LINGUIST List 2.72

Thursday, 14 Mar 1991

Disc: Stress,Families,Word freq,Soviet journal,Didactique,NLP

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Diane Brentari, stress
  2. , Language Families
  3. , German Word Frequency Lists
  4. , Articles Solicited
  5. , Didactique fle
  6. Mary Califf, help for a novice

Message 1: stress

Date: Thu, 7 Mar 91 10:43:10 -0800
From: Diane Brentari <>
Subject: stress
Dear Editors,

I am searching for any language where:
1) stress assignment is REGULAR
2) the stress will not occur on the predicted syllable unless the
 syllable contains a 'full' vowel. That is to say, not a 
 reduced vowels.

Please send any suggestions of such languages to:

Thanks very much!
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Message 2: Language Families

Date: Sun, 10 Mar 91 22:34:26 EST
From: <>
Subject: Language Families
Since a number of people expressed interest in this topic, I would
like to began a discussion of some recently proposed language
families (or not so recently, as the case may be) by providing some
information about Sino-Caucasian. This was proposed by Sergei A.
Starostin in 1984 in an article in Russian of which there now
exists an unpublished English translation by William Baxter of
the University of Michigan. The original article was "Gipoteza
o geneticheskikh svjazjakh sinobetskikh jazykov s enisejskimi
i severnokavkazskimi jazykami" and it appeared in the collection
Lingvisticheskaja rekonstrukcija i drevnejshaja istorija Vostoka,
Moscow: Nauka (1984), vol. 4, pp. 19-38.
I think that I could supply a reasonable number of people with
xerox copies in either language.
The hypothesis is that Sino-Tibetan is related to Yeniseyan
and to North Caucasian. A largish number of lexical items
exhibiting apparently regular and often non-trivial sound
correspondences has been proposed as well as a tentative
reconstruction. The underlying work on Yeniseyan was
by Starostin, but since it is a very small and chronologically
shallow family, I don't think there is anything controversial
there. The most important ST source was Old Chinese, whose
phonology was reconstructed by Starostin in a book which has
recently been published in Russia (but the system is strikingly
similar to that proposed independently by scholars in the U.S.
(notably the aforementioned Bill Baxter) and China). The
North Caucasian is about to appear in English in the form of
a rather massive comparative dictionary and phonology of
North Caucasian by Starostin and Sergei Nikolaev. 

 A certain amount of information on Starostin's proposal is
contained in a survey article entitled "Some recent work on
the remote relations of languages" (by yours truly and Vitaly
Shevoroshkin (N.B. some of you may know Vitaly as a radical
advocate of various theories, but the article in question
merely offers some information on Nostratic, ST, and some
other proposals, without taking any strong positions), 
in the book Sprung from Some Common Source out of Stanford
University Press (which is currently in press).

 The article just referred to is also a good introduction
to the Soviet work on Nostratic. Some of you may know the
ideas of A. Bomhard on this subject, but I am referring to
the work of Illich-Svitych and Dolgopolsky, starting in the
1960's, on a proposed language family comprising Indo-
European, Afro-Asiatic, Uralic, Altaic, Kartvelian, and 
possibly Dravidian. The proposals are quite different and'
indeed inconsistent with those of Bomhard and, for my money,
are quite well argued. 

 For some reason, however, the Nostratic etymological
dictionary of Illich-Svitych, published in three parts
between 1971 and 1984, has not been reviewed in American
linguistic journals, and remains largely unknown, with
the result that the (apparently overwhelmingly negative)
reaction to Bomhard's book is the only thing most people
associate with the work Nostratic. I have been trying
to get various American journals to do such a review, and
there is some motion in that direction. But if anybody
agrees with me that there should be one, it would be nice
if they told their favorite journal editor. Since the
books are hard to come by, I am prepared to supply the
stuff (it may have to be in xeroxed form) to any journal
willing to do such a review.

 Among the reasons I find the Nostratic hypothesis quite
plausible is the well-worked out set of phonetic correspondences
and a fair-sized lexicon. In addition, you find such nice
results as the apparent fact that the long-contested
three series of IE velars (palatal, plain, and labial)
correspond surprisingly regularly to velar+front-vowel,
velar+a, and velar+rounded-vowel (respectively) in Altaic
and Uralic. Or the fact that some Kartvelian and Chadic
data support Calvert Watkins' conjecture that IE first
person pronouns conceal traces of an archaic inclusive-
exclusive distinction. Or the possibility (which I myself
first noticed) that certain Uralic affricates which
correspond to IE *sk or *st in initial position are always
geminated intervocalically (where they correspond to IE *s),
all of which is consistent with Nostratic **st and **sk
clusters both initially and medially. Finally, I regard
as an argument in favor of the hypothesis the fact that
numerous long-noted lexical parallels between, say,
Semitic and IE or IE and Kartvelian are NOT claimed to
be Nostratic-level cognates but rather borrowings (there
is a beautiful paper of Dolgopolsky's on such loanwords,
written in English!). The reason being that these words
do not fit the set of correspondeces needed for Nostratic.
For instance, Semitic *thawr- and IE *tauro- 'bull' are not
claimed to be related, because the initial consonants are
inconsistent (Semitic *th is claimed to correspond to IE *st).
In other words, the hypothesis is strong enough to exclude
things (i.e., make negative claims), and the people who developed
it were not among those who take every superficial resemblances
between two language families as evidence of kinship.

 Of course, neither Sino-Caucasian nor Nostratic can be
regarded as proven, until a reasonable number of competent
people knowleageable in the various language groups sifts
through these proposals. This has not happened, either
in the Soviet Union, in Europe, or in the U.S. I would
like to see it happen, if for no other reason than because
much less plausible and less scholarly work on other
hypothetical language families has received incomparably
more attention. Also, if Sino-Caucasian or Nostratic or
both turn out to be wrong, that will have an important
methodological moral. As far as I can see, the authors of
these two hypotheses have done their research in a very
conservative, by-the-book fashion. If they are wrong anyway,
that would have to mean that the methodology of comparative
linguistics as presented in the standard sources can lead to
incorrect results, which I think would be kind of exciting, too.
(Whereas, if Greenberg's proposals for Amerind (or indeed his
own version of Nostratic, which I think he calls Eurasiatic)
were found wanting, we would just shrug our shoulders, and
say that that is exactly what was to be expected, given his
methodology. In Greenberg's case, there would news on the
methodological front, if he were right. In the Nostratic
and Sino-Caucasian cases, only if they are wrong.)
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Message 3: German Word Frequency Lists

Date: Mon, 11 Mar 1991 09:38 EST
From: <>
Subject: German Word Frequency Lists
There are various word frequency lists I know of available for English,
e.g. the Thorndike-Lorge list, the K.L.M. list. Can anyone give me
a pointer(s) to any similar frequency lists for German? Thanks.
-Kurt Godden
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Message 4: Articles Solicited

Date: Mon, 11 Mar 91 22:07:42 EST
From: <>
Subject: Articles Solicited
I would like to solicit submissions of articles by North American
linguists to the Soviet linguistics journal Voprosy Jazykoznanija,
whose editorial board has recently appointed me a representative
for this purpose. The submissions can be in English or Russian,
but the language of publication at present continues to be Russian

Please mail mss. to Alexis Manaster Ramer, Computer Science Dept.,
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202.
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Message 5: Didactique fle

Date: 13 MAR 91 16:57:19.56-GMT
Subject: Didactique fle
Je travaille actuellement sur un manuel de fle destine < des etudiants
marocains. Je m'interesse tout particulierement aux problemes de
l'enonciateur et du co-enonciateur. Pourriez-vous me faire parvenir
une bibliographie concernant la linguistique enonciative ainsi que
des references didactiques?
En vous remerciant d'avance,
Vous pouvez me contacter directement a Semio1frperp51
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Message 6: help for a novice

Date: Wed, 13 Mar 1991 10:35 CST
From: Mary Califf <>
Subject: help for a novice
I'd like some help from the professionals on this list. I have an MA in 
English, but I'm currently employed as a computer programmer, and I'm 
working on an MA in computer science. One of my primary interests is NLP,
and I think that my humanities background could benefit me in that field.
However, we have no linguistics department at my university, so I'm on my
own in boning up on the subject. One faculty member is helping me out with
some direction, but a single point of view can be limiting. All of that
was to lead to my request. I need a reading list. I've read some Chomsky
(_Aspects of the Theory of Syntax_,_Syntactic Structures_,_Language and
Mind_), and I'm planning to read his other works. However, Chomsky + his
bibliographies isn't going to give me everything I need. What else should
I be reading, now or later? Any help or direction would be much appreciated.

Reply either to the list or directly to me at or
 califfmabaylor (BITNET)

Thanks in advance,

Mary Elaine Califf
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