LINGUIST List 5.951

Sat 03 Sep 1994

Disc: Altaic

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: 5.945 Altaic, Binary comparison
  2. , Re: 5.935 Altaic
  3. , Re: 5.945 Altaic, Binary comparison

Message 1: Re: 5.945 Altaic, Binary comparison

Date: Fri, 02 Sep 94 12:54:50 ESRe: 5.945 Altaic, Binary comparison
Subject: Re: 5.945 Altaic, Binary comparison

Responding to Richard Alderson query:
G. Doerfer and J Janhunen are among anti-Altaicists who insist on binary compar
isons as opposed to multiple; both do not provide any support for this claim.
The following works contain remarks on the kind:
Doefer, G. "Ist das Japanische mit den altaischen Sprachen verwandt?" Zeitschri
ft der Deutschen Morgenl"andischen Gesellschaft 124: 103-42.
Janhunen, Juha. "Das Japanische in vergleichender Sicht", Journal de la Socie-
te Finno-Ougrienne, 84, pp. 145-61, 1992.
 Doerfer G. Mongolische Lehnw"orter in Neupersischen. Wiesbaden, 1963-75, 3 B.
I can find more bibliographical data, if necessary.
Four small remarks on Marshall Unger's last message:
1) The proposal that Japanese, Korean, and Manchu-Tungus are more tightly
related belongs to R. A. Miller as well, not only to Yi Kimun. The only diffe-
rence between the two is that Miller goes beyond these three, and Yi Kimun
does not. Moreover, Yi Kimun's presentation of M-Tungus material (with all my
respect to him as a Koreanist) is quite inferior to his handling of Japanese
and Korean materials. I do not accept quite a lot of etymologies suggested
by R. A. Miller, but I agree with him in principle, and I would really appre-
ciate, if Unger can tell us in more details why Miller's work is not reliable.
2) I would also like to hear his arguments why he thinks that Rona-Tas and
Clark cannot be dismissed, especially Clark whose work was never published,
and unfortuinately, its contents circulate on the rumor level. I am really
interested to hear arguments in favor of one's opinion, not just statements,
which, as I believe, will not get us far.
3) I did not accuse 1987 Baldi conference, and especially Altaic panel, in any
kind of conspiracy. I was not there. But in other places, unfortunately,
rumor-making and other ethically questionable activities were an integral part
of anti-Altaistics. I cited several cases which I winessed myself and likened
it to what Nichols did. I am ready to fight with twisting facts, but I have
no quarrel with Unger, as he, I think, perfectly knows himself: we agree
on more things than we disagree, and I am very interested in his opinion
and arguments he can provide.
4) There is no such thing as "etymological dictionary of Tungusic", there is
"Sravnitel'nyi slovar' tunguso-man'chzhurskikh iazykov" (Comparative dictionary
of Manchu-Tungus languages), which is quite reliable as a source for
internal reconstruction of this linguistic group. There are some split entries,
and other mistakes, but the minimal knowledge of M_T historical phonology
will lead one in a right direction. The authors of these dictionary addedoccas
ionaly some external etymologies, which for the most part are not reliable,
and are better to be ignored. This small part is probably the one Austerlitz
was referring to. The main part of the dictionary is OK and its usefullness
cannot be overestimated. No PMT reconstructions are provided, but again,
it is possible to make a reconstruction on the basis of this material. Both
Starostin and myself made reconstructions of PMT, which differ in details.
His results are in his book, my reconstruction will be sent to press pretty

Alexander Vovin
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Message 2: Re: 5.935 Altaic

Date: Fri, 02 Sep 94 19:44:40 ESRe: 5.935 Altaic
Subject: Re: 5.935 Altaic

Dear colleagues:

Here is the Altaic body parts list I promised: I am posting it on LINGUIST
rather than sending it individually since I received many requests to do
so. I may not finish it today, since it involves a lot of typing, in that case
you will receive one or two follow-ups.

The following transcription notations are introduced in the e-mail format:
N - velar nasal, x - velar voiceless fricative; ch, c, j palatal affricates
(voiceless aspirated, voiceless, and voiced), y -- palatal voiced fricative,
aspiration is denoted after C by the following h, n' is a palatal nasal, l1,
l2, r1, r2 are two different types of l and r in Proto-Altaic.,  is schewa,
Umlaut is rendered by " preceding the vowel.

Chart of the regular correspondences is provided in Vovin 1994 (Diachronica 199
4-1, mentioned earlier in the discussion. Important addition: PA *khi/*kh"i >
PJ *si. Abbreviations: PA - Proto-Altaic, PJ - Proto-Japanese (OJ - Old Japane
se, MJ - MIddle Japanese, PR - Proto-Ryukyuan , J -modern standard Japanese);
PK - Proto-Korean (MK - Middle Korean, HK - Hamkyeng Korean, CK - Ceycwu Korean
), PMT - Proto_manchu-Tungus, (MA - Manchu, EWK - Ewenki (Evenki), EW -Ewen
(Even)), PM - Proto-Mongolian (WM - Written Mongolian, MM - MIddle Mongolian),
PT - Proto-Turkic (OT - OLd Turkic, CHU- Chuvash).

PK and MK o and u are NOT /o/ and /u/ but minimal [+back] and [-back] vowels,
reflecting any [+back] or [-back] vowel. PK and MK wo and wu represent /o/ and
Capital letters represent unclear choice: e,g. U : /u/ or /"u/.
Reconstruction of PA vocalism is in 30% cases conditional, since the situation
with it is the same as in Uralic: in 70% of cases there are regular vocalic
correspondences, in the remaining cases we have occasional irregularities in
one or two languages. There are no irregularities of the kind in consonantism.

The etymologies below represent my conservative approach. There are considerabl
y more etymologies proposed by different linguists, but my choice was limited
by 3 factors: 1) I did not include cases, which, as I believe, contain dubious
semantics; 2) I tried not to include all possible cases which so far have
controversial reconstructions, 3) I excluded cases which are represented in
only two groups out of five if they do not involve basic body parts.

1) PA *kh"il1[V]"hair" > PJ *ka-Ci (?<*kara-Ci), PK *kalV-K, PMT *xil-Na-
"hair", PM *kilga-sun "horse hair", PT *k"il "hair", "horse hair".

2) PA *mal2[V] "head" > PK *mal-i, PT *bal2-c "head".

3) PA *kh"ul1V "ear", "to hear" > PJ *ki-k- "to hear" (cf. next example with
the parallel semantic development), PK *ku(l-)i "ear", PMT *xu(:)l- "to be
heard", "to be audible"; PM *kul-ku, PT *kul-kak "ear".

4) PA *n'ia "eye" > PJ *ma(-)n (m is a REGULAR reflex of PA *n' in PJ when
followed by the another nasal or by /i/ within the same word, if it is not
a compound, cf. PJ *na-mi-nta "tear", lit. "eye-water-collective marker"), PK
*n"in, PMT *n'ia-, PM *ni(n)-d"un "eye".

5) PA *ip- "mouth", "say" > PJ *ip- "say", PK *ip "mouth" (cf. example above).

6) PA *ak(h)"ir2 "mouth"> PK*akol-i, PT *ag"ir2 "mouth".

7) PA *khU- "tooth", "fang" > PJ *ku-Ci "fang", PMT *x"u-kte "tooth".

8)PA*p(h)al1a-n"tooth", "molar" > PJ *pa-n (< *para-n), PK *-pal "tooth",
PMT *pala-n "molar".

9) PA *kh(u)aNV "nose" > PJ *kan "smell", *kan-k- "to smell"; PK *kwo-K, PMT
*xoN-ko, PM *kaN-bar (MM qamar, WM qabar etc.), PT *kaN-(V) (Yakut qaN"inay,
Tofalar ha~j etc.) "nose".

10) PA *khil1E "tongue" > PJ *si-, PK *hi(l)e (MK hye), PMT *xile-Nu, PM *kele
-n "tongue"

11) PA *ama "mouth", "taste" > PJ *anti, PK *mas "taste"; PMT *amNa, PM *aman

12) PA *sVL "tooth" > PK *-sal, PM *si(l)-d"un, CHU sh"l "tooth".

13) PA *Na:l1a "hand/arm" > PMT *Na:la, PT *"al "hand/arm".

14) PA *pal1kV "foot" > PJ *panki "foot", PK *pal "id.", PMT *palga-n "id",
?PT *balak "ankle", "sole of the foot".

15) PA *kokh"u "breast","heart" > PJ *kkr "heart", PK kwoka- "kernel",
PM *k"ok"un, PT *g"ok"ur2 "breast".

16) PA *t[h]i "blood" > PJ *ti, PM *ti-sun/*t"i-sun "blood".

17) PA *pal1V "belly" > PJ *para "belly", PK "po(l)i (MK poy) "belly", PM
*feligen "liver".

18) PA *pa:k(h)"i "liver" > PMT *pa:kin, PT *bag"ir1 "liver".

19) PA*khel2i "waist" > PJ *ksi, PK *heli "waist", PT *kel2 "waistband".

20) PA *thupa "nail", "hoof" > PJ *tuma- "nail", PK*twop-K "nail", PMT *t"upa
"nail", PM *tuGur "hoof", PT *tubn'a-k "hoof"

21) PA *moKV-"throat" > PK *mwok "throat", "neck"; PT *bogar2 "throat".

22) PA *moyNV "throat", "neck" > PK *mye-k "throat", PMT *moNo, PT *boyun
"throat", "neck".

23) PA *mum "body" > PJ *mu-Ci, PK *mwom "body".

24) PA *phiVn'V "bone" > PJ *pOnE, PK *s-pi(n')i (MK spye), PM *ya(n)-sun "bone

25) PA *phen'- "knee" > PJ *pin(-)sa, PMT *pen'-Nen "knee".

26) PA *bu:ktV "leg/thigh" > PMT *begdi, PT*bu:t.

27) PA *gar1a "arm", "upper arm" > PJ *kata "shoulder", PM *gar "hand/arm",
PT *kar1"i arm", "upper arm".

28) PA *m"uRe "shoulder" > PMT *m"ure, PM *m"uri-n "shoulder".

29) PA *ephVRV "horn" > PK *s-pl, PM *eber "horn".

30) PA *khURV "tail" > PK s-kwoli, PMT *x"ur-gu

31) PA *khap[h]a "skin", "bark" > PJ *kapa "skin", "bark", PK *kapV-K "bark"
PM *kaGu-da-sun "bark", PT *ka:puk "bark".

32) PA*al2(ch)V "ankle" > PJ *asi "foot/leg", PMT *alcu-kan, PM *alcu, PT
*al2(c)"ik "ankle".

This list can be easily expanded to include at least 50 items. Therefore,
I believe, the lack of common body parts within Altaic can be easily dis-
missed as another anti-Altaistic myth.

Alexander Vovin
Miami University
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Message 3: Re: 5.945 Altaic, Binary comparison

Date: Fri, 2 Sep 94 17:35:32 EDTRe: 5.945 Altaic, Binary comparison
From: <>
Subject: Re: 5.945 Altaic, Binary comparison

In reply to Unger, I said that it is impossible to take
seriously a case against Altaic which consists in a brief
comment in a "panel report" stating that the panel (which
he himself as well as the editor of the volume both
admitted in print was not really representative of the
Altaic field) was impressed by Larry Clark's restatement
(in a paper which was NOT published!) of the argumenps
against Altaic by Doerfer and Rona-Tas (none of whose
arguments or works are cited in the report). This is
just gossip, not scholarship.

As for Rona-Tas, it is a matter of records that his
arguments against Altaic are based on methodological
assumptions which few if any comparative linguists
would buy, and in addition it is also a matter of
record that he consisently admits that, inspite of
these arguments, there is still what he considers to
be the oldest layer of vocabulary in Turkic, Mongolic,
Tungusic which "may pertain to a common Altaic proto-
language" (1991: 17). Much the same was said by him,
in Russian in (1975: 44-45). I only mention Rona-Tas
because Unger refers to him in his latest posting,
but the same position has been taken by some other
"anti-Altaicisists" such as Sinor too.

As for why we should NOT compare Korean, japanese, and
Tungusic first, it is simply an empirical matter that
many correspondences exist which link one or more of
these to Turkic and/or Mongolic in such a way that there
is no evidence that the first three form a valid genealogical

As to the validity of a single individual's work on
Japanese (Miller's), I will not comment. Much as people
who do not know much about ALtaic should refrain from
criticizing it, so people who know little about Japanese
(namely, me) will refrain from getting into debates about
the latter. But I will say this: no matter how bad
Miller's work might conceivably be, this does not effect
(affect, that is) the validity of the Altaic theory, given
that there is so much OTHER work on the same. We could
not accept Indo-European or even Slavic as valid genealogical
groups if we insisted that there be NO bad work by Indo-
Europeanists or Slavists.

In response to the latest query about binary vs. n-ary
comparison, I would add this to my posting on the subject
from yesterday: I have reason to believe that Greenberg
and Ruhlen were responding to arguments made at various
conferences at which they presented the case for the n-ary
method. But as I noted yesterday, there are certainly
some published works that glorify the binary method, although
yes, Rich, it is indeed true that no real comparative work
has ever been done on that basis, and indeed Meillet is
often cited (I have not checked the reference) to the effecy
that every comparison should involve at least three comparanda.
(Of course, there must be language families with just two
languages in them, and then we must be more liberal. I am
sure that there are some binary comparisons within Albanian,
which is commonly divided into two basic dialect groups.)
Rona-Tas, Andras. 1974. Obshchee nasledie ili zaimstvovanija,
K probleme rodstva altajskikh jazykov. Voprosy jazykoznanija
1974, no. 2: 31-45.

--. 1991. An Introduction to Turkology. Studia Uralo-Altaica 33.
Szeged: Universitas Szegediensis de Attila Jo'zsef Nominata.
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