Re[4]: [tied] searching for common words for all today's languages

From: Brian M. Scott
Message: 43259
Date: 2006-02-05

At 12:10:35 PM on Sunday, February 5, 2006, Patrick Ryan

> From: Brian M. Scott<mailto:BMScott@...>

>> At 6:43:28 AM on Sunday, February 5, 2006, Patrick Ryan
>> wrote:

> [...]

>>> Trask willingly conceded the _possibility_ that all
>>> language descended from one common ancestor.

>>> At the same time, he fervently _believed_ that any
>>> information regarding that most ancient ancestor was not
>>> retrievable;

>> Yes, because he understood exactly why this is the case.
>> It isn't, as you are trying to suggest, a matter of blind
>> belief or faith; it follows directly from what we know
>> about linguistic change and the age of human language. If
>> any signal of common ancestry has actually persisted down
>> to the present, it cannot rise above the level of the
>> background noise and therefore cannot be shown to exist.
>> Looking for traces of proto-world is a waste of time;
>> believing that one has found them is at best naive.

> You are repeating the same thing Trask did.

Indeed I am: it's true.

> Dogmatically.

No: it is an inference from what is known, and therefore --
whether correct or not -- very clearly *not* a matter of

> Without looking at possible indications of such "traces".

This also is false.

(Curiosity is a powerful motivator: I've also read quite a
bit of Edo Nyland's web site, far too much of Clyde Winters'
nonsense, Heribert Ilg's _Das Erfundene Mittelalter_, much
silliness in the tradition of Barry Fell, et cetera ad
nauseam. Oh, and not to forget Arnold D. Wadler's _One
Language -- Source of All Tongues_ (New York: The American
Press for Art and Science, 1948), a relatively early and
rather Ruhlenesque attempt to demonstrate the kinship of all
the world's languages.)


>>> and, I fault him for this, was unwilling to seriously
>>> look at anything which purported to prove otherwise.

>> He looked seriously enough to eviscerate the Basque
>> evidence offered by Bengtson and Ruhlen. (Some of this
>> evisceration is, I think, unpublished save in a series of
>> posts to sci.lang made in late 2003 in a thread 'Ruhlen's
>> way with words'. It is presented in his usual clear
>> style.)

> And here you reveal your almost religious fanaticism
> against the idea.

> How many times do you have to be told that this is not
> what Greenberg (particularly) and Ruhlen (secondarily)
> were trying to do?

Read what I wrote: I said nothing about Greenberg. I am
talking about 'evidence' offered by Bengtson and Ruhlen for
alleged proto-world etyma.