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

From: Brian M. Scott
Message: 43303
Date: 2006-02-08

At 8:08:56 AM on Tuesday, February 7, 2006, Patrick Ryan

> It has now been approximately 24 hours

22 hours, 13 minutes, 22 seconds.

> since I challenged Brian to "prove that any _one_ (sic!)
> of these (monosyllables) among the unaspirated series (45)
> is unlikely" to be associated with the constellation of
> meanings I have assigned to it; and with these meanings,
> can be seen in several different languages.

> So far, I have not even seen an acknowledgment that he
> knows of the challenge, let alone a refusal to debate the
> "obvious" (remember that dodge, folks?).

I'm not particularly interested in schoolyard games, and in
any case my students come first. Moreover, only the
methodological issues and your use of IE data keep the
discussion from being completely off-topic, so I was of two
minds about inflicting a response on the list. Given your
insistence, however, I will indulge myself to the extent of
responding *once*, after which I will ignore anything that
isn't clearly on-topic.

Very simply, the shoe is on the other foot: you haven't made
any kind of case for them in the first place.

1. You assume, reasonably enough, that your proto-language
is at least 100,000 years old, but you completely fail to
understand the implications of this assumption. *All* of
the available data are from approximately the last 5% of
this period. Within this brief period we can easily see
languages undergoing enormous changes in all respects.
Consider just sound change; with one exception, the changes
shown below, at least some of which should be familiar to
you, have occurred during the last half of that 5%.

/augustus/ > /u/
/akwa/ > /o/
*/hokdie/ > /hodie/ > /w"i/ (w" = IPA turned-h)

/totovalas/ > /tu&hal/
/rodagnas/ > /ru:a:n/
/ivagenas/ > /o:n/

ON /bu:a/ > Far. [bIgva]
ON /ni:u/ > Far. [nUdzU]

/paravere:dus/ > [pfe:&t]

Granted, I deliberately picked moderately impressive
examples, but they weren't hard to find. Your reconstructed
PL phonology and its supposed relationships to PIE,
Sumerian, Egyptian, etc. show the kind of change that we
actually see occurring over a few millennia, yet this change
is supposed to have taken many times that long.

And it isn't just the consonants. S.r. NO you even say

That the inherited vowels were preserved at the time of
the formulation of Egyptian writing is suggested by the
employment of this sign for Egyptian n(j)w, 'ostrich',
which is based on PL NHO.

That's tens of thousands of years of preserved vowels.

Further evidence of confusion about the time-scale involved
is found on the page ProtoLanguage-1.htm, where you say:

3. some languages (Egyptian, Sumerian) that were recorded
very early offer tantalizing hints at the original
meanings of these earliest monosyllables after allowances
are made for the modifications to the original consonants
in the earliest inventory;

Egyptian and Sumerian were recorded 'very early' only in the
sense that they were the first to be recorded; they were
recorded very *late* in the history of human language.

2. Much of the supposed evidence turns out to rely on your
own readings and glosses and on ludicrous semantic
contortions (PIE *sneubH- 'marry' is PL NO-FA-P?FE
'store-done repeatedly-place' = 'connubial bed'; PL
TSHO-NA-K?XO(-FA), 'stretch around-thing-hole' = '(looped)
thong' = '(what is to be) move(d) by thong(s)' = 'heavy
(thing)' / 'pull by (looped) thongs', with '(needing to be
moved through) being pulled (by a thong since it cannot be
easily lifted and carried)' as a paraphrase of 'heavy'); PIE
*gal- (for *ga:l-), 'call out, sing out' is PL K?A-?A-NHA,
'cup'-stative = 'cupped (hands)' + 'vibrate' = 'call out').
This stuff bears about as much resemblance to historical
linguistics as a child's mud pie does to a chocolate cake.

3. For a number of assertions not even this kind of support
is offered. I noticed in particular the article on NA,
which offers no evidence of any kind for most of the senses
that you claim for it at the top of the page.

4. There are numerous elementary errors. S.r. KXHA you

As we shall see so often, the sign for gan (Jaritz #271),
properly reads kan (for *kân), and depicts a 'reed jug
over a waist with two legs', indicating a 'reed jug being
carried'; this is PL KXHA-NA, 'pointed-thing' = 'reed'.
However, the 'reed jug' shows that part of the compound
sign is derived from PL KXHA-NA, 'pointed-thing' = 'reed'.

Although Pokorny does not list it, American Heritage
Dictionary does list it as PIE *kanna (probably for
*k(h)a:na), and derives from it Greek kánna, 'reed, cane'.

This is simply false: AHD4 s.v. <cane> gives the etymology
as follows: 'Middle English, from Old French, from Latin
_canna_, small reed, from Greek _kanna_, of Semitic origin.
See _qnw_ in Appendix II.' In App. II the root is referred
to the '[c]ommon Semitic noun *qanaw-, reed'. No PIE source
is suggested. AHD4 s.v. <can> 'container' merely derives
the word from ME <canne> 'a water container', from OE.

Though AHD suggests a loan from Germanic for Late Latin
canna, 'reed, cane, type of vessel', [...]

It does not. Neither does the OED: 'ME. _canne_, _cane_, a.
OF. _cane_, later _canne_ (= Pr. _cana_, Sp. _caña_, It.
_canna_):--L. _canna_, a. Gr. <kánna>, <kánne:>, reed, perh.
from Semitic: cf. Heb. _qâneh_, Arab. _qanâh_ reed, cane. In
Latin the sense was extended from ‘(hollow) reed or cane’ to
‘tube or pipe’, a sense retained in Romanic, and prominent
in the derivatives _canneau_, _cannella_, etc.'

S.r. XO you write:

Though not listed in Pokorny or AHD, PIE **gwer-,
'*under/across', is probably the source for Modern German
quer, 'across';

Rubbish: <quer> is cognate with ON <þverr>, OE <þweorh>, MLG
<dwer>; the OHG is <twerh>. The sound change /tw/ > /kw/ is
primarily East Middle German and well known; other examples
are <Qualm> (from <twalm>), <Quirl> (from <twirl>), and
<Quark> (from <twark>).

and Modern English queer ('who is under',
from the assumed spatial relationship of the passive
participant during homoeros').

This formerly slang sense of <queer> obviously derives from
the much earlier 'strange, odd, peculiar, eccentric, in
appearance or character; of questionable character,
suspicious, dubious' (early 16th century); in the earliest
OED quotation for it, from 1922, it's even still placed in
quotation marks.

S.r. P?E you have a PIE *bes- from which you derive English
<piss>. Now <piss> 'urinate' goes back at least to the 13th
century (as ME <pissen>) and is clearly a borrowing of OFr
<pissier>, Fr <pisser>. This may be onomatopœic, or it may
be from a VL *pissiare, but in either case the initial /p/
isn't from PIE *b-.

To go a little further afield, on the page
ProtoLanguage-5.htm you write:

3) We might never have suspected a three-way contrast in
IE were it not for the Slavic and Celtic languages, which
conservatively maintain, at least, partially, this early
set of contrasting consonantal features.


1) A strong confirmation of the original three-vowel
contrast (really glide contrast) of the Proto-Language is
found in the facts of Old Irish. As Rudolf Thurneysen
(Thurneysen 1970:96-109) writes:

"In Old Irish every consonant may have three separate

1. palatal or i-quality,

2. neutral or a-quality,

3. u-quality.

Modern dialects retain only the first two, the
u-quality having coalesced with the neutral, for which
development see # 174."

OIr does not *maintain* such a contrast; the contrast is an
OIr development, the qualities being conditioned on
following vowels in PCelt. Later:

1) Let us look at the Modern Irish word for "noise (loud
confused clamor, din)": cullóid. We recall that the
reconstructed Nostratic form would be *kwal-. We saw in
Greek kaléo: that the root was differentiated from other
"kel"'s by a final -y. It begins to looks very much like
cullóid was derived from an early IE kwa"lay (through
kwl-"loy), and that the w-glide can still be seen reduced
in the MI u.

This is from OIr <callóid> 'dispute; babbling', a borrowing
of Latin <collatio>.

2) In Modern Irish scal, sting of a nettle, we see
Nostratic s-mobile + *kal-; and in Modern Irish sceolang,
"fleet, agile", we see s-mobile + Nostratic *kyal-.

The sense 'fleet, agile' is secondary; the noun is 'a
fugitive, a deserter'. The DIL says that EIr <sceolang> =
<sceola> 'news-bringer, survivor (of a battle)' and relates
it to <scél> 'story, tale; news, tidings; information,
account'. The sequence is clear: news-bringer > survivor of
a battle > one who ran away > (adj.) fleet, agile.

3) Now, consider Old Irish gáu, "falsehood", which occurs
also in Middle Welsh geu, and Middle Breton gou. Since
every Irish vowel has one of three qualities, which
quality does the initial g have? An a-quality because of
gáu? An e-quality because of geu? Or an o-quality because
of gou?

In fact the MW and MBret words show the normal development
of Late Brit. *gá:w- and thus don't conflict with the OIr
evidence at all (Jackson, LHEB 373) -- not that they were
actually of much relevance in the first place.

When I can so easily find errors in things with which I'm
somewhat familiar, I'm certainly not inclined to trust the
rest even as data, never mind the conclusions.