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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

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

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

Phonology squib: *ë in Kamassian

Another word of previously notably unknown etymology recently has a new lead for it: Finnic *sana ‘word’, suggested by one Otso A. Bjartalíð (in a draft that was briefly posted on Academia.edu but seems to be currently down) to have

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Posted in Etymology, Reconstruction

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

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