Re: [tied] Nominative: A hybrid view -Jens/literature

From: fortuna11111
Message: 22280
Date: 2003-05-26

Jens, you are a challenge for me today (in terms of time), but I will
try to reply to this as well. I hope you take this as something
positive after all. And nonono, don't get defensive :-)

> > > > [...]
> > > > Ops, that about the voiced/voiceless was new to me. Now I
> > > > Kapiert.
> > >
> > > Wirklich, Eva? Then go tell your countrymen. The rule is known
> > > everybody but never endorsed expressis verbis.
> >
> > This is what I call muscle logic. Males are always tempted.
> Now I think the time ha come for me to object against sexual
> Chromosomes are not at stake her; I ask only for logic and fair

It was a reply to some other forms of harassment re Germany. I never
discussed your nationality, so let's leave it out of the debate. At
the very least, your remarks showed me some bad taste and some wrong

> Oh, sorry, I jumped to the conclusion you were German because of the
> interspersed German in your postings.

Yes, if your tone was not disrespectful, it would not have been a

I don't know which other assumptions
> I have made about you - or are you referring to other assumptions?

For example, that Germans are in desperate need to be informed. Read
your own tone above. I cannot take it for something normal.

> > Generally, the scientific
> > method implies much of what is already written may be wrong.
> How very true, we correct and reject things all the time, and those
of us
> who are trying to be active in the field must accept being
criticized just
> as much.

Exactly :-) Your remarks don't get better when you include my
nationality in the argument.

> > One such
> > assumption of wrong-ness attracted me towards this field.
> Sounds very interesting, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would
like you
> to tell us more.

Yes, gladly, when I feel like it. One thing at a time.

> I suppose we all agree.

This is never absolutely necessary.

Still, there would be no investigations into
> Nostratic if that requirement had to be met every time. But one can
> close to the heart and soul of the branches of Indo-European by
> some 50 pages of text in each of some 15 well-chosen languages.

Yes, but my observations show this is not always enough. It is
enough for a superficial look into the languages - it does, however,
often lead to awful mistakes. It is definitely not like being able
to actually use the languages on all levels (old languages being a
different matter). A more multi-level perception of language as a
complex system is usually not possible after 50 pages. Especially if
you view language as a living being and not just as something

> Don't tell anybody I said so, but there is no comparative method,
> term is an empty noun phrase.

Okay, I respect your view, but I do think there is a difference in
the approach to language in comparative linguistics. And no, as a
journalist, I am particularly sensitive towards clichees and use of
empty phrases and terms to conceal ignorance. I have personally felt
the approach in comparative linguistics is different from anything I
have experienced regarding language study in my life (and there has
been a lot of language study in my life). I do not always find what
I call "the comparative method" so fine, but that's what I have to
put up with for now. We'll see if it could change. I have not said
the method is something I enjoy. I take it as a fact.

In comparative linguistics we try to figure
> out what has happened to a set of related languages on their way
from the
> putative protolanguage to the oldest stages we find documented.

One could read this in a lexicon. It is not what I meant.

We have
> the traces and want to know how they came about. What we do is not
> essentially different from what a police detective does if he
observes the
> traces of a crime and wants to know what happened back at the time
when it
> did happen.

Exactly, like wondering where a particular piece of "knowledge" stems
from. Sometimes the linguists themselves don't know. And
unfortunately, many people end up learning particular linguistic
transformations by heart and forgetting to think in between (where
did those transformations come from, after all). It is, from my view
of a beginner, extremely hard to get to the actual justification of
the conclusions you usually read in books on comparative
linguistics. I want to read their thorough argumentation - it should
be available somewhere. I do have the detective approach, believe
me, but this particular field of linguistics does not seem to be
blessed with a lot of orderliness and communication between the
branches. I see this as a very basic problem which does, ironically,
make the comparative method something special. *wink*

> You are very right. In this field you may run into some
particularly nasty
> frustrations on that score. There is little consistency in the
notation of
> the phonological elements of the protolanguage, nor even agreement
on the
> point whether they are phonemes or rather have some other status.

You sing my soul here.

> Neither do I, unless I watch it being done against me (or against
> else) from all around. Sadly, that is frequently the case.

But it does not seem to concern me since I have not talked politics.
Not as an initiator.

> really try to do that, and I am very sorry if you get a different
> impression.

I did. Germans have nothing to do with what I have learned and what
not. I am no patron of generalizations.

You may have caught me in a particularly heated act of
> self-defense. God knows I have been provoked; I try not to provoke

You seem to have those defensive moods quite often (twice in my
experience). I hope you are aware people can misunderstand you, and
rightfully so.

, to clear your political concerns, Germans read in all
> > possible languages at the university, so all the possible
> > you are talking about is actually being used as a reference here.
> I know that, I just didn't know where you were. My concerns are not
> political in any sense of the word; I was concerned about giving
real and
> unbiased advice.

If so, appreciated.

> > you imagine how much of useful and useless literature you can
find at
> > the Staatsbibliothek-Berlin? And that's just one of the libraries
> > here.
> I know exactly what you are talking about. That was my reason for
> commenting on the basic handbooks, but I obviously started too low.
> desperately need to get started in Greek, and Berlin is a splendid
> to get it; then Indo-European will open up as you go along learning
> - especially if you already have a knowledge of Sanskrit.

I know that. Thanks for the advice though. I feel that I miss Greek

Saussure made
> practically all of his magnificent analyses on the sole basis of
> and Greek. Saussure's "Memoire" on the IE vowel system in many
> reads like a morphophonemic analysis of Sanskrit, and its general
> character is highly akin to the discussions we are having on this
list 125
> years later.

And I miss French :-) I learned German in one and a half years to be
able to start at the university. I would say... French would not
take me more? I did think about reading de Saussure, but I don't
think I found a translation - for some reason I gave it up. I have
to remember now, thanks for reminding me.

I have some trouble reading his French style, which is not
> helped by the special notation of, say, /e/ and /o/ as a1 and a2;
there is
> a Russian translation in a collection entitled Trudy po
> Moskva 1977.

Ops! That might work. Thanks for that as well.

> > And you need many others.
> Sure, sure, this was meant for starters. To get discouraged just
> through the majestic bibliography of Meier-Bruegger's book.

I have done it, oh, dear. But I am not discouraged :-)

At the present
> moment, that book is where you go see what you have missed in your
> reading. Mostly it does not state the point of the books and
articles it
> refers to, so you have to do that bit yourself, and it often takes a
> frustrating turn when you see how limited the actual wisdom was.

I have used it and found it extremely dry and not very helpful.
Depends on what you are looking for. But I will use it for some
reference on things now that I have an overview of the subject and
things have started to clear up. Last semester I had to learn what
PIE linguistics is all about... :-) Fun stuff.

But it
> does offer you the opportunity to get acquainted with a huge amount
> literature. I am sure it would have been a better introduction if
> oversized reference frame had been reduced and more had been said
> the subject-matter in the main text which is in fact surprisingly

It would have been useful if you didn't fall asleep over it. I
cannot just authomatically learn examples. I need a theory. I have
to have an aim and know why I am using the examples. As a result of
this ablative debate I finally leaned the nominal-endings from last
semester that I did not know what to do with. I think comparative
linguistics is in some desperate need of good textbooks. I am a
person with experience in research (I mean, not a poor beginning
student), yet I did curse and curse to my heart's content, even when
reading through Mr. Szemerenuy. Now I think I can go back to him and
read more. But I go back to my argument comparative linguistics
needs a style of scientific writing that fits the humanities better.

It's humans that spoke those languages, huh? Or not? :-)

> > Everything is known in Berlin, Jens :-) It is just that some of
> > might not have reached me, naturally.
> Sure, I was talking to you, not to Berlin :-)

It sounded more like talking to Berlin, but anyway.

> > I will definitely find them in the library. I am generally
> > I can only read Meillet in translation. That will change soon.
> That's the spirit. French may be a language you should begin reading
> before you know it in your bones.

Yes, I understand a lot of French, but I do need some grammar and
stuff :-) At least a little bit. Yet you have given me an
interesting idea. Let's see if I can just jump into Meillet. There
is something written by him that I wanted to read. I read an excerpt
and it was a little foggy, but it worked. Maybe I should just try
reading further.

By staying on the
> > list
> > > you can contribute to the brew out of which future scholarship
> > > perhaps be distilled.
> >
> > That should be the whole point.
> We do *so* agree.

Sure, after all. You gave me some great ideas, after letting Germans
live in peace. :-)