LINGUIST List 2.220

Monday, 13 May 1991

Qs: "stable" words, Barcelona, Cross-ling quantification

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Bill Poser, "stable" words
  2. Bill Eldridge, Re: Queries
  3. David Gil, Cross-linguistic Quantification

Message 1: "stable" words

Date: Sun, 12 May 91 23:41:42 -0700
From: Bill Poser <>
Subject: "stable" words
I notice that in the discussion a little while back (I've been
way behind on reading this list, I'm afraid) there was
yet another reference to work by Aharon Dolgopolsky that
is supposed to establish the extreme rarity of borrowing of
so-called "stable" words. I have been unable to find any
actual publication of such data, and therefore enquire whether
anyone can provide a reference to such work.

The only paper that I have seen cited (not on this list)
is the paper published in English translation as:

 "A probabilistic hypothesis concerning the oldest
 relationships among the language families in
 Northern Eurasia," in Vitaly Shevoroshkin and
 Thomas Markey (eds.) _Typology, Relationship,
 and Time_. Ann Arbor: Karoma. pp. 27-50. (1986).

The original publication is:

 "Gipoteza drevnejshego rodstva jazykovyx semej
 Severnoj Eurazii s verojatnostnoj tochki zvenija,"
 Voprosy jazykoznanija 2.53-63. (1964)

(The English translation omits the table of Nostratic

As one might guess from the title of the paper, the bulk
of it is devoted to Nostratic. Only a small portion of the paper
is devoted to methodological preliminaries. That is the part
that deals with the rarity of borrowing of "stable" words.

The entire treatment of stability is to be found on pp. 32-35 of
the English version, pp. 55-56 of the Russian original. This
alone should make it clear that this article contains no
demonstration of stability - there simply isn't
room for it. In point of fact, all there is is a list of
how many languages from which language family
Dolgopolsky looked at and a summary of his results.
The languages do not constitute a truly global sample but
are pretty much restricted to Eurasia. They do not include
any from the Americas, Australia, New Guinea, Africa (except
for Afroasiatic), or East or Southeast Asia (except for Tungusic).
The data are not listed, nor is there any discussion of
the particular cases, that is, how D. decided that a particular
pair was cognate or that a word was a loan. There is no
reference to another publication containing these necessary

In other words, this paper does NOT provide the evidence of
resistance of "stable" words to borrowing that it has been
claimed to provide. It contains nothing but an abstract.
So I ask, is there a REAL study of borrowing available somewhere?

 Bill Poser
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Message 2: Re: Queries

Date: Mon, 13 May 1991 20:23:09 +0800
From: Bill Eldridge <EXT28%CSPGCS11pucc.PRINCETON.EDU>
Subject: Re: Queries
 I'm moving to Barcelona at the end of May, and I'm interested
in finding groups working on cognition/language processing
concepts (both academic and industry). I have a Master's in
Computer Science and bachelor's degrees in Electrical Engineering
and Spanish Literature. My current focus is on the development
of hybrid systems - expert systems mixed with neural networks,
but I'm interested in other topics as well. I have a CV on line
that I can send to any interested parties.


 Bill Eldridge
 Inst. of Computer Science
 Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences
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Message 3: Cross-linguistic Quantification

Date: Mon, 13 May 91 16:38:53 IST
Subject: Cross-linguistic Quantification
I am interested in quantification from a cross-linguistic perspective;
specifically, in the ways various notions pertaining to quantification
are expressed in the lexicon, morphology, and syntax of typologically
diverse languages. I have a number of questions which are addressed
to linguists familiar with lesser-known and lesser-studied languages.
Any information--first-hand or bibliographical--on the following
topics, however partial or tentative, would be greatly appreciated:

Is anybody familiar with a language ...

(1) In which the word for "all" enters into two constructions with
 its head noun: (a) a singular construction, with distributive
 meaning, and (b) a plural construction, unmarked for distributivity?
 (Eg. Spanish "todo hombre" vs. "todos los hombres", also Hebrew.)

(2) In which the words for "all" and "every" are morphologically
 related? (Eg. Russian "vsjakij" ("every") apparently derived
 from "vse" ("all"), though the relationship is probably diachronic
 rather than synchronic.)

(3) In which there are two distinct words resembling English "every"
 and "each"? (Eg. Italian "ogni" and "ciascuno", Russian "vsjakij"
 and "kazhdij".)

(4) In which a single word, corresponding to English "any", is
 ambiguous between the following two interpretations:
 (a) "free choice", as in "Any person can do that"; and
 (b) "negative polarity", as in "John didn't eat any apple/s".

(5) In which there are two distinct words resembling English
 "two" and "both"? If there are, does this distinction
 extend to other numerals?

(6) In which there are collective numerals?

My address:

Department of English
University of Haifa
Haifa, 31999, Israel


Thank you very much.

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