Blog Archives

Long-Distance Comparisons As Butterflies

One of the rationality-cluster blogs here on WordPress, Aceso Under Glass, a while ago posted about a concept I find immediately useful: “Butterfly Ideas“. Roughly speaking, hypotheses that need further development, are probably not ripe for serious criticism as they

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Posted in Methodology

Language Family Tectonics

Basic research in historical linguistics is mostly done within individual families: we take a swath of attested (in most cases modern) languages, and work towards the past to figure out their development from a common origin, one group at a

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Posted in Methodology

Reviewing UraLex

Nerdsnipe of the day: the BEDLAN team, researching diversification of the Uralic languages interdisciplinarily, mentioned earlier today that they will be soon uploading version 3 of their UraLex dataset of basic vocabulary across Uralic. I thought this might be a

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Posted in Commentary, Links

A Finnic Family Tree

I was recently asked on Twitter about the history and subclassification of Finnic. [1] Whipping up a full-length discussion paper or even a polished nice-looking family tree would be more work than I can produce on short notice or on

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Posted in Commentary, Reconstruction

*-ətA adjectives in Mordvinic

Across Finnic and Samic, one of the more characteristic adjective endings is *-əta ~ *-ətä; yielding e.g. Finnish -ea ~ -eä, Estonian -e, Northern Sami -at. The Permic cognate *-i̮t is also at least relatively common. Because Of Reasons I

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Posted in Etymology

Will Someone Please Reconstruct Proto-Kurdish Already

Some things about comparative linguistics you might just take for granted in your own little corner of a particular language family, until you start looking at how they do things in others. In Uralic studies, we’ve known for 200+ years,

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

Phonological Renormalization

A small definition of a concept. Across the dialectology of various languages we very often find almost the same segment inventory despite various innovations. I call this phenomenon “phonological renormalization”. It seems somewhat mysterious at first: it is hard to

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Posted in Methodology

Revisiting Setälä’s *pk

In 1907, E. N. Setälä published one of his last comparative linguistic works: [1] “Finnisch-ugrisches pk (~ βk)” (in FUF 6; nominally dated to 1906), on a minor addition to the cluster canon of Proto-Finno-Ugric. This was a follow-up to

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Posted in Commentary, Reconstruction

“All swans are underlyingly white”

An allegory that I started writing for something else, but which upon reflection should probably stand on its own. Once upon a time, in a world closely alike our own, a biologist postulates a generalization: “All swans are white”. The

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Posted in Methodology

Sami ruoŧŧa ‘Swedish’, ruošˈša ‘Russian’

The ethnonym and state name Russia(n) traces its origin back to older Rus’ (Русь). As the current standard etymology goes, this is thought to then derive, via the Varangian ruling class of pre-Slavic Russia, from Finnic *roocci ‘Sweden’, in derivatives

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Posted in Commentary, Etymology

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