LINGUIST List 15.1075

Thu Apr 1 2004

Disc: Re: How China discovered America...?

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <sarahlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Mark Jones, RE: 15.1043, Disc: Re: How China discovered America...?
  2. Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Re: 15.1027, Disc: Re: How China discovered America...?

Message 1: RE: 15.1043, Disc: Re: How China discovered America...?

Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004 10:00:08 +0000
From: Mark Jones <markjjoneshotmail.com>
Subject: RE: 15.1043, Disc: Re: How China discovered America...?


Dear List members,

I'm no expert either, and I haven't read the book, but for what it's
worth i think it's important to distinguish between the claim that
China visited the west coast of the Americas and the claim that there
has been any lasting linguistic influence.

The former seems to me to be not unlikely given that less
technologically advanced societies like the Polynesians succeeded in
even more extraordinary feats of navigation and endurance. And let's
not forget the successive waves of Europeans who allegedly visited the
east coast of North America before any longer term settlement.

The possibility of linguistic influence on indigenous languages does
seem to be far less convincing on the basis of the evidence discussed
on the list and in terms of general principles applied to the data.

Mark J. Jones

Department of Linguistics
University of Cambridge
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Message 2: Re: 15.1027, Disc: Re: How China discovered America...?

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 17:01:36 -0500
From: Elizabeth J. Pyatt <ejp10psu.edu>
Subject: Re: 15.1027, Disc: Re: How China discovered America...?


Some methodolical criteria I would like to see in such an analysis.

1) If we assume that "1421" only was the year of contact, then I would
expect there to NOT be too much in the way of Chinese loans - the
period of contact would be too brief and sporadic. However, if some
loan words were proposed, then the phonology should match the form of
Chinese from that era (which "dialect" would it be I wonder?)

2) If it's over a longer period, I might expect to see a series of
loans matching even earlier eras of Chinese. There's a possibility
that the American loans would actuall be very dissimilar to the modern
Chinese if they came early enough. For instance we know English
"cheese" is very early Germanic borrowing from Latin "caes-" because
it has undergone the Old English palatalization changes. A word like
Spanish "queso" is more recent and therfore more similar sounding.

Ideally, you would be able to identify "sound laws" if the pool were
large enough.

If the lists of "cognates" are lists of similar sounding Modern
Chinese and sounds from the Latin American languages, I would be
skeptical myself unless a more systematic correspondence is
available. I haven't looked at the data, but that's how it sounds like
it is based on this discussion (but maybe I'm wrong).

FYI - The Harvard paper appears to be a review of proposed
archaeological evidence, which could be more helpful than the
linguistic evidence.

My two cents.
- 
Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Ph.D.
http://www.personal.psu.edu/ejp10
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