Yearly Archives: 2014

Some things rotten in the history of Tungusic

On a whim, I’ve started to investigate the lexicon of Proto-Tungusic, which the Moscow school of Nostraticists maintain a handy database of (as they do for pretty much all Eurasian language families). I am currently about 10% in, having looked

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

On the epistemology of sound change, part 1

Continuing from the last post, and toning the meta-ness of the discussion down just a little… What does it, at the level of everyday research, mean for me to request “justification on the basis of more elementary phenomena” for the

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Posted in Methodology

Indo-Iranisms galore?

Currently I am making my way through a fascinating and peculiar book: Hartmut Katz’s posthumously released Studien zu den älteren indoiranischen Lehnwörtern in den uralischen Sprachen (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 2003). Fascinating, in that the book’s ~700 loan etymologies, some

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Posted in Commentary, Etymology

The rooting of historical linguistics

Most of the harder problems in the methodology of historical linguistics seem to come from it being a fairly “high-order” discipline, and a relatively isolated one at that. To an extent, this true of all humanities. With the levels of

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Posted in Methodology

Some sunny words

A recent blog post from Christopher Culver brings to my attention an apparent family of Turkic word roots showing irregular variation in form: *künäš ~ *qujaš ‘sun, day, heat’. Aside from the alternation *n ~ *j (for which *ń seems

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Posted in Etymology

Similar Place Avoidance in language history

An interesting paper I’ve found a couple days ago: Pozdniakov, Konstantin & Segerer, Guillaume (2007). Similar Place Avoidance: A Statistical Universal. In: Linguistic Typology 11:2. The main thesis is relatively simple: most languages of the world disfavor word roots where

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Posted in Commentary, Uncategorized

Consonant clusters in Khanty

My previous example of phonotactic combination analysis was on data that was, despite a few kinks, still largely homogenous. But to showcase how it’s important to have a decent basic hypothesis before going into more fine-grained analysis, here’s a look

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Posted in Methodology

Close vowel reduction in Samoyedic

A well-known feature of the Samoyedic languages is a split development of Proto-Uralic *u. The standard analysis (as first proposed, IIUC, by Janhunen 1981) is that this occurred depending on the original stem type. *u becomes *ə before original 2nd

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Posted in Reconstruction

Phonotactics vs. protolanguages

Phonotactic analysis is probably one of the most straightforward tools for statistical etymology. There are others too — but this is an analysis method that will easily bring up a wealth of data that has no real synchronic motivation (arbitraryness

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Posted in Methodology

Primary vs. secondary *ë

I claimed in my post “Two Lemmata” that the reconstruction of Proto-Uralic *ë rests on quite firm ground by now. Regardless, it is still not too rare to see studies which fail to recognize the idea. [1] Apparently the existence

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Posted in Reconstruction

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