Blog Archives

“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 Methodology, Commentary

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

Phonological Cores and Average Regularities

Some thinking out loud on the formalization of comparative and historical phonology. As in most work I’ve seen on the topic, I presume that an etymological corpus of word comparisons has already been given, additionally also aligned segmentwise. [1] The

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Posted in Methodology

On Out of Eurasia and linguistic time depth

So here’s the hypothetical (as developed previously). Suppose modern humans have been hanging out at least somewhere around Eurasia already for 100, perhaps 200, maybe as much as 300 millennia, instead of merely 50–70. Should any of our views on

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Posted in Methodology

A Problem Statement for Uralic vocalism

As noted in my previous post, I have by now nailed down as my next professional milestone a hunt for previously unnoticed innovative features within the Finnic vowel system. Besides individual surface questions about how the vowel system of Proto-Uralic

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Posted in Methodology, Reconstruction

Musings on the sociolinguistics of dialect levelling

In Probing the roots of Samoyedic I note that already the clear fragmentation to separate languages demands a deeper age for Samoyedic than for the other Uralic subgroups. H.-W. Hatting asks in the comments a good argument-sharpening question, and writing my answer

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Posted in Methodology

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