LINGUIST List 3.917

Sat 21 Nov 1992

Disc: Greenberg, Classification and Historical

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  1. , Greenberg, Ruhlen, & historical linguistics

Message 1: Greenberg, Ruhlen, & historical linguistics

Date: Wed, 18 Nov 92 13:50:01 PSGreenberg, Ruhlen, & historical linguistics
Subject: Greenberg, Ruhlen, & historical linguistics

 I have a naive question about the Greenberg & Ruhlen _Scientific
American_ article. Presumably if the languages named were historically
related in the way G&R there should be sound correspondences comparable
to those implied implied among the the cognates and reconstructed
*T'ANA. I gather that such correspondences haven't been demonstrated,
thus the controversy. In the absence of such correspondences, G&R's
claim would seem to imply that "basic vocabulary" is somehow more
resistant to regular sound changes that over the very long time have
obscured the historical relationships than other words are. Is there
any evidence of such a special status for basic vocabulary?

 By the way people interested in such word-based historical
arguments might enjoy John Philip Cohane's _The Key_ (1969), Crown
Press. Cohane posits a prehistoric, world wide dispersion of
Semitic words based on six morphemes recurring in placenames
and mythologies around the world. At much higher than chance
probability, he said. His book contains pictures of many of the
same items pictured in Erik von Danikan's (spelling??) _Chariots
of the Gods_. About equally fun to read.
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