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

From: Brian M. Scott
Message: 43332
Date: 2006-02-09

At 4:41:29 AM on Thursday, February 9, 2006, tgpedersen

> --- In, "Brian M. Scott"
> <BMScott@...> wrote:

>> At 8:10:19 AM on Tuesday, February 7, 2006, tgpedersen
>> wrote:

>>> --- In, "Brian M. Scott"
>>> <BMScott@> wrote:


>>>> Actually, many of the methodological objections to the idea
>>>> that they're cognate are also damaging to the idea that
>>>> they're loans:

>>>> * unconvincing semantics;
>>>> * absurdly generous criteria for phonological matches;
>>>> * the fact that he ignores time depth.

>>>> In short, it's not clear that there's anything there to be
>>>> explained in the first place, as cognates *or* as loans.

>>> Applying the above objections to the idea is a categorial
>>> mistake, they must apply to the individual members of the
>>> individual proposed sets (at least wrt the first two,

>> Not a category mistake in the way that I meant it: these
>> arguments cast significant doubt on the idea that the
>> **tik words, for instance, are a loan-group.

> Like I said.

Not that I can see.

>> The unconvincing semantics are every bit as much of a
>> problem for loans as for cognates; the absurdly generous
>> criteria for matches are somewhat less of a problem.

> Erh, why are you changing the subject?

I'm not.

>> It is of course still possible that *some* of the items
>> belong together as loans, just as it's possible that
>> *some* of them are cognate, but each pair or plausible
>> small subgroup would have to be investigated on its own
>> merits.

> Like I said.

Not really, no. You at least give the strong impression
that you're taking some connection as the default position
and arguing that anyone wishing to maintain a contrary view
is obliged to eliminate pairs one at a time. This is
methodologically backwards.

>>> I'm not sure what the third means?).

>> Ruhlen uses attested forms in particular languages,
>> including isolates; shallow reconstructions in tiny
>> families; remote reconstructions in large and well-studied
>> families; and reconstructions in highly speculative
>> macro-families like Amerind. Given a form, he's perfectly
>> willing to accept as a match either an attested form in a
>> language X or a reconstructed form in a language ancestral
>> to X; this obviously greatly increases his chances of
>> finding a match. Whether or not the extra matches allowed
>> by this approach are more likely to be false positives --
>> and I think that they are -- it seems clear that true
>> positives among them will be harder to identify as such.

> Because?

Because loans are easier to identify when contemporaneous
evidence from both source and borrower is available.