LINGUIST List 3.117

Thu 06 Feb 1992

Disc: Proto-World I

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. Sheldon Harrison, Proto-world
  2. Phil Bralich, Protoworld
  3. Swann Philip, 3.110 Proto-World and Popular Linguistics
  4. Nancy L. Dray, The Very Model for Historical Comparison...

Message 1: Proto-world

Date: Wed, 5 Feb 92 16:09:53 WSTProto-world
From: Sheldon Harrison <harrisoncs.uwa.oz.au>
Subject: Proto-world


Just in case anyone out there is voting on the issue, I would like to second
Dan Everett's response to Andrew Carnie. Everett has said more or less what
I wanted to.

shelly harrison
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Message 2: Protoworld

Date: Tue, 4 Feb 92 21:16:21 HSTProtoworld
From: Phil Bralich <bralichuhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu>
Subject: Protoworld

The discussion on Proto-World seems to be unaware of or has neglected to
mention that Derek Bickerton's boo _Language and Species_ presents a
convincing argument about the origin of language that is written in a
style that is quite readable for the general public. In it he discusses
issues pertinent to the Proto-World debate. His discuccion of child
language acquisition also provides a convincing argument that the
actual mechanism for the production of language is quite a bit simpler
than current theories of syntax.

Phil Bralich
University of Hawaii
bralichuhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.edu
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Message 3: 3.110 Proto-World and Popular Linguistics

Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1992 12:11:00 +3.110 Proto-World and Popular Linguistics
From: Swann Philip <swanndivsun.unige.ch>
Subject: 3.110 Proto-World and Popular Linguistics

This seems like a good topic to have a substantial discussion about.
Having just picked up the Cavalli-Sforza article, however, I am
puzzled. He doesn't talk about "Proto-World" at all - I can't find
any claims regarding monogenesis of language or the possibility of
reconstructing ur-speak. Could someone out there begin by giving
a quick summary (with references) of Proto-World?

Maybe I've missed the point completely, but isn't the Chomskian
(re)construction of Universal Grammar an attempt to define the
syntax of ur-speak (with clear reference to the Indo-European
model)?

Philip Swann
FPSE-TECFA
University of Geneva
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Message 4: The Very Model for Historical Comparison...

Date: Tue, 4 Feb 92 21:49:26 CSTThe Very Model for Historical Comparison...
From: Nancy L. Dray <draysapir.uchicago.edu>
Subject: The Very Model for Historical Comparison...


Since the topic of Proto-World, etc., has come up once again on
Linguist, and apparently some new articles have appeared, I can
no longer resist the urge to post the following parody lyrics; they
are, after all, designed not entirely as frivolous entertainment but
also to comment, albeit satirically, on certain trends and recent
publicity. I wrote this last spring to entertain a gathering of
University of Chicago linguists (Goodspeed Day, for those familiar
with our local customs), and I later sent a copy, along with a
brief letter concerning the value and continued vitality of
traditional methodologies, to The Atlantic Monthly in response
to an article by Robert Wright ("Quest for the Mother Tongue,"
April 1991) which was part of the last media blitz. Though
letter and song never appeared in Atlantic, they did appear in
California Linguistic Newsletter (Vol. XXII, No. 2, which along
with the previous issue also contained letters written by other
linguists). The song will also appear in University of Chicago
Working Papers in Linguistics 7. I am indebted to Eric P. Hamp
and David Testen for some lines, some rhymes, and much
encouragement and inspiration (see additional acknowledgments
in forthcoming UCWPL version). I'd be delighted to receive
comments, extra verses, and other linguistic parodies if anyone
cares to send any. Likewise any suggestions of where this might
be published (if it should be). You are welcome to pass this on,
perform it, etc., as long as it is appropriately attributed to me
and the copyright information and some way of contacting me
are included. I would also very much appreciate hearing word
of the song's travels--and a thousand blessings (plus
reimbursement) to anyone who sends me a tape of this actually
being performed! If you would like a nicely printed copy (i.e.,
including the typographical flourishes I had to take out for
e-mail), please contact me. Thanks! Here goes:


_The Very Model for Historical Comparison_
 (Copyright 1991 Nancy L. Dray)
(to be sung to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's
 "Model of a Modern Major-General")

I have the very model for historical comparison,
For reconstructing languages when data is as rare as in
The case of pre-Nostratic (or perhaps it's post-Atlantean--
I always have preferred a task whose compass is Gargant'ian);
For I know all the mythologic functions Dumezilian,
And I can trace our species back to ancestors reptilian;
In all, I seek the broadest view, for by my ideology
The details are just residue left over from typology.

Chorus:
The details are just residue left over from typology,
The details are just residue left over from typology,
The details are just residue left over from typo-polo-gy.

Thus for all forms of pedantry I offer up this medicine:
The weighty methodology of old we'll have to jettison.
To link the tongues of everyone from Hottentot to Saracen,
We'll need another model for historical comparison.

Chorus:
To link the tongues of everyone from Hottentot to Saracen,
We'll need another model for historical comparison.

The sticklers and the "splitters" sitting in their ivory edifice
Must take the blame for having let the Russians get ahead of us,
For if they are so quick to pale when some small detail menaces,
How do they ever hope to reach linguistic monogenesis?
While they're immersed in Lycian and Lydian and Luwian,
I've reconstructed 'water' terms ante- and post-diluvian!
I simply use the handbooks that the forms are predigested in
And waste no time on learning every language they're attested in.

Chorus:
He wastes no time on learning every language they're attested in,
He wastes no time on learning every language they're attested in,
He wastes no time on learning every language they're
 attested-tested in.

So many forms share elements (and meanings if you think a bit);
Morphology's impediments I set aside or shrink to fit.
Indeed I am quite certain (although others seem to vary some)
Mine is the very model for historical comparison.

Chorus:
He really is quite certain (although others seem to vary some)
This is the very model for historical comparison.

Now some may say we "lumpers" are just megalocomparative,
Displaying our propensity for hyperbolic narrative,
But who can match our progress, going speedier and speedier--
Just look at the attention we've been getting in the media(r)!
Where fainter hearts are loath to tread, that's where you'll
 find me wandering,
Assembling the parallels the "splitting" clan are squandering;
I'm keen to bag the languages they always thought akin to none
By stepping 'round the finer points and joining them all into one.

Chorus:
He's stepping 'round the finer points and joining them all into one,
He's stepping 'round the finer points and joining them all into one,
He's stepping 'round the finer points and joining them all into into
 one.

There's Basque and Burushaski, let us not forget Sumerian,
Or scratchings unidentified on tablets antiquarian;
I let no language go astray--'twould just be too embarrassin'
And mar my perfect model for historical comparison.

Chorus:
He lets no language go astray--'twould just be too embarrassin'
And mar his perfect model for historical comparison.

Nancy L. Dray
Department of Linguistics
University of Chicago
1010 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
e-mail: draysapir.uchicago.edu

P.S. In my letter to Atlantic, I followed the song with this
brief comment:

I sincerely hope that the "weighty methodology of old" will not
be jettisoned, for without this ballast historical-comparative
linguistics quickly drifts beyond the reach of attested evidence.
Far from being a stodgy or barren enterprise, traditional
historical-comparative linguistics has demonstrated that bold
innovation is not incompatible with methodological rigor.
Indeed, it is the scrupulous accounting for detail that often leads
to the most startling, unexpected, and far-reaching discoveries,
for the demands of methodology both force and enable one
to escape one's own preconceptions.

NLD
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