LINGUIST List 2.89

Saturday, 23 Mar 1991

Misc: Families, Conferences

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Language Families
  2. "Daniel L Everett", Re: Responses: Families
  3. Mike Hammond, Arizona Phonology Conference

Message 1: Language Families

Date: Wed, 20 Mar 91 10:09:22 EST
From: <>
Subject: Language Families
I am moved by Kac's, and saddened by Everett's, comments on the
controversial language families. If Prof. Everett admits that
he knows nothing about the proposals that were investigated
in detail and reported on with diligence by several journalists,
how can he condemn the journalistic profession rather than his
own? The "drivel" he refers to will be the first that most
SPECIALISTS have ever heard of Nostratic or Sino-Caucasian,
for example. 

It is also the case that all these articles note that these
theories are controversial, and in particular, it is regularly
pointed out that some of those who believe in the plausibility
of Nostratic and Sino-Caucasian do not believe in the validity
of Greenberg's work on Amerind, not to mention Ruhlen and
Bengtson's on "Proto-World". 

The Sc. Am. piece, in particular, focuses on the controversy
between those who accept certain hypotheses and those who do not.
In particular, it quotes Eric Hamp vs. Aharon Dolgopolsky and me
on several points regarding Nostratic, it quotes me in what'
I believe is the first published critique of Cavalli-Sforza's
work on linking population-genetic and linguistic trees, and
so on.

What particularly pains me is the arrogation by Professor
Everett of the title of 'mainstream linguist' for himself
and whoever agrees with him. I would like to be told by what
right he considers the late Vladislav Illich-Svitych,
Aharon Dolgopolsky, and Sergei Starostin (whose work he admits
he knows not) as outside the mainstream.
Does the same also apply to V. V. Ivanov (who has written ringing
endorsements of the Nostratic hypothesis in his reviews) but also
is the coauthor, with Gamkrelidze, of the recent book Indo-European
and the Indo-European? Does it apply to a dozen or more young
Moscow-based linguists whose work he presumably knows even less
about (Anya Dybo, Sergei Nikolaev, Mudrak, Peyros, and others),
whose only crime is to accept as plausible the Nostratic and
Sino-Caucasian hypotheses? 

By what right do we read Greenberg out of the linguistic mainstream?
And if we do, who is safe? I completely disagree with the methodology
(or lack thereof) in Greenberg's work on Amerind (and now on Eurasiatic
which is essentially the same family as Nostratic), but so long as I
am allowed to speak, I will defend his right to the title of linguist
and to his opinions about linguistic prehistory.

Finally, is Eric Hamp to be cast out as well? He and I have just
written to Sc. Am. jointly praising their coverage and promising to
produce a joint review of the Nostratic work (recording any difference
that may remain between us after a careful evaluation is done (which,
of course, no one has done so far)). And in his interviews with
the press, Prof. Hamp, unlike apparently Prof. Everett, always
remembered to stress that comparative linguistics NEVER asserts
that two languages are UNrelated and that no scientist ever dismisses
work he has not carefully examined for himself.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: Responses: Families

Date: Wed, 20 Mar 91 19:07:19 -0500
From: "Daniel L Everett" <>
Subject: Re: Responses: Families
Mark and Scott note that it is intemperate of me to criticize work 
by Soviet scholars when I don't read Russian and am not familiar with it.
Scott Delancey also points out that I shouldn't lump the lumpers 
together so freely. These are points well taken and, if I weren't
so egomaniacal, I would take back those particular remarks and 
keep only the criticism of Greenberg's work on South American 
languages. Well, I guess that I can do that. Intemperance is
useful at times, however, getting people to speak out more openly
and not be so polite.

By now, Scott D may have already read the remarks that I sent about
functionalist linguistics. Now, I bet that is really intemperate.

So, to repeat, I hereby narrow the focus of the word "drivel" to
apply only to Greenberg's work on South American languages. I
leave it to others to widen its scope (and I bet it should be

Dan Everett
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: Arizona Phonology Conference

Date: Thu, 21 Mar 91 07:43 MST
From: Mike Hammond <>
Subject: Arizona Phonology Conference
 What follows is the schedule for the Arizona Phonology Conference to
be held in Tucson in April.

 Should anyone wish to make arrangements for crash space in Tucson
(priority given to students), s/he may contact Lee Fulmer at the bitnet
address FULMERSRVAX.CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU . Those needing a ride from the
airport may contact Wendy Wiswall, (602) 628-8074, or e-mail address

 Requests for other information (for example, what clothes to bring,
 the airport, nearby hotels with reasonable rates, etc.) may
contact Megan Crowhurst, CROWRVAX.CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU .
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue