----- Original Message -----
From: Juozas Rimas
Sent: Saturday, April 22, 2000 1:02 PM
Subject: Re: [phoNet] Lithuanian/Russian: FIXED

Then you'd have to say that the history of Dutch began when it separated from Afrikaans (or rather when Afrikaans separated from it, but a split is a split whoever does the splitting). The trouble is that Dutch would look exactly the same today, not a whit more modern or archaic, if Afrikaans had never come into being.

Or you could say that the history of German began in the early Middle Ages, but then reflect that Yiddish split off the German branch more recently (which should have a rejuvenating effect on German) -- and if you attempt to date the Dutch/German split, the exercise will give you a headache.
How old is English? Older than Lithuanian, under your definition, since it separated from the rest of West Germanic in the mid fifth century. How old is Albanian? When did it last split of from any other language (Dacian? but what is Dacian? and why should the knowledge of such extralinguistic HISTORICAL accidents affect our assessment of the antiquity of Albanian?)??

Latvian is less archaic than Lithuanian? It depends. In what respect? Literary Latvian retains the old pronunciation of Baltic *a:, it reflects the original Baltic intonations more faithfully than Lithuanian does, though on the other hand it shows innovations like the reduction of unstressed final syllables. What about spectacular lexical archaisms in Latvian, like gùovs 'cow' (Lith. kárvė), or asinis (pl.) 'blood' (Lithuanian kraũjas)? How can you balance all the innovations and retentions in a principled way to determine OBJECTIVELY which of the two languages is more archaic?
The very definition of "distinct language" is far from straightforward and not uncontradicted. Whether Swedish and Norwegian (or Polish and Kashubian, Hindi and Urdu, Bulgarian and Macedonian, Serbian and Croatian) are the same language or two separate languages is partly a political question, and the answer depends crucially on extralinguistic considerations. For me as a historical linguist the history of a language begins as far back as I'm able to trace it. Since all the IE languages can be traced back to PIE, that's where ALL their histories begin as far as I'm concerned.

I agree that it's a bit of stereotype too. I believe the history of a
language starts when it splits off of its ancestor language. I don't know
when the Slavic ancestor language split into Western, Eastern and Southern
Slavic groups but I've read Russian, Byelorrusian and Ukranian emerged from
the Eastern group in the 14th-15th centuries. So the history of Russian
must've started about 500 years ago. Sergei?
As to the Baltic ancestor language, it split into Prussian and
Lithuanian-Latvian groups in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. Lithuanian and
Latvian began to live their own life in the 5th-7th centuries AD. Why
Latvian is less archaic than Lithuanian then? And what about Albanian? Sorry
for any mistakes and possible off-topic.

Juozas Rimas