LINGUIST List 3.70

Fri 24 Jan 1992

Disc: Proto-World

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  1. , Proto-World in the News
  2. Jacques Guy, Proto-world

Message 1: Proto-World in the News

Date: Wed, 22 Jan 92 17:47:46 ESProto-World in the News
From: <>
Subject: Proto-World in the News

Susan Newman may well have a point about organized defense of
the good name of linguistic sciences. Note that there exists
an organization which actively promotes any kind, no matter
how crazy, of proposal about "long-range" comparison. Of
course, the scare quotes are the most frustrating part of this
because it is not fair to compare Benedict's Austro-Thai or
even his Austro-Japanese hypothesis with Ruhlen's global
etymologies (see also Greenberg's reference to Proto-Sapiens
in his book "Language in the Americas") or even more far-fetched
stuff about the origin of language. This organization is
the Association for the Study of Language in Prehistory
(ASLIP), which published the newsletter "Mother Tongue".
I am myself a member, since that appears to be the only`
way to get the newsletter.

So perhaps that ought to be a linguistic Anti-Defamation
League or a Committee to Investigate Incredible Claims in
Linguistics. It does seem a petty that a perfectly nice
little science like linguistics, when does finally get some
exposure in the public eye, is perverted beyond all recognition.
(Though I would also say that some of the coverage of this
topic such as the Scientific American article did give ample
space to linguists holding a variety of opinions on the subject
at hand. This does not appear to be the case with the forthcoming
BBC show, by and large. I, for example, was invited to allow
myself to be filmed "discussing" the issues with Vitaly Shevoroshkin
in the midst of a large Russian-speaking party that was to be held
presumably for the purpose of providing a "colorful" background
and perhaps (as I suspect) to emphasize the claim (which is
quite false) that "long-rangers" can only survive in such niches
in the otherwise hostile, punitive, persecutory environment
of Western academia.)
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Message 2: Proto-world

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 92 10:52:41 ESProto-world
From: Jacques Guy <>
Subject: Proto-world

I was revulsed at the article by Cavalli-Sforza in Scientific American. I saw it
first mentioned in sci.archaeology, before SA became available here in
Sight unseen, the claims made were impossible. After having got hold of that
article, I wrote several debunkings of it. In particular, if you look carefully
at the two trees (the one genetic on the left-hand page and the one so-called
linguistic on the right-hand page), you will see that the linguistic tree is
not a tree but a forest of (quoting from memory) some twenty trees, 18 of which
are degenerate ("degenerate" is the proper technical term in graph theory). In
other words, there is nothing there to correlate with the genetic tree on the
left-hand page. I will try to dig out those things I wrote. I may well have
overwritten them, as I got very short of space on both my PCs and the shared
disk area on the Sun a month ago. If there enough interest in this matter?
If there is, and as I fear, I have lost those files, I could write them again.
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