirandese and Rio de Onorese, halfway between Asturian and Portuguese. Getting even crazier, how about Murcian and Andalucian, halfway between Mozarabic and Castilian. Or Eonavian-Ibino, halfway between Asturian-Leonese and Galician. Or Fala, halfway between Galician and Asturian-Leonese.
I’m not quite sure what to do with Manchengo and Aragonese. They’re just splits off the Castilian trunk. The latter is for sure a separate language. The former, could be.
The Spanish from the south of Spain is quite different from the Spanish of the north of Spain. Castilian actually came from way up in the north in Cantabria and spread south after 1100, taking out the Kingdoms of Leon, Asturias, Aragon, etc. as it moved south. The Kingdom of Castile is simply the kingdom that came out on top, so it’s language got to be the standard.
Leonese, Asturian, and Aragonese are simply the forms of Iberian Romance that were spoken in those Kingdoms.
Interest fact, Portuguese is actually a dialect of Galician and not the other way around! Not only that but Portuguese and Castilian were one language until Galician-Portuguese split off in 1300. Galician and Portuguese did not split until ~1500. The split between the two is analogous to the split between Scots and English.
Aragonese didn’t split from Castilian until later, I believe in the 1600’s. That’s why it is so close to Spanish. Asturian-Leonese and Castilian probably split ~1300 also.
PB: The Portuguese Royalty set up shop in Brazil during Napoleonic Wars. Other former colonies of Portugal understand European Portuguese better than Brazilian Portuguese. Brazil likely received Portuguese from Royals as earlier settlers spoke Tupi or Tupi-Portuguese blend.
Indeed the Portuguese made the same mistake as the Spanish. They didn’t bring any chicks over! Nothing but a sausage fest on those boats to Brazil. It was another story when they landed of course, as the place was full of horny Indian women for the taking, and take them they did. There was a famous case of a Portuguese man who had ~10-15 Tupi Indian wives and maybe ~50 kids between them all. People wonder how Brazil got so race-mixed. Well, there ya go.
Later they brought Black slaves over, and the country was darkening up awful fast. Not that that matters really, but the rulers thought this was an catastrophe. In the 1800’s, they implemented an emergency project called Blanquimiento or the Whitening Project. This involved mass encouragement and importation of as many White settlers from Europe to Brazil as possible.
The goal? To Whiten the place up, dammit! I always chuckle when I think of this project. Like Hell you could get away with that anywhere in the Current Year. The UN would probably drop a nuclear bomb on anyone who did.
PB: Was this just a romantic Brazilian fantasy or is Brazilian Portuguese more for Lords and Ladies? Basically, what’s the Portuguese equivalent of Castilian Spanish?
Oh Eu Portuguese is absolutely the gold standard lol. Br Portuguese is considered to be much more slangy. A lot of the older tense and mood inflections that have gone out of Br Portuguese are still present in Eu Portuguese. E
u Portuguese can understand Br Portuguese just fine. I mean Brazil has, what? 15-20X as many speakers as Portugal? Portuguese people watch Brazilian movies and news all the time. Their TV is flooded with that stuff.
On the other hand, with a speaker base maybe 7% of the size of Brazil’s, Brazilians don’t get exposed to much Eu Portuguese. This may be more of a problem in written material. I have heard that Br Portuguese can only understand ~50% of Eu Portuguese written material, and it’s a big problem.
The language is written differently in both places. In terms of written language, Brazil would be the equivalent of Castilian Spanish because they continue to write Portuguese based on Portuguese from the 1600’s! The time of the Jamestown, the Mayflower, and Shakespeare.
Imagine if we spoke English like we do now but we still wrote it in Shakespearean Middle English? Crazy or what? By the way, I can only understand 27% of Shakespearean Middle English, and I understand exactly 0% of the Old English of Beowulf.
So there is this huge diglossia issue between the spoken language and the written language, similar to the case of Western Punjabi, spoken in Pakistan, more or less intelligible with Eastern Punjabi spoken in India but written in a completely different way. Indian written Punjabi is more like Sanskrit or Hindi with all sorts of Indianisms. Written Eastern Punjabi is full of Arab and Persian borrowings, and it is very hard for Western Punjabi speakers to read.
Czech also has two languages – a spoken language and a written language. I believe that the written language is an archaic Czech frozen in the 1700’s.
I believe there are some other languages that are written differently from how they are spoken, but they elude me now.
So the way Br Portuguese is written, it is indeed a language for Lords and Ladies, correct. But for spoken Portuguese, Eu Portuguese would be the more archaic and classic form.
Portuguese is actually a rather complex language if you wish to speak it correctly, which few Portuguese speakers bother to do.
I knew a Brazilian woman who proudly told me that her written Portuguese (the 1600’s) was superb, as she used to be a Portuguese teacher. This took me aback a bit, as I thought this was an easy language. The spoken language also has a lot of complex verbal forms, some of which have gone out of the rest of Romance, like the Future Subjunctive.
They are having all sorts of problems in Brazil nowadays but maybe not in Portugal, with Br Portuguese speakers neither writing nor speaking the language properly.
That’s prescriptivist, but so what? Languages have rules.Are you going to speak the language properly or you going to ignore all the rules and botch it up? I can’t believe that linguists actually think that is a stupid question and think it’s real groovy to go ahead and botch up any spoken or written language any way you wish.
“It’s all just nonstandard, dude,” they say, taking another hit on the bong.
Burgess is British, so there is a bias here in favor of British novelists and against Irish, Canadian, Australian, and to a lesser extent, American novelists. I am not as up on British novelists as I am on American novelists, so this is probably part of the problem here in a lot of these books I am not familiar with.
The first yes/no statement is whether I have heard of the book.
The second yes/no statement is whether I have read the book.
This is how I did. See how you can do. You don’t have to tally them all up like I did here. Feel free to discuss any of the listed books or authors below if you are familiar with them or heave read them.
Party Going, Henry Green YES NO
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, Aldous Huxley YES NO
Finnegans Wake, James Joyce YES NO (OWN, PART)
At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien YES NO
The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene YES NO
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway YES YES (FORMER OWN)
Strangers and Brothers (to 1970), C. P. Snow NO NO
The Aerodrome, Rex Warner YES NO
The Horse’s Mouth, Joyce Cary YES NO
The Razor’s Edge, W. Somerset Maugham YES NO
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh YES NO
Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake YES NO
1947 The Victim, Saul Bellow YES NO
Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry YES NO
The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene YES NO
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer YES NO
No Highway, Nevil Shute YES NO
The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen YES NO
Ape and Essence, Aldous Huxley YES NO
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell YES YES (FORMER OWN)
The Body, William Sansom NO NO
Scenes from Provincial Life, William Cooper NO NO
The Disenchanted, Budd Schulberg YES NO (OWN)
1951 A Dance to the Music of Time (to 1975), Anthony Powell YES NO
The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger YES YES (FORMER OWN)
A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight (to 1969), Henry Williamson NO NO
The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk YES NO
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison YES NO
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway YES YES (FORMER OWN)
Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor YES NO
Sword of Honor (to 1961), Evelyn Waugh NO NO
The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler YES YES (FORMER OWN)
The Groves of Academe, Mary McCarthy YES NO
Room at the Top, John Braine NO NO
The Alexandria Quartet (to 1960), Lawrence Durrell YES NO
The London Novels (to 1960), Colin MacInnes NO NO
The Assistant, Bernard Malamud YES NO
The Bell,, Iris Murdoch YES NO
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Alan Sillitoe NO NO
The Once and Future King, T. H. White YES (OWN, PART)
The Mansion, William Faulkner YES NO
Goldfinger, Ian Fleming YES NO
Facial Justice, L. P. Hartley NO NO
The Balkan Trilogy (to 1965), Olivia Manning YES NO
The Mighty and Their Fall, Ivy Compton-Burnett NO NO
Catch-22 Joseph Heller, YES YES (FORMER OWN)
The Fox in the Attic, Richard Hughes NO NO
Riders in the Chariot, Patrick White NO NO
The Old Men at the Zoo, Angus Wilson NO NO
Another Country, James Baldwin YES NO
An Error of Judgement, Pamela Hansford Johnson NO NO
Island, Aldous Huxley YES NO
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing YES YES (FORMER OWN)
Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov YES NO
1963 The Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Spark YES NO
The Spire, William Golding YES NO
Heartland, Wilson Harris NO NO
A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood YES NO
The Defense, Vladimir Nabokov YES NO
Late Call, Angus Wilson NO NO
The Lockwood Concern, John O’Hara NO NO
Cocksure, Mordecai Richler NO NO
The Mandelbaum Gate, Muriel Spark YES NO
A Man of the People, Chinua Achebe YES NO
The Anti-Death League, Kingsley Amis YES NO
Giles Goat-Boy, John Barth YES NO
The Late Bourgeois World, Nadine Gordimer NO NO
The Last Gentleman, Walker Percy NO NO
The Vendor of Sweets, R. K. Narayan YES NO
The Image Men, J. B. Priestley NO NO
Pavane, Keith Roberts NO NO
The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles YES NO Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth YES YES (FORMER OWN)
1970 Bomber, Len Deighton YES NO
Sweet Dreams, Michael Frayn NO NO
Gravity’s Rainbow Thomas Pynchon YES YES (OWN)
Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow YES YES (FORMER OWN)
The History Man, Malcolm Bradbury NO NO
The Doctor’s Wife, Brian Moore NO NO
Falstaff, Robert Nye NO NO
How To Save Your Own Life, Erica Jong YES NO
Farewell Companions, James Plunkett NO NO
Staying On, Paul Scott NO NO
The Coup, John Updike YES NO
The Unlimited Dream Company, J. G. Ballard NO NO
Dubin’s Lives, Bernard Malamud YES NO
A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipaul YES NO
Sophie’s Choice, William Styron YES NO
Life in the West, Brian Aldiss NO NO
Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban YES NO
How Far Can You Go?, David Lodge NO NO
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole YES YES (FORMER OWN)
Lanark, Alasdair Gray YES NO
Darconville’s Cat, Alexander Theroux YES NO
The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux YES NO (MOVIE)
Creation, Gore Vidal NO NO
1982 The Rebel Angels, Robertson Davies YES NO
1983 Ancient Evenings, Norman Mailer YES NO
I am familiar with 66 out of the 99 books or 2/3 of them. It doesn’t seem real great, but I bet if you asked 100 people, my score would be better than almost all of them.
So I’m not familiar with 1/3 of the best books from 1935-1985, which is a bit pathetic. But if you asked 100 people again, my score is probably better than almost all of them.
I have read 12 out of the 99 books or 12% of them. I’ve read 12% of the best books from 1935-1985. Pathetic. But still it’s probably better than 95% of the people you ask. So I haven’t read 88% of these books. However, I have read a 2% out of those 88% but only a few pages in each. In one case, I saw the movie but didn’t read the book.
But I also read 25 novels, partly read four others and 10 cases of short story collections and nonfiction written by the authors above that did not make the list. So I read 39 books that did not make the list by the authors above.
In quite a few cases, I am familiar with the author but not his books or at least not that particular book. There seem to be 89 authors listed above of those 99 books. The numbers don’t line up because some writers have more than one work up there. I have heard of 74 of the top 89 novelists of 1940-1983, or 83% of them. I am not familiar with 15 of the authors of 17%. Once again that’s probably better than 95% of the people you will talk to.
For some of these authors, I have read some of their works but not others.
Light in August
Brave New World
The Doors of Perception
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man
Ulysses (few pages)
The Sun Also Rises
Across the River and into the Trees
J. D. Salinger
Franny and Zooey
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
The Loved One
You Only Live Twice (few pages)
Lord of the Flies
Things Fall Apart (few pages)
The Sot-Weed Factor
The Crying of Lot 49
The Green Berets
Fear of Flying
Hugging the Shore
To the End of Time (50 pages)
Cities of the Night
An American Dream
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!
Alpha: “Uppity” is Jason’s word, but I take it to mean arrogant or self-important. Trump does think he’s better than other people. He bragged about his behavior toward women, saying that when you’re a star “they let you do it.” He declared, wrt America’s problems, “only I can fix it.”
He’s told us that if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue he wouldn’t lose any votes. He has declared that “Article II” of the Constitution allows him to do anything he wants. He refers to himself as “your favorite President.”
You say that’s all narcissism, not uppityness. Doesn’t matter to me one way or another.
Yes, that is narcissism, not uppityness. Another word for narcissist is blowhard, jerk, overbearing, douchebag, braggart, full of himself, arrogant, ass, etc.
If uppity means narcissism then sure Trump is uppity. I just think it means something other than that. It implies that someone doesn’t know his place – that someone of relatively low status is trying to pretend that he has higher status and that this is therefore insulting to the persons of higher status he is interacting with.
You know the history of word – an uppity nigger who doesn’t know his place might be Black person standing up to White person about some sort of injustice the White are perpetrating on the Black.
Or a woman who doesn’t know her place in the patriarchy and is getting out of line, talking back to male superiors.
The Black and the woman both need to be put back in their places by the Whites and the men.
In these cases, the uppity person is really a hero going up against oppressors who think they are superior.
The word is ugly and I don’t think we should use it. It has an ugly anti-Black racist history, and we should just junk it except to refer to the old use of it.
I would use uppity to describe women who viciously attack male strangers for no good reason. Or kids who openly and outrageously defy adults. Neither is acceptable to me.
A male stranger can attack me viciously. Fine, now it’s mano a mano, man to man.
If a female stranger attacks me, it’s infuriating. The first thought in my mind is that I want to kill her. I’m not going to do it of course because I have controls, but that’s the feeling. It’s unfair for female strangers to attack us men. I can fight back against a man, but I’m not allowed to fight back against a woman, or a kid for that matter. A kid doing the same is equally outrageous. I probably wouldn’t want to kill the kid but maybe I might want to slap him upside the head.
I still wouldn’t use the word in either case though except sarcastically. That’s due to its racist pedigree. The word’s contaminated and it’s hardly good for anything anymore.
Spanish hit the other languages hard but after the dictatorship things got a lot better. Catalan is the official language of the region. I recently met several mostly Castilian speakers from Catalonia and they told me that they all understood Catalan. Whether they spoke it or not was another man. A young man there was a native speaker.
Basque is actually doing quite well. I think ~20% of the population are native speakers and there are quite a few second language speakers. There are Basque schools, Basque media, Basque signage, on and on. I recently met a young college aged man who was a Basque native speaker. Quite a few children are still being brought up in Basque. I am not sure if there are any Basque monolinguals left.
Native Catalan speakers might be ~35% of the population, and many children are still being brought up in Catalan. There are Catalan schools, Catalan media, Catalan as an official language in the government, etc. There is a huge pool of Catalan second-language speakers. There are probably not any Catalan monolinguals left, but if there are, it is an old lady in a tiny village in the mountains.
There is a form of Catalan spoken in La Franga and the Strip in Aragon that speakers say is a separate language. There are regular calls to have it recognized. However, in spite of the fact that speakers say that they speak a separate language, Catalan speakers say they can understand it just fine.
I think it is called Chapurillo a variation on the term churro, etc. which means more or less broken Spanish or bad Spanish. Many of the languages above are called churros or chapurros, and many Spaniards think they are just forms of broken Spanish spoken by poorly educated people.
Even speakers of these languages often think that they simply speak broken Spanish or bad Spanish, are often ashamed of their speech, and refuse to speak it. Speaking churro also implies ignorance, rural residence, poverty, lack of intelligence, etc.
There is dialect called Churro spoken in this same region around La Franja. It is probably the most diverse Castilian dialect in Spain. It seems to be a form of Aragonese Spanish with a lot of Catalan or Valencian mixed in.
Valencian is spoken in Valencia and the Valencian speakers insist that they speak a different language from Catalan although there is 94% intelligibility between the two. Catalan speakers do not want to break up the language and refuse to recognize Valencian as a separate language.
There is an Institute of the Valencian Language, an official orthography, etc. In particular, Valencians reject the Catalan orthography as they say it does not suit the language that the speak. ~20% of Valencians speak Valencian. It is in much worse shape than Catalan.
There is a form of Catalan that is spoken on the Mallorca Islands in three different dialects. Some have difficult intelligibility with Catalan, and they are probably closer to Valencian. Whether these qualify as separate languages is not known. Mallorcan is one of these dialects of Catalan.
There are forms of speech spoken on the border of Catalonia and Aragon in the very high mountains that are definitely not Catalan and probably not Aragonese. However, the official language institutes of Catalan and Aragon both claim these speech forms. One is called Benasquesque. This is a very remote mountain region. Whether this is a form of Catalan, a form of Aragonese or a separate language altogether it not known. It’s obviously Catalan-Aragonese transitional.
Murcian, spoken in Murcia, is mostly a Spanish dialect called Murcian Spanish, albeit quite a strange one. There are regular calls to have it recognized as an official language, but they go nowhere. However there is a hard form of it called Panocho spoken in the remote mountains in Eastern Murcia that cannot be understood outside the region. Andalusians cannot understand it either. It is probably a separate language. It has 6,000 speakers.
Mantegno spoken in La Mancha is part of a “Southern Castilian” that ranges to Andalucian. When Mantegno speakers go to Madrid, they say they are not understood. This is probably also a separate language. When spoken in rapid speech, intelligibility even with Andalucian Spanish/Extremaduran Spanish is 50%.
Andalusian is mostly a Spanish dialect albeit an extremely divergent one. However, there are a few villages in the mountains where a hard Andalucian is spoken that is not intelligible even to other Andalusian.
Aragonese is still spoken in Aragon. It is not fully intelligible with Castilian, and it is a separate language. This region was under the crown of Aragon, hence a different speech evolved here. It sounds a lot like Spanish. There are 30,000 Aragonese speakers.
It is an official language in the state of Aragon but Spain refuses to recognize it. It was formerly spoken in three forms like Extremaduran, and like that language, only the remote northern form survives. Otherwise Southern and Central Aragonese turned into dialects of Spanish, Aragonese Spanish.
Aragonese is spoken in the very high mountains of the Pyrenees in villages that are often almost totally depopulated. There are still children being brought up in Aragonese though, especially around the Benasquesque-speaking region. The children show up at school as Aragonese monolinguals.
Extremaduran is still spoken in Extremadura by 100,000 speakers. It is a highly Castillianized form of Eastern Leonese that got cut off from the rest of Leonese 400-500 years ago. Otherwise Eastern Leonese is nearly extinct. It is spoken in the mountains in tiny depopulating villages which is where it originated.
I know a Spanish speaker who actually grew up in the region, has been hearing Extremaduran all his life, and he can only understand 17% of it. The accent is wild. There is much confusion as Extremaduran is also called Castuo, and Extremaduran is the northern form of Castuo from the mountains that survived while Southern and Central Castuo turned into dialects of Spanish.
However there may be some “Extremaduran” spoken in the south too, as my friend has a word list from a tiny village in Bajadoz, and he said he could only understand 50% of the lexicon. This may be some far southern form of Extremaduran. Southern and Central Castuo is just a Spanish dialect, albeit an odd one, but it is heavily spoken and often confused with Extremaduran because people refer to both by the same term. Extremaduran is an official language in Extremadura, but Spain refuses to recognize it.
strong>Oliveno is spoken on the border of Portugal, but it’s not Portuguese. It still has ~3,000 speakers. It is spoken in a single village. Officials refuse to recognize this language, and Portugal says it is just Portuguese. It is a sort of heavily Castillianized Portuguese. Portuguese speakers say they can’t understand a word of Oliveno.
Asturian is still very much alive although it is not an official language of Spain. It is an official language of the state of Asturias. ~20% of Asturians speak Asturian and I believe there are children still being brought up in Asturian.
Leonese is the same language as Asturian spoken to the south and is in much worse shape. It is also not an official language of Spain but it is an official language of Castille and Leon where it is spoken. Amazingly, there are still Leonese monolinguals in the high mountains in Northwestern Castille and Leon.
Leonese was their first language and they learned Spanish in school but subsequently forgot Spanish and now speak only Leonese. There are still children being brought up in Leonese in the tiny depopulated villages in the mountains of Southeastern Castille and Leon near the Portuguese border. This form of Leonese is often called Porteno, and it is quite close to the Mirandese language spoken in Portugal.
There is actually a language called Eonavian/Ibino spoken between Asturian/Leonese and Galician. It is a completely separate language but no one will recognize it as such. It is closer to Galician but it is not Galician. There are still native speakers of Ibino, not sure about Eonavian.
Galician is still doing quite well. ~35% of the population of Galicia speak Galician. Almost all also speak Castilian. It is an official language of Galicia and Spain. There are Galician schools. There is some Galician media but not nearly enough. You hear Galician a lot more in the rural areas than in the big cities.
A very Castillianized Official Galician is used in the media, and it has high intelligibility with Spanish of 78%. A much harder Galician is spoken in the villages in the mountains where intelligibility with Spanish is as low as 40%. The form of Galician spoken in the far south on the border with Portugal is not intelligible with Portuguese or the rest of Galician and is not spoken outside the region. It is actually a separate language though no one will recognize it.
Rio de Onoro is a village on the Portuguese border. Rio de Onorese is still spoken, though everyone thinks it is extinct. It is a form of Mirandese spoken in Spain and should be recognized.
Cantabrian is said to be a form of Spanish, but actually it is part of Extremaduran. Extremaduran is nothing less than Eastern Leonese and Far Eastern Asturian that started going over to a form of Old Spanish ~500 years ago. Asturian-Leonese survived in the coastal mountains and in the mountains of Extremadura to the far south, but the rest of it mostly went extinct. Today Eastern Leonese is just about dead.
But Extremaduran speakers say if they go to Cantabria, everyone understands them, and it sounds like they are speaking the same language. These same speakers say that if they go to Oviedo in Central Asturias where people speak Asturian and speak Extremaduran, they are not understood. Therefore Extremaduran and Asturian-Leonese are two different languages, and Cantabrian, instead of being a Spanish dialect, is part of Extremaduran.
Some Cantabrian speakers held out for a long time in the rugged mountainous province where some areas are still reachable only on foot or maybe by donkey. One speaker said his recently deceased grandmother was a Cantabrian monolingual who died in the last 20 years. She had stubbornly refused to learn Spanish as she considered it to be “an imposed language.”
Formerly there was a separate language called Montanes spoken in the mountains, while Cantabrian was spoken on the coast. Half a century ago, they could not understand each other. But now with leveling, the people in the mountains understand the people on the coast just fine.
There are reports that Cantabrian may be going out in Cantabria. But Cantabrian is still spoken and it is children are still being brought up as Cantabrian monolinguals. In the mountains, the children all show up at school speaking only Cantabrian, and the teachers can’t understand the students.