LINGUIST List 5.1200

Sun 30 Oct 1994

Sum: Controversies in Historical Linguistics

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  1. Steven Schaufele, Sum: controversies in historical linguistics

Message 1: Sum: controversies in historical linguistics

Date: Sat, 29 Oct 1994 14:57:34 Sum: controversies in historical linguistics
From: Steven Schaufele <>
Subject: Sum: controversies in historical linguistics

A while back, in LINGUIST 5-1033, i posted the following request:

> The recent discussion of the Altaic Hypothesis got me thinking about the
> possibility of putting together a seminar on controversies in historical
> linguistics. Judging from the extent the discussion in LINGUIST clari-
> fied some of my own ideas and understandings of comparative and recon-
> structive methodology, it occured to me that one could learn a lot about
> how to 'do' historical linguistics by studying discussions of controver-
> sial hypotheses, both the arguments brought forward by their (responsible
> or reputable) proponents and the counterarguments presented by the
> critics. So I'm going to try to develop such a seminar, and am solici-
> ting suggestions. I'm looking for the following:
> (1) Suggestions of actual controversies that have been heavily discussed
> in historical-linguistic literature. I'm interested in controversies
> that are 'raging' now (e.g., the Nostratic Hypothesis) and ones that have
> been pretty much settled (e.g., the Laryngeal Hypothesis in IE), as well
> as anything in between, as long as there's a fair amount of good, solid
> scholarly discussion of it in print.
> (2) Bibliographical references on the above.

Several people mentioned issues related to the classification of
languages of North America. Elizabeth A. Cain-Perkins <Elizabeth.A.Cain-> offered me a bibliography on the subject. Pat
Crowe <>, who is writing a dissertation in
anthropology on topics having to do with the Iroquois nations, mentioned

> Some Iroquoian-related topics of controversy (at one time or
> another) are the discussion around a century ago as to whether
> Cherokee was related to the Iroquois, Huron, and Tuscarora
> languages (J.N.B. Hewitt had a fair amount to say about this);
> the question of Macro-Siouan (see Sapir and Wallace Chafe for
> the pro side); and more recently the issue has come up about
> more distant relationships.

Suzanne Kemmer <> mentioned

> the classification of the languages of Africa. Geert Dimmendal's
> review of Denning and Kemmer "On Language: Selected Writings of
> Joseph H. Greenberg" (the review's in Language, 1993 or 1994)
> discussed some of the reactions to the Greenberg classification
> that came out at the time, which were pretty outraged. I think
> Paul Newman and others have documented the slowly evolving reac-
> tion to the African classification.

Kirk Belnap <> mentioned

> the still hotly debated issue (in Arabic linguistics) of the
> origins of the modern Arabic dialects.
> Miller, Ann M. 1986. 'The Origin of the Modern Arabic Seden-
> tary Dialects: an Evaluation of Several Theories' Al-
> 'Arabiyya 19(1-2):47-74.
> Versteegh, Kees. 1984. Pidginization and Creolization: the
> Case of Arabic.

Jeff von Munkwitz-Smith <>, who is working on a
dissertation on this subject, says

> How about the influence of Dravidian languages on Old Indo-
> Aryan? It's been going on a long time and sparked some inte-
> resting side debates about the nature of "proof" in historical
> reconstruction. On one side there are folks like Burrow, Eme-
> neau, and Kuiper and on the other, Thieme and Hans Hock.
> Burrow, T. 1955. The Sanskrit Language
> Emeneau, M. 1962. 'Bilingualism and Social Borrowing' Procee-
> dings of the American Philological Society 106.
> Hock, H. 1975. 'Substratum Influence on (Rig-Vedic) Sanskrit'
> Studies in the Linguistic Sciences 5.
> Kuiper, F. 1967. 'The Genesis of a Linguistic Area' Indo-Iranian
> Journal 10.
> Thieme, P. 1955. Review of Burrow 1955. Language 31.

And Bernard Comrie <> directed me to

> [a] controversy concerning the relation between Kamchadal
> (Itelmen) and Chukotian (i.e. Chukchi, Koryak, and other
> closely related languages)
> Comrie, Bernard. 1980. 'The Genetic Affiliation of
> Kamchadal: some Morphological Evidence' International
> Review of Slavic Linguistics 5:109-120.
> Worth, Dean. 1962. 'La place du kamtchadal parmi les
> langues soi-disant paleosiberiennes' Orbis 11:579-599.

Thanks very much to all who responded. I'm open to further suggestions,
if anybody out there has any to offer.


Dr. Steven Schaufele
712 West Washington
Urbana, IL 61801

**** O syntagmata linguarum liberemini humanarum! ***
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