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

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

“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

Some new work on the Agricultural Substrate

Back in 2009, a very interesting paper was put out by Jaakko Häkkinen, then an early-stage PhD student: [1] “Kantauralin ajoitus ja paikannus: perustelut puntarissa“. While no longer especially up to date (I will probably follow up on this claim

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

How to (not) report a lack of etymology: Samic *keaðkē

I have been having a simmering discussion with commentator “M.” under the post on what’s important for what in historical Uralistics. One general topic there that I keep pushing hard back at is the idea of “etymology unknown” as anything

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Posted in Etymology, Methodology

Analogy Is Not Phonology

While my blogging here has been firmly within historical linguistics, every once in a while I do go poking around self-styled formal linguistics blogs too. [1] This tends to be a frustrating exercise though. By now, supposedly deep problems discussed

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

Examples of reductive primary splits

On a whim I have started reading the Oxford Handbook of Historical Phonology. At about two and a half chapters in I have finally reached some discussion of practical questions in some detail, and the first claim to have struck

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

Nonregularity in North Caucasian

Due to a recent ZBB discussion I ended up re-reading Sergei Starostin’s A North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary Preface. This is one of the more worrisome cases of “Moscow School” phonological tarpits: there is no doubt about Northeast Caucasian being a

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

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