LINGUIST List 6.768

Sun 04 Jun 1995

Disc: Comparative Method: N-ary comparison again

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Comparative Method: N-ary comparison again

Message 1: Comparative Method: N-ary comparison again

Date: Wed, 24 May 1995 09:01:41 Comparative Method: N-ary comparison again
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Comparative Method: N-ary comparison again


Some time ago, while we were discussing comparative linguistics,
the question was raised (by Bill Poser, I think) of whether anybody
ever claims in print that binary comparison is preferable to n-ary
comparison. While I cited one reference at that time, I thought it
might be still be of general interest to adduce one more, which has
just come to my attention.

In his attack on the theory that Japanese is Altaic (and on Altaic
as a whole), Janhunen 1992 argues that the odds of finding apparent
matches simply by chance when Japanese is compared to the four
Altaic languages/subgroups, viz., Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and
Korean, are four times as high as are the odds of finding such
spurious matches when Japanese is compared to just one language,
specifically Korean (which is singled out by Janhunen because there
has been a fair amount of work on Japanese-Korean comparison which
ignored Altaic).

In other words, Janhunen assumes that a 5-ary comparison is four
times as likely to produce matches purely by chance (what I call
'false positives') as is a binary comparison. This, needless to
say, is a fallacy, but there you have it.


Janhunen, Juha. 1992. Das Japanische in vergleichender Sicht.
 Journal de la Soci t Finno-ougrienne 84.145-161.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue