Re: Determining genetic descent among languages

From: Richard Wordingham
Message: 46429
Date: 2006-10-21

--- In, "mkelkar2003" <swatimkelkar@...> wrote:
> --- In, "Richard Wordingham" <richard@> wrote:
> > --- In, "mkelkar2003" <swatimkelkar@> wrote:

> > > Q: How can the IEL then determine chronology based on the
genetic tree
> > > model if the assumption of genetic descent is itself based on
> > chronology?

> Since there are very large time gaps among the first dates when each
> of the languages were first attested in writing, it is impossible to
> tell whether a branch like Germanic descended from the same
> protolanguage as others or is completely a result of borrowing.

Phonetically the vocabulary seems coherent enough. (I think the
Nordwest substrate beloved of Torsten is irrelevant here.) There does
not seem to be any doubt that it derives from 'core Indo-European'.
Are you wondering if it is a hybrid of different branches? I think
the notion of a long-lasting dialect cluster, like Romance, is highly

> So the
> comparativist reconstruction *assumes* a chronology to begin with.

Do you mean it assumes a lack of inter-branch borrowing? Do you mean
it assumes that all branches are equally valid as evidence for the
parent? Or are you querying the concept of the Germanic languages
deriving from a common language? (Some see ancient isoglosses within

> I
> remember reading somewhere that if there was no Rig Veda the various
> languages of the "Indo-Aryan" familiy would be be quite difficulty to
> classify as such.

Are you suggesting that 'Indo-Aryan' is a partly geographic term, like
'West Germanic' or 'West Slavic'?

> > Were Indo-European merely something that arose from convergence,
> > then the question would be, 'What can a date for PIE mean?'.

> If the IE family structure did arise from convergence would there
> be a need for PIE? I think not.

Well, it would serve one of its alleged roles, namely a summary of

> > > "But if scholars had only several semi-Romance languages like
> > > at their disposal and applied to them the comparative method as
it is
> > > practiced in Indo-European studies, they would be obliged to
> > > reconstruct a protolanguage for the semi-Romance group as well.

> > Disentangling mixtures is nothing new - Armenian may well be the best

> The ability to disentangle depends on what history has put on the
> comparativists' plate. Genius comes next, chance comes first.

And it may take a long time for disentangling to happen. The
reconstructed 'semi-Romance' proto-language might be something that
would later be overthrown.