LINGUIST List 5.1294

Mon 14 Nov 1994

Disc: Controversies in Historical Linguistics

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: 5.1249 Controversies in Historical Linguistics
  2. Sheila Embleton, Re: 5.1249 Controversies in Historical Linguistics

Message 1: Re: 5.1249 Controversies in Historical Linguistics

Date: Tue, 08 Nov 94 14:08:01 ESRe: 5.1249 Controversies in Historical Linguistics
Subject: Re: 5.1249 Controversies in Historical Linguistics

On November 7th, wrote:
Just a note concerning Alexander Vovin's response to Jacques Guy
concerning basic vocabulary: (Sounds like the semantic primitives that
Ana W. has been looking for :)

In collecting word lists, a reoccuring area of neglect that I have
seen is that the individual collecting the word list doesn't know the
language from which they are eliciting. This means they don't know if
they are receiving a metonym, or a partonym...or a word with any
number of other relationships to the word which they are actually
trying to elicit. This causes problems when comparing dialects,
because in comparing wordlists the assumption is that the words being
compared are the same in meaning, when in fact they might be in very
different relationships to the primary semantic structure which was
sought after. Therefore, the results of the comparison would be
skewed and interpreted incorrectly.

 That occurs ONLY and ONLY if the person who does compilation of a list
does not know the language and disregards its history. Otherwise the burden
of proof is on those who believe that any idea of basic vocabulary is a "se-
mantic primitive".

Sasha Vovin
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Message 2: Re: 5.1249 Controversies in Historical Linguistics

Date: Tue, 08 Nov 94 19:52:57 ESRe: 5.1249 Controversies in Historical Linguistics
From: Sheila Embleton <EMBLETONVM1.YorkU.CA>
Subject: Re: 5.1249 Controversies in Historical Linguistics

In 5.1249, Alexis Manaster-Ramer makes the public assertion that there is a for
thcoming paper by Don Ringe in Diachronica on Nostratic, to which the editors o
f Diachronica won't let him respond. Since his assertion was so public, the edi
tors of Diachronica feel obliged to respond, although we believe that such matt
ers should not normally be the subject of repartee on LINGUIST. The editors of
Diachronica are Konrad Koerner (University of Ottawa, Editor), Brian D. Joseph
(Ohio State, Review Editor) and myself, Sheila Embleton (York University, Toron
to, Associate Editor).

 Yes, there is a forthcoming paper on Nostratic by Ringe,and yes it is against
 Nostratic. However, the allegation that the editors will not let Manaster-Rame
r reply is not, in our view, entirely true. Since it is known
to both parties here (viz., Manaster-Ramer and Ringe), we feel that we can stat
e that Manaster-Ramer was asked to review the Ringe manuscript as originally su
bmitted. This he did, and the comments were passed along to Ringe, along with t
he editorial request that Ringe modify some of his statements, in several place
s, as a result of Manaster-Ramer's criticisms. And this Ringe did. An additiona
l relevant fact is that Manaster-Ramer has written a review (for Diachronica) o
f Ringe's 1992 book, which was returned to Manaster-Ramer by Brian Joseph for s
ome modifications. We still await the submission of that revised review, but ha
ve every reason to believe that it is indeed forthcoming and will be published
in Diachronica. We felt that this review, coupled with the commentary on Ringe'
s article manuscript, gave Manaster-Ramer ample opportunity to respond to the t
hings he wanted to respond to. Given that Manaster-Ramer has recently published
 several other short articles in Diachronica, we felt that he was being given a
mple "air-time". As for further discussion of Nostratic, and particularly Ringe
's criticisms thereof, we felt that yet more commentary by the same players was
 not in the best interests of either the scholarly community or or the journal
itself. Diachronica in fact welcomes replies to reviews and to articles (see th
e journal itself for our published policy on replies), but only when in the vie
w of the editors it serves the scholarly community well, and doesn't give the a
ppearance of being any kind of private debate between just a few members of tha
t community. If the issue is of sufficient interest, we remain confident that o
ther members of the community will enter the debate. But we also have the whole
 field of diachronic linguistics to cover, and must be constantly mindful of th
e number of pages that we are willing to devote to any one issue within that va
st field.

We apologize for taking up so much space on LINGUIST, but felt that it was impo
rtant to set the record straight.

Sheila Embleton
Linguistics; Associate Dean (Arts)
York University, Toronto, CANADA;
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