Talk:Comparative method

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Former featured article candidateComparative method is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
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July 6, 2006Featured article candidateNot promoted

Name and place for article[edit]

There are all sorts of comparative methods in all sorts of fields, aren't there? So, shouldn't this article live at comparative method in linguistics or something more specific? I really have no idea what's appropriate, actually, but this does seem to be too broad of a name. --LMS

Fair enough. I'll keep the article here for the time being, but if comparativists from other fields object it will be redirected. -- Piotr Gasiorowski
as soon as somebody wants to write an article about another sort of comparative method, he or she will move this article to comparative method (linguistics). problem solved.
However, you should consider merging this article with historical linguistics, since the subject treated is exactly the same-- Dbachmann 11:48, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Comparative method question[edit]

Going by the following correspondence:

  • English = Father, Mother, Daughter, Brother, Sister.
  • Latin = Pater, Mater, ____, Frater, ____.
  • Greek = Patros, Matra, Thygatra, ____, ____.

How might one find the proper Latin sound correspondence to for Daughter/Thygatra and Sister, or the proper Greek sound correspondence for Brother/Frater and Sister? This turns out to be a much more involved process than I thought. For a long while, I assumed "teiktra" (Latinized to "teictra") as the Greek equivalent to "daughter" (mainly by analogy to correspondences between "dryas" and "tree", for example, having made an obvious blunder, and between "night" and "noct-", the latter of which I had for some reason misremembered as having originally been a Latin borrowing from Greek).

Anyway, I know these talk pages aren't for personal tutoring, but I was hoping to better understand the dynamic between these three languages and their phonological histories. --Thorstejnn 09:54, 6 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Look at Indo-European sound laws - that will give you the basic correspondances --Pfold 10:25, 6 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you very much! I appreciate the help.
Peace, --Þorstejnn 05:06, 14 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Table of Polynesian cognates[edit]

There was a missing form --- the Hawaiian for "enter". I supplied that word, ulu, which means "enter" as in "inspire", i.e., "enter one's soul". See Pukui and Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary (1986:368-369, 436). I also made the font appearance consistent (IPA) for all Polynesian forms in the table. Then removed the unnecessary italics which created a bad visual effect in the table. It will look better yet if it switches the x and y axes, providing vertical visual comparison of the cognate forms. Agent X 23:30, 24 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Oh yeah, the Hawaiian /ʔe-/ number prefix is not necessary, and was only a distraction in the table. See Elbert and Pukui's Hawaiian Grammar (1979:158) "kahi, lua, kolu". Agent X 23:39, 24 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Hello. Would it be helpful to add colloquial Samaon to the table in which t becomes k, and n become velar nasal? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:37, 12 December 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Well, to establish previously unknown kinships, the method uses the oldest known form of a language; so including colloquial Samoan (presumably a descendant of the formal variety) would not help illustrate the method, although it does show that [dental] > [velar] really happens and so can be used in reconstruction of other language histories. —Tamfang (talk) 21:18, 14 December 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Featured Article Candidacy[edit]

Right, this is already an excelent article, so: well done to everybody who's contributed so far. However, my bid to get it the Featured Article status it deserves has come unstuck over inline citations. These are particularly needed for the examples of the method being applied to various languages. I'm prepared to try to provide these for the IE examples, but I don't have access to the resourced to to find references for Algonquin languages, Polynesian languages, Finnish, Pirahã, Dravidian languages or the Uto-Aztecan tree. Can anybody out there help? sjcollier 21:24, 27 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

I (aka Whimemsz) don't have most of the books I used with me at the moment, unfortunately, since I'm away from home for a few weeks. I think I can remember which work each example came from, but I obviously don't know the page numbers, and won't for about two more weeks. Should I just wait until then to add the in-text citations, or should I put in the references to the books themselves, with no page numbers, and then go back and add those when I know them? Take care --Red Newt 09:25, 28 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks! And again, fantastic work on this article. Page references are always nice, but are by no means vital; so if you add what you can now (providing you're confident you're citing the right source...) and put the page numbers in whenever it becomes possible, that'd be fantastic. I've already added what I can from books I have available, and Agent X has kindly offered to contribute references to the Polynesian stuff. I've also littered the article with hideous [citation needed] tags, which aren't ideal but at least make it clear what still remains to be done. Cheers, sjcollier 20:15, 28 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Okay, thanks! --Red Newt 23:20, 28 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]
That's great. I think we're getting there. sjcollier 23:51, 28 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

One book I do have with me, actually, is R. M. W. Dixon's The Rise and Fall of Languages, which is basically about cases where the comparative method doesn't apply. So I'll add a section in the "Criticism" part about his Punctuated-Equilibrium theory--I think it's worthy of a section, since linguists have actually paid a lot of attention to it, and Dixon is extremely well-respected in the field. I know a bit about the history of the method (just the basics: Sir William Jones and the Neogrammarians, basically; a fuller mention of Greenberg and Swadesh and Mass Comparison and Glottochronology might be needed in such a section too), but not enough to feel comfortable actually putting what I think I remember onto Wikipedia. If I were at home, I could look in Fox, whom I seem to remember has some discussion of the history of the method. We might try checking the PIE article, the neogrammarian article (is there one?), and so on; there's probably a good deal of info and sources there. Take care, --Red Newt 00:25, 29 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

That'd be good. I think Monocrat has a reasonable point about maybe a minor restructuring of the Criticism section - maybe a bit mroe of a general introduction? - though I personally don't think the subsubsections are too objectionable. I'm in a bit of a similar situation to you with books at the moment: I'm deprived of good library access for the summer vacation. Will see what I can do about a history section, though. May try to obtain a copy of Fox. Cheers, sjcollier 00:55, 29 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

For anybody who can help, the citations still needed concern:

  • History of the Persian language - borrowings from Arabic
  • Evidence that the Finnish word äiti (=mother) is borrowed from Gothic (the cognate Gothic word would also be nice)
  • Pirahã (x2) - seperate male/female dialects and borrowings from Nhengatu - (Encyclopaedia of Amazonian Languages, or something similar?)
  • Evidence that Sanskrit grammarians were familiar with Grassman's Law
  • Development of velar plosives in Kannada vs that in other Dravidian languages
  • Etymology of the Spanish word palabra (< Latin parabola by metathesis)

sjcollier 00:55, 29 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Evidently, Panini mentioned Grassman's Law in his grammar of Sanskrit. That's the claim the page on Grassmann's law makes, anyway. I checked, and the user who added it is Opus33. On his talk page, he says he only edits on Sundays, though, so we might have to wait for then to get a reference. --Red Newt 03:56, 29 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks. Will keep trying to track down something before then if I can. Sadly, I fear there is no hope of me obtaining a copy of Fox any time soon, so I'l try to find an alternative source on the history of the method. In response to suggestions from Agent X, I've added a bit on sub-groups to Genetically related languages and a paragraph on areal diffusion to the Criticisms; feel free to improve on them. sjcollier 11:37, 29 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Fully citated. I wish I'd though to check Campbell 2004 for the Finnish/Gothic citation earlier, though. Must be about FA standard now... sjcollier 17:54, 29 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]
w00tilicious. I added a section on Dixon's Punctuated-Equilibrium model (I don't know how well-written it is); all that's left, I guess, is a section on the history of the method. Great work! --Red Newt 21:09, 29 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks! The Punctuated-Equilibrium section is great. I've tweaked the lead a bit, and moved the citations (and sentence about glottochronology/MLC) to the Criticism intro - having only just found out that the MoS reccomends against citations in the lead. As you say, a history section would be good at some point; can't see that it's absence should be a barrier to FA status, though. Fingers crossed... sjcollier 10:17, 30 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

You just beat me to it on the History section - I was just about to start writing something based on Szemerényi. Thanks for saving me the work! Looks like you've done a great job; I'll see if I can add anything. sjcollier 19:37, 30 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Okay, I've added everything I can; I think that's fairly comprehensive (on the C19th stuff at least). Not sure that we need to add anything on the development of glottochronology or MLC; that really belongs in their respective articles (or a new lexicostatistics article). Excellent work - it must be nearly there now. sjcollier 21:15, 30 June 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Objection to FAC[edit]

I'm objecting to this article being promoted to featured status, but as my reasons will be somewhat long and somewhat technical, I'm bringing up them here rather than at Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Comparative method.

  1. I really wish the notes were given in the style recommended at WP:FN (i.e. using the <ref> tag) and that the books were cited using the {{Cite book}} template. I know that the current style is standard in linguistics journals, but well, this isn't a linguistics journal, it's an encyclopedia.
  2. There's something of an internal inconsistency in the article: is the comparative method a tool to show that two or more languages are related, or is a tool to reconstruct the proto-language of languages known to be related? The opening paragraph suggests the former; the "Application" section suggests the latter.
  3. The lead ends with the words, "reconstructions obtained by the comparative method are now generally treated with a degree of skepticism." What, all of them? Hardly. Advances in our understanding of how historical linguistics works have shown ways in which the comparative method needs to be tweaked and added to, but they haven't brought the entire method under suspicion. This comes upon again in the first paragraph of the "Criticism" section. The sentences: "...linguists continue to use the comparative method; other proposed approaches to determining linguistic relationships and reconstructing proto-languages ... are considered flawed and unreliable by most linguists. In contrast to previous generations of historical linguists, present-day linguists recognize that results obtained with the comparative method are to be viewed skeptically" practically contradict each other: in one breath you say that modern linguists still use the comparative method and its competitors are flawed and unreliable, and in the next breath you say its results are viewed skeptically. The reader is left scratching his head wondering if the comparative method is a tool used by reputable linguists or only by crackpots.
  4. In the Application section it would be nice if we could stick to the same set of examples throughout. We begin with a nice chart of Polynesian languages, but the reader is disappointed because the Proto-Polynesian forms of the words in this chart are never reconstructed.
  5. In the section "Establish correspondence sets" I don't understand why some correspondences need to be nontrivial, and your example of ŋ : b makes me wonder whether that is an attested correspondence set in some language family, and if so, where.
  6. In the section "Discover which sets are in complementary distribution", what does the Dravidian example have to do with a sound change occurring in an environment that was later lost?
  7. In the same section, the Romance example needs data (cuore/corazon/coração/cœur vs: caro/caro/caro/cher); also, the a didn't always become [ɛ] in French (cf. château, chambre)
  8. The "Criticism" section seems to me to be mostly criticism of things associated with the comparative method, but not of the comparative method itself. The Neogrammarian hypothesis that sound laws operate without exception is probably untenable in its strongest form, but that isn't actually the comparative method's problem. Analogy isn't really a problem for the comparative method either; even the Neogrammarians recognized that analogy can disrupt the regularity of sound change. And the example of the Slavic word for nine beginning with /d/ under the influence of the word for ten isn't really the best example of analogy anyway. Perhaps a better example would be Pre-Greek *sekwetai > Greek hepetai "follows" (although *kw normally becomes t before e in Greek) on the analogy of other forms in the same paradigm where *kw became p regularly.
  9. The section "Problems with the Tree Model" doesn't establish that the comparative method depends on the Tree Model and that the comparative method can't be used if the Wave Model is right. It also incorrectly suggests that the Tree Model and the Wave Model are mutually exclusive, which of course they aren't. It also lacks references on who first developed each of these models.
  10. Sources are needed to support the claim "This Punctuated-Equilibrium Model has received a great deal of attention from linguists, and many are inclined to accept the model as accurate."
  11. In the section "Subjectivity of the reconstruction", readers are going to wonder what you mean by "Such dramatic asymmetries in the growth of different branches of the same tree are in fact common; contrast for example the Romance and Celtic branches of Indo-European." I know I do.
  12. More generally, I feel the article places too much emphasis on the mechanisms and limitations of the comparative method and not enough emphasis on its significance. I would like a nonspecialist reader to come away from an encyclopedia article on the comparative method knowing that comparative historical linguistics simply cannot be performed without the comparative method. The details of how it works and the limitations are also important, but I think that is the most important thing of all: the comparative method is indispensable in comparative linguistics.

In addition to these specific objections, I have a much vaguer one that probably cannot actually be fixed: the tone of the article is much more that of a textbook chapter than that of an encyclopedia article. I'm not sure how to fix that, or even how to be more specific about what gives me that impression, and I wouldn't object to FA status for this reason alone. But the fact remains that the reader is left with the impression of having been taught something rather than having learned something on his own, which is as close as I can come to defining the difference between a textbook chapter and an encyclopedia article. User:Angr 19:03, 5 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]

With regard to Angr's point 3, I think that there isn't really any contradiction. On the one hand, as a method for establishing genetic affiliation, the comparative method is well established and is considered reliable, in contrast to such alternatives as superficial lexical comparison. On the other hand, the reconstructions are regarded with some skepticism in the sense that we can never be sure how accurate they are. For example, there is no way of reconstructing a contrast in the proto-language if it was completely neutralized in all of the attested daughter languages and no other changes interacted with it and provide indirect evidence. The fact that we can't be sure of the phonetic form of reconstructions, or even of some aspects of their phonology, does not detract from the utility of the method as a means of establishing relationships. It may be, however, that this distinction is not sufficiently clear and that the article should be revised to be clearer.Bill 07:06, 9 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with pretty much everything Angr pointed out above. This is a pretty good article, but it still needs detail work to make it great. I'd like to add some more comments and suggestions.
  • The section "Crticism" needs to be heavily edited. There's a lot of stuff here that doesn't belong under that heading, but could be included in the article in another way. E.g., "Analogy" clearly belongs somewhere else, and I think also "Creoles" should be removed; these have nothing to do with "critcism". Moreover, I fail to see why creole formation should pose a problem to the comparative method. Even if the method were not applicable to creoles (which, I think, can be disputed), this would not invalidate it. No scientific method is omnipotent.
Agreed. I'm not sure the section on Criticisms has the right heading. Most of the issues raised here are about unwarranted assumptions made by (particularly the early) practicioners of the method, not flaws in the method itself. For example, correct use of the method has revealed cases where no single root can be constructed, so how can it be a flaw of the method that it reveals variation in the proto-language? I think it would be preferable to talk of Limitations. As criticisms, these really belong in comparative linguistics. --Pfold 22:56, 10 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]
  • "reconstructions obtained by the comparative method are now generally treated with a degree of skepticism." -- As noted by Angr, this is an overgeneralization. It is well-known that in certain types of cases reconstruction through the comparative method may produce a proto-form known to be wrong. But for balance, I think it should be mentioned somewhere in the article that there are also numerous cases where reconstructions are confirmed as correct by independent evidence. A good example is the striking confirmation of Proto-Germanic and Proto-Baltic reconstructions in Proto-Finnic in the form of loanwords: cf. such well-known examples as Germanic *kuningaz- 'king', *skauniz 'beautiful' etc. ~ Proto-Finnic *kuninkas 'king', *kaunis 'beautiful'. "Subjectivity of reconstructions" might be a good place to place this kind of information as counterevidence to subjectivity.
  • "This Punctuated-Equilibrium Model has received a great deal of attention from linguists, and many are inclined to accept the model as accurate." -- I find this passage problematic as well. Of course, what counts as "many" is unclear, but my impression is just the opposite. True, there has been a lot of attention, but partially in the form of heavy critiques (e.g. by Campbell), and I haven't seen much signs of the punctuated equilibrium hypothesis being widely accepted as yet. There's much discussion on the idea in Areal Diffusion and Genetic Inheritance: Problems in Comparative Linguistics ed. by A. Aikhenvald & R.M.W. Dixon, and most of the contributors in this volume seem to have a somewhat cautious or critical attitude towards it.--AAikio 07:53, 6 July 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Proposed revision[edit]

Hello all. I've been drafting a significant revision to the article to try to address a few of the problems highlighted by Angr and others. What I've got so far is on my subpage, User:Miskwito/Notes (ignore the two links and the horizontal rules at the very top). Some of the changes I've made there are:

  1. Tried to make it clearer that the comparative method is reliable and not distrusted. I renamed the "criticisms" section to "problems" "potential problems", which seems to have some precedent in other Wikipedia articles, and which in my opinion anyway is somewhat less harsh (perhaps Pfold's suggestion of "limitations" would be better?). I also did some rewordings of certain paragraphs and sentences to remove or clarify some of the more POV or inaccurate language, and also provided several quotes from Lyle Campbell and Hans Henrich Hock to further highlight the reliability and strengths of the method.
  2. I removed the section on "creoles", which isn't really a challenge to the comparative method at all. I also removed the section on the punctuated-equilibrium model, which as has been pointed out by others above, isn't well-accepted.
  3. I changed the citation format from inline to using <ref> tags, which I think cleans up the article a bit (and following Angr's suggestion).
  4. I removed the Dravidian example Angr mentioned, which was irrelevant to the discussion at hand.
  5. Altered the mention of "non-trivial" changes somewhat, and removed the hypothetical one of b:ŋ.
  6. Made it clearer that the reconstructed phoneme inventory in the section on "examin[ing] the reconstructed system typologically" is hypothetical, and not necessarily an actual reconstruction of any real proto-language.
  7. Removed the "Such dramatic asymmetries in the growth[...etc.]" sentence Angr mentioned.

In my opinion, anyway, it's a good start toward addressing many of the weaknesses of the article. It's still got a long way to go, though. And I'm not sure there's any real way to fix the sense of being "taught" Angr brought up--short of pretty much rewriting the entire article with new wording. I also haven't addressed his points 4 or 7 yet, nor the point about the example used to illustrate "analogy". Maybe tomorrow. Or something. Anyway, since these are some significant changes, I wanted to check with all interested parties that they're okay, and that everyone agrees for the most part with the changes. If you need to view all of the changes at once, here you go: [1]. Comments? Ideas? Criticism? --Miskwito 02:33, 28 January 2007 (UTC)[reply]

That all makes good sense. Good work, that man. Dewrad 22:26, 28 January 2007 (UTC)[reply]
Excellent revision, Miskwito, just go ahead and replace the earlier version with it. I have a few edits in mind I could make after that, e.g. I'd like to balance the "Subjectivity of the reconstruction" section by adding something on cases where reconstructions are confirmed by loanwords in another language family (such as Germanic > Finnic) - what do you think? And, I also think that "Limitiations" would be a better heading than "(Potential) problems". --AAikio 07:24, 29 January 2007 (UTC)[reply]
Sounds good to me--the Germanic>Finnish loanwords are a good example of that. "Limitations" sounds good; I added potential because in that section, as the revised version now stands, the basic premise is that most aren't actually significant problems. But "limitations" for me does carry pretty much the same connotation. I'll go ahead and make the switch. --Miskwito 18:49, 29 January 2007 (UTC)[reply]

'punctuated equilibrium' redirects to this page[edit]

When clicking on the link for 'punctuated equilibrium' on the page on R. M. W. Dixon I got redirected here, yet there is no mention of that hypothesis here (well, ok, on this talk page there is). Is this some remnant of the section 'Criticism' that apparently once has existed, and where, apparently, Dixon's hypothesis was mentioned? -Stephan Schulz 21:17, 21 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]

The section can be found in the page's history. Clicking this link should take you to the old Punctuated Equilibrium section. --Miskwito 23:08, 22 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]
But should it really be linked here, when there's no mention of it on the main page? I was just wondering, I don't know the policy. -Stephan Schulz 09:14, 23 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]
I removed the link --Miskwito 23:36, 25 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Further improvements[edit]

Dammit. I had a whole nice long thingy written here and one mistaken click later it was lost forever. Argh. So, this isn't as brilliant as the original version, but use your imaginations to picture how friggin' inspired my prose was:

I've been thinking lately about how we can improve the article further. One minor change that can be made is to get a better example of analogical change. The current example is useful because it demonstrates how individual words can undergo irregular changes due to the shape of some related word, but that's not exactly the same as analogical change brought about by paradigm shapes and structures and what have you. But I don't think we should get rid of what's there now. I can also go through the article and just make sure all the references are formatted correctly.

For the more significant change, I've been trying to decide how we might address Angr's concern about the prose style of the article (it reading more like a textbook than an encyclopedia article). In part, I think this is due to the use of "we" a lot, which shouldn't be terribly hard to fix. In part, though, I think it's due to the types of examples used and how those examples are presented: it's kind of like the article guides the reader through a process of learning how to use the method, which I guess isn't exactly the same as simply presenting the methods linguists use and saying "these are the methods." But I'm having trouble figuring out how we'd be able to change that while still retaining the current examples (which I think are useful and nice, for the most part; there's also the point about switching between different languages to illustrate each point, rather than, say, sticking with Polynesian languages, but I'm too lazy to worry about that now).

So, I think the questions are: (1) is there really a problem with the prose that needs to be fixed (or, if not a "problem", is there a way the prose can be improved)? (2) if yes, how do we improve the prose? As I said above, for starters, just getting rid of the "we"s might do a lot. If it still seems "textbooky", perhaps we'd want to get the League of Copyeditors involved? I'm not sure...

What do others think? Agree? Disagree? Other thoughts or ideas? --Miskwito 09:29, 25 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]

A...anyone? --Miskwito 05:47, 8 April 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Tree/Wave Model Sections[edit]

These sections should not be in this section as they can be used in connection with other than the comparative method. A better home would be Historical Linguistics. Adresia 20:17, 25 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]

My reversion of Adresia's edits[edit]

I'm going to give the reasons I reverted your recent edit here, Adresia, so we can discuss it on the talk page...and, you know, stuff:

  1. "in social science" is out of place, I don't know why you added it there or what it's supposed to tell people
  2. There's no need to add terms like "qualitative" in the lead, which is supposed to provide a very basic, easily-understandable summary for lay readers. "Qualitative" doesn't really add any valuable information there, it just makes the writing slightly denser, I think.
  3. Same goes for the mention that "the latter may consist of grammatical, morphological or lexical characters", and adding "lexical" after "cognate lists" and all that; those terms aren't really necessary in the lead (although I do think greater mention of the comparative method's use in areas besides phonology would be helpful for the article, but I'm not sure the lead is the place for it. I'm kind of ambivalent on this, though).
  4. "The basis of the method is the Neogrammarian Hypothesis that "sound laws have no exceptions" and the tree model of language development." Again, unnecessary addition of information; if I was someone unfamiliar with historical linguistics already, seeing this sentence randomly at the end of the first paragraph of the lead would confuse the heck out of me.
  5. Changing "mainstream" to "traditional" is inaccurate--the linguists who reject the comparative method and/or use methods like mass lexical comparison are definitely considered fringe and outside the mainstream. "Traditional" kind of makes it sound like the people with these new methods are more progressive, while the "traditional" linguists are conservative and refusing to yield to new, better ideas. Probably not what you intended, and I don't know if readers would actually consciously think that, but... Hm, in any case, "mainstream" is a bit of a loaded term as well; maybe we can try to change it, but I don't think "traditional" is a good solution.
  6. "Modern historical linguistic methods are based both on the comparative method and the lexicostatistic method, but use statistical hypothesis testing." This is a very clumsy sentence now, and if I'm reading it correctly, fairly inaccurate. Most historical linguists don't use lexicostatistics for anything other than presenting its results as a reeally general guess. They don't generally treat it as something reliable or on par with the comparative method.
  7. I don't know that either of "Application" or "Details of the Method" are better than the other, although I think "application" describes the content of that section more accurately. I'm ambivalent about this too, though.
  8. This isn't a real problem at all, but "sound" in "Establish sound correspondence sets" isn't really necessary either, I don't think.
  9. Adding "problems with" to the headings is both unnecessary (because of the larger heading "limitations") and misleading (see the discussions above).
  10. "but still relies on judgement by linguists" totally contradicts the previous phrase, claiming that "the identification of systematic sound correspondences between known languages is fairly objective". The correspondence sets themselves generally are objective, once you find them--if there are enough examples of the correspondence; it's just the reconstruction of those sets that's really subject to the biases and opinions of the researchers.
  11. The "Method is non quantitative" section doesn't explain what "quantitative" or "qualitative" really mean in this context, it brings up examples without explaining them (the lay reader will be asking "what the heck is 'Italo-Celtic'?"), and it inaccurately suggests that lexicostatistics "compliments" the comparative method--to my knowledge, that's not the view adopted by most historical linguists, who, if they use it at all, use lexicostatistics just to give them a broad guess about when the protolanguage was spoken, and get them started on possible segmentation of the family tree (actually proving subgrouping requires a number of shared innovations, phonological and/or morphosyntactical). Finally, the point that the reconstructions are subjective is already addressed elsewhere.

So, those are my reasons. I'm interested in your responses, though, and in what others think. Take care, --Miskwito 23:35, 25 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Sorry Miskwito to have not responded to you earlier but I havent looked at this page for a while. I will briefly respond to each of your points :- 1. This merely added information as to the field in which there was another comparative method. This is taken up in the rewrite. 2. "Qualitative" does add information in that it shows that the method can not determine the degree of relatedness. 3. I'm content if the method's use in non-phonological areas is mentioned later. 4. In a summary of the method at least the tree model ought to be mentioned. 5. I agree that mass comparison is non-mainstream (and dead). By non-traditional I was thinking of cladistic methods introduced in the last decade by Ringe, MacMahon, Gray and Atkinson, etc. 6. I was not referring to 1950s lexicostatistics as a modern method but the ones introduced by the above people. They produce more than a general guess IMHO, producing similar tree to the traditinal method. 7. "Application" to me is when the method is used on (say) Australian languages. Defining the steps involved is an algorithm. 8. There could be other correspondances other than sounds. 9. It may not be necessary but is surely not misleading. 10. Cognacy judgements are only opinion and do vary fron expert to expert. See for example the revisions of Dyen's judgements. I think that this phrase should be reinstated. One of the questions is how many correspondances is enough. 11. Qualitative and quantitative are defined in any dictionary, and dont really require further explanation. Italo-Celtic can be looked up in Wiki if interested. Lexicostatistics uses cognacy judgements (when used properly) and does provide additional information and so complements the method. Adresia (talk) 14:15, 1 April 2008 (UTC)[reply]

  The word palabra is an instance of metathesis, but it's not the only similar one: peligro is metathesized from periculum "peril". A similar-sounding word culebra "snake" is not metathesized; the Latin form is coluber. I propose the rule: r + stressed vowel + voiced stop + l -> l + stressed vowel + voiced stop + r. Can anyone provide other examples or counterexamples?
Thought of a couple. milagro is metathesized from miraculum; roble (from robur) was not metathesized, so there has to be a vowel before the r for it to metathesize. -phma 22:04, 22 April 2007 (UTC)[reply]

The change n->d couldn't have happened between Proto-Slavic and Russian, as it also occurs in Polish dziewięć, Bosnian devet, and even Latvian deviņi. It appears to be a Balto-Slavic innovation. phma 15:02, 22 April 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Comparative method as heuristic[edit]

Is the whole emphasis of the initial definition of the comparative method given here not wrong?

Surely the comparative method is used to show how languages which are related have developed from a common ancestor, and alone is not proof that they are? Regular sound correspondences in lexical material, no matter how extensive, can be shown by borrowings; in extreme cases the entire lexicon of a language can be replaced. Genealogical linguistic relatedness is proved, not by lexical comparisons, but by the inheritance of shared paradigms and irregularities which are so unusual that they could only be accounted for by relatedness. Comparison is what happens after relatedness has been proved (or is so obvious to be beyond doubt). I think this distinction is an important one, given the prevailing tendency for tenuous linguistic relationships to be alleged on the basis of a bunch of lexical resemblances with apparently regular sound correspondences gathered by supposedly following the comparative method.

See Johanna Nichols (1996): "The Comparative Method as Heuristic" in Mark Durie and Malcolm Ross (eds.) "The Comparative Method Reviewed: Regularity and Irregularity in Language Change", Oxford University Press

Bofoc Tagar 12:56, 8 May 2007 (UTC)[reply]

the problem of PIE aspirates[edit]

I'm gonna revert this anonymous addition:

They state that it is extremely unlikely, or maybe even impossible, for a language to have a voiced aspirated (breathy voice) series without a corresponding voiceless aspirated series (though this latter position has been shown to be erroneous).

Shown how? Is there a living language with such a phonology? —Tamfang (talk) 05:25, 17 October 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Yes. One of them, (the Bario dialect of) Kelabit is even mentioned on Glottalic theory. Also, some Kwa languages are said to have such a system by Steward. Curiously, some Kwa languages have a four-way system with all possible combinations of voice and aspiration, but Mbato has lost the unvoiced aspirates of all series. Florian Blaschke (talk) 17:05, 27 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]


", with alternative lexicostatistical methods such as glottochronology generally considered to be unreliable as there are cases when lexicostatistics does not work at all. Potential problems with the comparative method have also arisen as a result of a number of advances in linguistic thought, in large part due to some of the "basic assumptions" of the comparative method. However, as Campbell (2004:146-7) observes, "What textbooks call the 'basic assumptions' of the comparative method might better be viewed as the consequences of how we reconstruct and of our views of sound change."

I do apologize but I had to take this out. I doesn't mean anything, basically. Not enough information is given to properly interpret the abstracts. For example, what cases are you talking about? We don't know, I'm sure, and you aren't telling us. And now we have some weasel words, "generally considered", but what does unreliable mean? How so? And what do you mean, lexicostatistics does not work? The next sentences are totally disordered and that quote by Campbell gives us zero assistance. This is zero-grade explanation; nothing is presented, nothing is explained. You think you are reading something but you can't figure out what. You know, I don't know of any other language that allows you to do that, to say something without saying anything. I'm going to start calling English the null language. If I want to be diplomatic I speak French but if I really want to say nothing I switch to English. That way you can't be criticised for something you said because you haven't said it.Dave (talk) 03:32, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

"Although the following article deals only with the role of the comparative method in demonstrating genetic relationship, it is important to realize that this is only one application of the comparative method, which has rightly been described as the central tool of historical linguistics. For example, André Martinet uses the comparative method in his influential Economie des changements phonétiques (2005[1955]) to study the evolution of sound systems over time and, via this, to develop generalizations about the nature of sound systems as synchronic entities."

First phrase is not true. The article does go beyond the evaluation of genetic relationships, and therefore required some reorganization. Then we have this business about Martinet, which purports to be a different use but is described as being one and the same with the goals listed just before the quotation from Schleicher. This article is what used to be called a name-dropper, it throws a lot of famous names around without any explanation of why. We can get the names from any of the literature, what we need is the threads of meaning, the summary of what is going on, why these names are being used. The style is that of the "little professor", a child trying to talk over his head about undeveloped ideas in quasi-grandiloquent style with frequent lapses into informal English, and saying nothing really but doing a lot of name-dropping. You have to tell us how these people fit into the thread. You keep telling us the thread is one thing and then going on to tell us it is something else. Writing is hard work, my friend. You can't sell us linguistics door-to-door. Did you have a summer job selling vacuum cleaners?Dave (talk) 09:14, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Plural used[edit]

The box says "Altaic languages", but only Turkish is mentioned. 1782 and 1786 are both mentioned for Jones. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:22, 18 December 2009 (UTC) In the file, Mongol appears. It is not in the box in the article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:42, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks, I'll look into it shortly and report backDave (talk) 10:53, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]
  • What you say is true. Many of the illustrations in commons are not completely accurate or leave features to be desired. I suppose the artist means the languages cited are instances of those groups. Full lists would require many articles. He didn't say instances, but it is manfest he must mean that. I was looking for an instance of a comparison table. I saw this. I did try to compensate by changing the caption. If you can find a better, place it in there. My philosophy is to use illustrations even though they may not be perfect is every respect. Have you got a better one? I suspect English may not be your first language, but no English speaker would conclude Turkic is the only Altaic language. Anyway the issue is now up for discussion. Let us see what the readers think (if anything). By the way, if you are interested in contributing on a regular basis, perhaps you should get yourself a user page.Dave (talk) 11:30, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]
  • The 1782 is wrong. I fixed it. I'm just beginning to work seriously on this section now.Dave (talk) 11:34, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]
  • The failure of the Mongol to appear is the result of the kind of graphic it is. That is a matter for the artist. However I expanded the picture a little and now it is there. Ordinarily WP like to keep these side pics to 300 px but in this case a little larger seems warranted. I don't like unreadable maps and tables anyway. That seems to be about the best I can do without swapping the picture out for another, but first we have to have another!Dave (talk) 11:43, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Lyle Campbell[edit]

Lyle is an established author mentioned in the article. However, the article does not reference any of his published works. Instead we are told of an unpublished debunking passage located in preview form on Lyle's site. That isn't there now; the link is dead. Moreover, the putative forthcoming work is not on Google (maybe I missed it). It seems clear, if there really was such a passage Lyle does not want us to use it. However, there is more. All these claims made for Jones are false, he never said any such things and as far as I can see no one ever thought he did. If Lyle said all those things they certainly were misplaced. I doubt it. However, we can't now verify just what Lyle said. So, I'm taking out the better part of that passage. I will say, the linguists of that time all drew conclusions that later turned out to be manifestly wrong. Anyone reading Jones can see that. No one takes Jones or the others like him seriously as linguists. If we're trying to "debunk" Jones we have created a straw man to belabor. He happened to be the first known of the time to mention a group to which he did not even give name. No one has claimed he invented the proto-language. See Tree model. It is more important to get information right than to get something on WP. More work.Dave (talk) 11:08, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

I took this out:

"An insight often attributed to Jones is conceiving of the idea of a proto-language, and consequently of the type of "family tree" model of language development (one proto-language splitting into various daughter languages, some of those then splitting again into further languages), upon which the comparative method is based. However, Jones' role in the development of these ideas has recently been called into question. According to the comparative linguist Lyle Campbell, the widely quoted passage from Jones has been removed from its proper context, and a reading of his work reveals his ideas of linguistic development as less clear."

I don't know of anyone who attributes those things to Jones (see under Tree model. What role is that? How can you say the role has been called into question and not say what the role is? Moreover, we have already explained the family tree concept, why do it again? As I said above, Lyle has chosen to remove himself from you presentation. Just what are Jones' ideas of linguistic development? All he said was, Sanskrit and some others appeared to have common ancestor now not extant. What's wrong with that?Dave (talk) 12:00, 18 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

The writing of the article[edit]

Someone worked pretty hard on this article and there is much good material. It got a C, and now I'm making quite a few changes - not on the technical material, mind you, but on the writing. You should have had more English composition. But anyway I think I owe it to you to explain why I am making these writing changes, and this turns out to be some suggestions on your writing. I do see some consistency of style. As a linguist or student linguist you know all about social registers. An article such as this takes formal English, but the register keeps changing to informal or conversational English. Never do that, it attracts attention to yourself and inserts your presence into the material. The writing should be transparent; one does not see the writer or his style at all, only the material. Stick with one register, formal English, throughout. Second, a lot of this is patois. Patois is a device used by one ignoramus to impress another. Save it for your girlfriend. In patois one tries and fails to use the technical terms correctly and half the time it is mainly clear that the speaker has no idea what he talking about. It can sound impressive, however. Don't try to impress us, it means you have a low opinion of us, that we can accept slick talk in place of the real thing. Whenever I see the slick I stop reading. The third thing I noticed is that decisions on what to say next depend less on strict logical order than on the purple passages. You are trying to "write good." Don't. First have something good to say and then organize it well. You will find that you won't have much trouble saying it. Don't try to look smart or be entertaining. We don't read this material for entertainment, although I must say WP can be a pretty good laugh. And finally, you aren't using natural language. If you read the Egyptian Book of the Dead you will see a goodly number a repetitious formulae as though the author think if he does not say things in the correct formula someone will go to hell for it. Don't keep repeating the subject over and over in successive sentences; use pronouns. You don't have to summarize the whole article in every paragraph; you can assume the reader has read the previous. These are my comments, take them as you will. If you really want to know how to write linguistics start studying the writing of the introductory textbooks referenced so frequently in this article. Of course, they had the advantage of a team of editors. As far as I can see they are written really well. That's their job. No reply necessary. You can just start reworking some of the awful linguistics articles I have had to read, many of which you no doubt worked on.Dave (talk) 00:24, 20 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

For whom is your invective intended? This article has had 538 edits so far: 138 by you, 83 by Sjcollier, no more than 21 by any other single account – so no wonder if there's some inconsistency in register. —Tamfang (talk) 03:06, 21 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]
That's an interesting theory, Tamfang - I don't know for whom - don't care - totally non-personal. I thought I saw a uniform bad style. It isn't invective, it is a tart critique. Some people don't take us too seriously and need to be jogged a little. The tartness comes from having to deal with the authors of bad articles who would rather conduct edit wars than allow one word to be changed. If the shoe fits wear it, if not, don't. But, maybe the perception of an overriding style is off. Maybe it is the accumulation factor. So, if it does not apply, forget it, but the suggestions are intended for anyone writing these C or D articles.Dave (talk) 13:29, 22 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

References not used[edit]

  • Goddard, Ives (1994a). "A New Look for Algonquian." Paper presented at the Comparative Linguistics Workship, University of Pittsburgh, April 9.
  • Goddard, Ives (1994b). "The West-to-East Cline in Algonquian Dialectology." Actes du Vingt-Cinquième Congrès des Algonquibustes, ed. William Cowan: 187-211. Ottawa: Carleton University.
  • Holm, John (1989). Pidgins and Creoles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju (2003). The Dravidian Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Comrie, Bernard (ed.) (1990). The World's Major Languages. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Dixon, R. M. W. (1997). The Rise and Fall of Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pedersen, Holger (1962). The Discovery of Language. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Picard, Marc (1984). "On the Naturalness of Algonquian ɬ." International Journal of American Linguistics 50:424-37.

This article has a large number of references; however, not too large for the topic. There is no need on the other hand to swell the Bibliography beyond what is used. I put these unused items here. Many articles have "Additional reading" sections. I like those. Many of these refs are very specific rather than general. I'm not sure those belong there. If anyone wants to create an additional reading section with these I would not disagree with that. I did not do it myself because the refs need a lot of work to get them into WP formats, and some of them require tedious Internet lookups. If you want to do the work, go right ahead, I will not object. Note also if anyone puts more notes in and wants to use these items, they would go back in the references section, properly formatted.Dave (talk) 13:36, 22 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Edit completion[edit]

I just completed a major edit on this article, which I hope will remove some of the obstacles to improving its grade and make it more useful in the matrix of other articles. The article is middling long (not really long). Try as I might I found I could not reduce the size below 53 kB. My edits are mainly formatting and English-language. I followed the policy of not removing referenced information. I did insist on following the references so I removed some unreferenced paragraphs that were written badly or made no sense, as I have explained above. If anyone really wants to cut down, I would suggest some sections have too many examples. Maybe there are too many tree diagrams. You use YOUR judgement whether you want to add or subtract, merge or split. I got this to the point where I view it as satisfactory so I may not be back at least for a while. You can always reach me on my discussion page and I will discuss almost anything but I have to warn you I will not bicker. If you really have to change something, do it, and see what the reaction is. It's not my article, it's yours. Bye now.Dave (talk) 13:50, 22 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

wave model[edit]

Speaking of bad style:

The Wave Model has been proposed as an alternative model of language change.[60] Each wave, an isogloss, is a circle in the Venn diagram, but the circles are not to be seen as simultaneous or extending over the same areas. The language must be found most certainly at the intersection of the greatest number of circles. It tapers off to intermediate times and locations. Some isoglosses may not even be found in languages of the same family. The tree model presumes that all the circles coincide in time and space.

The first two sentences are clear enough (though I don't see why "not ... simultaneous"). The last sentence is a bit obscure but I got the point. What the heck do the other three sentences even mean? —Tamfang (talk) 16:35, 22 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

And why remove the wave model link?! —Tamfang (talk) 16:56, 22 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

That is what I thought, Tamfang. Argue away in whatever monologue you care to select. I'm sorry if you took it personally. Maybe you should think harder about your writing style and your ability to express ideas. If it helps you to resent me, go right ahead, but it won't improve your style. For the link to Wave Model, I believe you are speaking of the "main" template. Wave model (linguistics) is not the main article. The section is not about the wave model. If you really want to see a link, it might be best to put in a "see also" template or some such thing. If you need help selecting a template, they are covered in a help section. Let me get it for you: Wikipedia:Template messages. You may have to do a little work to find the right one, but since you are showing such an interest, that should be no problem. For myself, I think we have plenty of links to it and do not need another. I did put one in the diagram. As for your not understanding a Venn Diagram, that is a serious deficit for a linguistics person. Did you read the linked article on Venn diagrams? Have you had any logic? Just what did YOU think diagrams such as this are? If you lack understanding of logic, you need to start with such expressions as A AND B, A OR B, A XOR B, which are more or less standard. In computer programming these are relational operators. Without that I am afraid you can't really understand the wave model diagram. Did you think they are pictures of waves? What happens when one wave intersects another? Anyway we can't explain all that in one article such as this one, which is not about the wave model anyway. There is a link to the Venn diagram. I would say, you are trying to pin your confusion concerning the subject matter on my style, and what is more, since your approach is clearly confrontational, I am going to let you get clean away with it. Take responsibility for your own education, you're supposed to be a grown-up. I'm through with this article so if you are going to make changes to it, it is all the others you will be facing. I've done my bit. Don't call me. I'll call you.Dave (talk) 00:42, 23 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]
Eh? The passage that I criticized here did not replace anything I wrote, so my ox is not gored. (Without checking the history, I'd have a hard time pointing to any sentence in the article that I did write.) I often lament that I have many years' practice in making myself misunderstood, but I don't think my fallibility makes my criticisms entirely worthless. ¶ As for "confrontational" – oh I am such a dark kettle. ¶ I'm not familiar with this usage of the word 'monologue'. ¶ Nor is it helpful to say that only my own maleducation is to blame if I can't make sense of gibberish that happens to use technical terms. The sentence containing "Venn diagram" is one of the two that I described as "clear enough", so that barb is wide of the mark.
When I wrote the above, the number of links to Wave model in that section had gone from one to zero, a deplorable development whether that link is in Template:Main or otherwise. I see that there is one now. (Thanks for the disambiguation, though Wave model redirects.)
I'll repeat the sentences that give me trouble.
  • The language must be found most certainly at the intersection of the greatest number of circles. It tapers off to intermediate times and locations.
One way to make sense of this is to take "The language" and "It" as meaning a core standard where the essence of the language is to be found, in contrast with the mere 'dialects' of the periphery; a politically incorrect concept. Another is to suppose that the Venngram in question shows only those changes relevant to the history of a (hypothetically) specified dialect; I imagine it's sometimes done that way, but I certainly wouldn't assume it, and if so why is 'Innovation A' shown? I eagerly await suggestions of other ways to understand the passage.
  • Some isoglosses may not even be found in languages of the same family.
On second thought, I understand this to mean that isoglosses may meaningfully be drawn between un"related" members of a Sprachbund (though without the Sprachbund concept one would think such isoglosses redundant!), and such isoglosses may not happen to cut through any family. Though a valid point, that's a somewhat confusing change of subject from what I take to be the usual application of Wellentheorie, viz describing changes within a dialect continuum, which is more relevant to this article.
Tamfang (talk) 05:02, 25 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

External links[edit]

The two external links are really to private sites. I don't think they are appropriate, but the previous editors had them, so I am going to leave them. I am insisting on cite web, however, according to WP policy. We aren't interested in editorial interpretation of the link. Cite web puts it in as it is, telling us who and what. Now the link to UT publishes material copyrighted I am sure by Kathleen Hubbard. I do not know at all if they have permission to publish it. It is a document on the classics department web site and that has been made public. What their use of it is and whether we can link to it I do not know. You legal persons now can decide. The other one is Professor Matthew Gordon's linguistic course aid. Is this an encyclopedic source? You decide. I presume he does not mind the whole world taking his course as he has made the site public. There is some interesting information in there, but, the thing is, its nature is didactic not encyclopedic. I believe both links are strictly transitory. In a few months, a year perhaps, someone will be having to remove the links as dead. Are they worth the trouble? You decide.Dave (talk) 00:57, 23 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Different types of evidence: lexicon vs. morphology[edit]

Not all elements of the language have the same probative force when comparison suggests a historical connection. The strongest lexical evidence for any language family is shared morphological paradigms, especially highly irregular or suppletive paradigms with bound morphology, as Fortson (2004) points out (for example, I'm sure other works on historical linguistics do the same). Pronouns are also generally considered likely if not unassailable indication of genetic relatedness (but if there is no evidence for past contact and the languages are not spoken anywhere near to each other, and there is no independent indication that they ever were, or were in contact, except possibly in the remotest past, borrowing can be ruled out with high probability, which makes the case of Kusunda interesting indeed). Independent lexemes, on the other hand, do not constitute compelling proof for relatedness at all, even when the sound correspondences are regular (for example, Latin loanwords in Welsh do not prove that Welsh is a Romance language, even though regular sound correspondences can be established), or when the languages are spoken in a very extensive geographical area such as Eurasia (as Wanderwörter can travel very far distances). The article should somehow mention this important fact that not all evidence is equally good, but I can't tell where it would fit best. Anyone? Florian Blaschke (talk) 00:29, 24 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

I see that the widely accepted method of subgrouping by means of (preferrably non-trivial) common innovations (as long as relative chronology does not contradict - wait, how can an article about the comparative method omit a subject as important as relative chronology?) is not mentioned either, even though I'm sure that the handbooks treat it.
Also, where's proportional analogy, or paradigmatic levelling? The only form of analogy given as example is an instance of serial analogy, a rather marginal form typically affecting only single lexemes.
Analogy (at least proportional analogy, which is a well-known and easy to observe process) generally deserves to be treated as a complication, rather than a problem with the method itself, as accounting for analogical changes is part of the method.
It is worth pointing out that sound change is regular, but creates irregularity, while (proportional) analogy is irregular, but creates regularity, and that the two forces are in perpetual competition, cancelling out each other's effects. Florian Blaschke (talk) 17:59, 27 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Dubious Piraha Claims[edit]

The language Piraha has been subject to a number of dubious claims of uniqueness by Daniel Everett. "Piraha Exceptionality: a Reassessment", Language, 85.2, 355-404. The claim that its pronouns are borrowed from Nheengatu is not transparent. Thomason and Everett argue their case based upon a complex phonemic analysis.

Our claim is that the basic Piraha pronouns are nearly identical to those of Nheengatu and Tenharim. Superficially, however, the Pirah~a pronounsdon't look much like the Tup i-Guaran i pronouns; so this proposal will not be convincing without some additional information about the phonology of Piraha that shows how the phonetic realizations of the Tup i-Guaran i forms align with the Pirah~a phonemic system. "Pronoun borrowing" Sarah G. Thomason & Daniel L. Everett University of Michigan & University of Manchester

The claim should be attributed rather than presented as fact.μηδείς (talk) 16:40, 5 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

The Uralic and Altaic pronoun table - false cognate[edit]

What is the point of having the pronoun table on the "comparative method" page? The resemblance of the Baltic-Finnic pronoun "sinä" and Turkic "sen" is obviously coincidental: the change of t -> s before "i" is a Baltic-Finnic innovation. All other Uralic languages have a "t" in that position (*tun, *tinä). Actually Finnish has the verbal 2nd person suffix "-t", and also the plural form "te" shows the original "t".

Compare also the following inflections (nominative sg - essive sg - essive pl):

vesi - vetenä - vesinä (water) käsi - kätenä - käsinä (hand) kuusi - kuutena - kuusina (six)

--Muhaha (talk) 13:39, 27 August 2010 (UTC)[reply]

So your point is that Uralic is actually closer to Indo-European?μηδείς (talk) 17:02, 27 August 2010 (UTC)[reply]

The chart adequately attributes the opinions held to the linguists who hold them, which is the only relevant matter - not anyone's OR POV, neither mine nor thine. It should occur to you that a pre-Altaic form in *tin- could easily account for the *sen- of Turkish, especially in light of the the *chi- of Mongolian. If anything, the chart could be expanded to include the mine/thine pronouns of PIE and the nyi/chi pronouns of Nivkh.μηδείς (talk) 18:49, 5 September 2010 (UTC)[reply]

The table should also include Proto-Uralic and Proto-Altaic (and PIE) reconstructions, and regarding the gender thing (he/se), PIE didn't have "she", but only animate and inanimate. -- (talk) 19:35, 5 September 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Yes, it would have been better with the proto forms, and you are right about the pronouns as well. The problem is that this table is done with an image file, not editable wikipedia markup. It still has value since it does illustrate the beliefs of the long range comparativists like Poppe who are mentioned in the subcaption. μηδείς (talk) 19:40, 5 September 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Furthermore, the Finnish and Estonian 3rd person pronouns (sg+pl) in the table aren't cognates. The Finnish counterparts to them are "tämä" ('this', dialectically also 'he') and "nämät" (dialectical, 'these'). Kernaazti (talk) 10:09, 3 October 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Just remove the table altogether. There is no reason why the article should include this much controversial data. We cant selectively remove the ones we dont like either without committing OR.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 10:33, 3 October 2016 (UTC)[reply]
If nobody opposes, I'll remove it. Kernaazti (talk) 08:15, 4 October 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Origin and development of the method[edit]

The history section of the Indo-European studies article gives a different impression of the origin of historical linguistics than this article does, mostly pushing the method much further back in time. Even in that article, there is no mention of Yehuda Ibn Quraysh, who sometime in the 9th or 10th century thourhg comparison of the phonology and morphology of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic recognized that Semitic languages had a common origin and "are subject to the same linguistic laws". This reference states that the Indo-European studies in the 1640s by Van Boxhorn and Elichmann were "significantly more accurate" (and more comprehensive) than those 140 years later by William Jones, "who erroneously believed that Egyptian, Japanese and Chinese were part of Indo-European while Hindi was not, which suggests that his method was seriously flawed." The reference also mentions that 67 years before Jones, William Wotton had already attempted to reconstruct an Indo-European proto-language.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding how narrow the concept of the "comparative method" is, in which case the difference of which with earlier methods could perhaps be made more explicit in the text. At the very least, the overcredited Jones' overexposed quote, which as far as I can tell told nothing new, can be removed from the origin section. Afasmit (talk) 00:22, 30 September 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Reading the source material for Ibn Quraysh it's obvious he is only restating the stereotypical religious based "all languages evolved from Hebrew" doctrine:

"The reason for this similarity and the cause of this intermixture was their close neighboring in the land and their genealogical closeness, since Terah the father of Abraham was Syrian, and Laban was Syrian. Ishmael and Kedar were Arabized from the Time of Division, the time of the confounding [of tongues] at Babel, and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob (peace be upon them) retained the Holy Tongue from the original Adam."

In other words, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob retained God's tongue, not that Hebrew and Arabic evolved from some third tongue that was neither. This whole section needs to be reverted to the status quo ante. μηδείς (talk) 02:48, 16 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]


It is stated that latin word for "tongue" is "dingua", but as far as I can tell, it should be "lingua". Even so, linguistic is not absolutely my field of expertise, so I wanted to signal the thing instead of changing it. Anyway, yes, your are linguistic not dinguistic, so I'll be quite surprise if that is right. (talk) 22:22, 28 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Check footnote #34: "dingua is an Old Latin form of the word later attested as lingua." Ko'oy (talk) 21:36, 2 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

blench vs jones[edit]

Jones' work is highly cited and should be available, but Blench does not provide any reference for his claim that Jones believed that Chinese, Japanese and Egyptian "were" Indo-European. Given Jones' remarks about the detailed parallels between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, and the fact that Jones didn't use the term Indo-European, it seems likely something else is going on here - perhaps a surmise on his part that the three tongues were related at some remove? In any case, we need a source in Jones for this, not an unsupported vague criticism in Blench. μηδείς (talk) 02:35, 16 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I have restored the status quo ante. What is unique about Jones is his positing of some no-longer existent independent source, Blench's unsourced cavils notwithstanding. Ibn Quraysh does not posit the origin of Hebrew and Arabic in some common and no longer spoken proto-tongue, but attributes Hebrew to the Patriarchs with other's being Arabicized away from God's original Hebrew. The same naive pre-scientific mythological view holds for the Romans. They believed their tongue was a debased form of Greek, not that it and Greek both evolved from some distinct third (proto-) language no longer spoken. μηδείς (talk) 02:59, 16 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

What? Blench's criticism is not at all "unsupported" or "vague". By all means, take a look at Jones' remarks in the Third Address to the Asiatick Society and you will see that the criticism is mostly accurate. For example, Jones explicitly says that Hindustani belongs to a different stock than Sanskrit (unlike Latin, Greek and Persian), and is only influenced by it.

Also, he clearly fails to differentiate between the history of "races" (i.e., ethnic groups) and languages (and even between the history of spoken language and scripts), and often conflates his bizarre speculations about the origins of "races" (i.e. that modern Indians are related to Egyptians, Chinese and even "Peruvians") with his linguistic speculation.

All in all, if you remove that single fortuitious quote on IE, most of Jones' ramblings would be considered nonsense today, and certainly inferior to the contributions of many of his contemporaries or predecessors. The fact that he is so often glorified and quoted has more to do with the fact that he held a prominent position and was a pioneer, than the quality of his work as a scholar. Again, by all means, go and read him, instead of relying on secondary, tertiary, etc. sources.

Finally, his claim of a no longer existent independent source was neither that decisive not definitively accepted, since several decades later Sanskrit itself was still claimed to be the IE proto-language, as Schleicher's quote in this very article makes clear. What we really have with Jones is an easily quotable paragraph from a famous scholar of a prestigious institution. Certainly, the fact that he was somehow the "father" of comparative linguistics is an attractive narrative, but hardly accurate.KelilanK (talk) 16:12, 16 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks. Perhaps you can provide a link to the incriminating remarks in the Third Speech to the Asiatick Society? Blench, whom I have read at length, largely admire, and whose website I have long had bookmarked, didn't provide a link or even identify the text. I understand your personal opinion of Jones differs from that of Scholars such as Winfred Lehmann. Have you written any works we can cite as reliable sources? The fact remains, whatever Jones' wider errors, which would be relevant in an article on him, and not on the development of the Comparative Method, that his supposition of some common source which no longer exists was an essential observation cited by later scholars. μηδείς (talk) 16:29, 16 April 2011 (UTC)[reply] ----- pages 33 and 34 ("Third Discourse")contain references to Hindi ultimately having a "Tartarian" or "Chaldean" origin and being influenced by Sanskrit, as well as the famous "philologer" quote.

In pages 45-46, he seems to add "Chinese, Japanese", "Phoenicians" and "Peruvians" to the same "race" of speakers of "IE" languages.

In the Sixth discourse he concludes that Farsi is derived from "Chaldean" (and thus related to what we'd call Semitic languages) and unrelated to Avestan.

And see page 186 ("Ninth Discourse"): "that the first race of Persians and Indians, to whom we may add the Romans and Greeks, the Goths, and the old Egyptians or Ethiops, originally spoke the same language and professed the same poupular faith is capable, in my humble opinion, of incontestable proof". In this and adjacent pages, Jones again draws a distinction between the first and second Indians and Persians: Sanskrit and Avestan are what we now call IE, Farsi is Semitic, Hindi is either "Tartarian" or "Chaldean". Egyptian is also IE. And he again says, though with less confidence, that Chinese and Japanese might be related to the "Hindus" (apparently the "First" Hindus, i.e. Sanskrit), etc.KelilanK (talk) 20:48, 16 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks, I read the material you linked to at Google. It was very, shall we say, interesting! Not the most sober, skeptical or empirical of minds, was he? Of course Copernicus and Newton had their own screwball ideas as well, and the comments on race are, strictly, divisible from those on grammar. I think adding something like, "While, as Blench comments (Blench ref), Jones held all sorts of ideas that would be dismissed as crackpot today (Link to Jones), his observation that (blockquote) is widely quoted by modern students of the comparative method. μηδείς (talk) 21:09, 16 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
We could also use a link to the works of the Dutch Scythianists. μηδείς (talk) 21:09, 16 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

"Origin" vs "Application"[edit]

The transition from "Origin" to "Application" in the text is too abrupt. How did the linguists of old really apply the method, by and large? And how has its application changed? The history part gives some clues, but very little.Xemoi (talk) 05:24, 12 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]

The "Application" section fails to identify clearly what example or recommendation comes from which of the two refs supposedly offered as source. In fact, it seems like original synthesis, IMO.Xemoi (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 05:29, 12 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]
The "linguists of old" didn't apply any set "method" but came to discover methods by bits and pieces. Modern textbooks like Campbell 2004 and Crowley 1982, written for introductory courses to historical linguistics, attempt a synthesis of what linguists "of old" and of new came up with and don't add to the story any new insights. And as their use and non-use in the classroom goes, there is no unified theory of historical linguistics and actual syllabi for introductory courses to historical linguistics will vary widely from professor to professor and will be tailored to fit their individual concerns and progress in research. I'm afraid that core-renditions here of what happened and of what is actually happening in historical linguistics is the best we can do so far. This has been done here, it seems to me, without falling into the pitfalls of "original synthesis" as defined in the Wiki guidelines. Best, Eklir (talk) 16:59, 12 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Ok, I see, thanks for replying (sorry for the mess-up with threads, by the way - I hadn't used wiki for some time and had trouble editing; &thanks for merging them). However, I still think there should be some kind of transitional section to show how the method evolved after the 19th century, even if no consensus emerged since then. I'm aware there is no unified theory and that practices vary widely, but it is not like historical linguists stopped brushing up on the method and discussing it after that time, correct?
It would be interesting to show, for example, who first suggested what sort of recommendation (in the cases where they can be identified). The textbooks you mention surely must contain the accumulation of the work and suggestions of many different researchers over time, and it would be a nice addition to tell that story, presuming the information is available somewhere. Hope that is clearerXemoi (talk) 01:06, 13 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Lexical comparisons are less important than bound morphology[edit]

As pointed out by Bill Poser, the idea that the comparative method is mainly about comparing lexemes – regardless of how well they may conform to the claimed criteria of basic vocabulary – is a grave misunderstanding that seems impossible to root out, but it leads to all sorts of poor-quality research because it is usually overlooked that anything can be borrowed and even so-called basic vocabulary is prone to innovation, even if it isn't borrowed. The gold standard of the comparative method still remains the comparison of bound morphology and irregular paradigms in particular (not just general morphological type, of course; specific structural as well as material resemblances are needed), and truly rarely borrowed (usually functional) lexemes such as pronouns.

Basically, if you don't control for confounding factors such as borrowing and accident, you're doing it wrong. As Schrijver pointed out, the Latin borrowings in British Celtic are deeply embedded and present even in very basic vocabulary (both in British Celtic and in Old Irish I've often seen that what was long treated as ancient Indo-European heritage was eventually re-assessed as Latin borrowings, and likely archaic Germanic loans in Slavic and Baltic are often treated as cognates as well), and worse, there were even regular sound correspondences, giving them the appearance of true cognates. I suspect the same problem with other large-scale layers of borrowings such as Latin loans in Albanian, or Chinese loans in East Asian languages, which have misled scholars for decades and keep misleading Chinese scholars, who still treat Tai-Kadai languages as Sino-Tibetan. (Sure, Japanese has several layers of Chinese borrowings, but how do we know that the oldest layer of borrowings doesn't consist of real cognates? Ultimately only because Japanese morphology is so radically different.) What made Hübschmann recognise that Armenian wasn't Iranian had nothing to do with a lack of regular sound correspondences in the Iranian borrowings. The problem is compounded when the source of the borrowings is closely related. Another problem for long-range comparisons, especially in Eurasia, is the problem of Wanderwörter, which we know can travel truly surprising distances – there are widely accepted examples for that; for example, Persian nān "bread" (< Proto-Iranian *nagna-) has reached Tundra Nenets, Komi and Mansi.

So regular sound correspondence must be thrown out as an unfailing criterion too (of course, accepting that sound change is in principle regular, only disturbed by other factors such as analogy, still remains a vital precondition to any comparison, it just can't rule out borrowings entirely). Lexicon is just not reliable. As aptly pointed out in the article Trans–New Guinea languages (passage partly written by yours truly): The strongest lexical evidence for any language family is shared morphological paradigms, especially highly irregular or suppletive paradigms with bound morphology, because these are extremely resistant to borrowing. For example, if the only recorded German words were gut "good" and besser "better", that alone would be enough to demonstrate that in all probability German was related to English. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 22:36, 15 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]

See also "On the End of the Ritwan Controversy", where Poser makes the same point again: lexical evidence is never sufficient to prove genetic relatedness; even isolated morphological comparisons are not enough. As he says on p. 7: "The distinction that Goddard made is the distinction widely made by historical linguists between lexical equations that happen to involve grammatical morphemes and true 'embedded' morphological correspondence." What must be compared is systems, not isolated forms. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 23:30, 15 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Here on p. 8, Poser explains the true main reason for the significance of the establishment of systematic and regular sound correspondences: to rule out chance similaritiesnot to rule out borrowings! Moreover, the establishment of regular sound correspondences is the prerequisite for the reconstruction of proto-stages. It is, however, not in itself a magical fix against the borrowing problem; very often it does help to rule out borrowing, but not always and unfailingly. Clearly, this is not understood by many linguists. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 23:51, 15 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Well, as some have observed this would mean that it is impossible to demonstrate relatedness between isolating languages - compounded if they have short CV roots. The fact is that there are differing standards of what is accepted as conclusive evidence of relationships between individual lingusts and between schools of linguists. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 00:26, 16 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]
Easy enough: Only accept the strictest standards – as set by the Indo-Europeanist tradition – as conclusive (rather than tentative) evidence. As newer developments in Sino-Tibetan, Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Oto-Manguean and Niger-Congo show, even isolating languages are not completely devoid of morphology, and the problems can be overcome using a strict methodology. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 23:05, 8 December 2023 (UTC)[reply]

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The German - to - English Translation is very bad. The fact that it is still somewhat understandable is surely an indication of PIE roots for practically all the words :D?

I am a native German and (UK) English speaker, so should someone be kind enough to forward me the original text, I shall do my best to translate it with a minimum of idiom, but an emphasis on the sense of the words, rather than a literal transcription, which seems to have been the case here. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:15, 11 December 2021 (UTC)[reply]

For instance, I might infer the following: -

"In this work I have attempted to set forth the inferred original Indo-European language side by side with its extant derived languages. The advantages of this [approach] include making clear to students the results of the investigation in a consolidated form, thereby elucidating the nature of particular [particular individual?] Indo-European languages.

There is, I think, more to be gained by this, namely to demonstrate the baselessness of the assumption that the non-Indian Indo-European languages were derived from Old-Indian (Sanskrit)." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 17:27, 11 December 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Slavic for nine[edit]

"The word, by regular sound changes from Proto-Slavic, should have been /nʲevʲatʲ/, but it is in fact /dʲevʲatʲ/." This is wrong; the /n/ had already changed to /d/ in Proto-Slavic and Proto-East Baltic, but remained /n/ in West Baltic. See *devętь. phma (talk) 08:22, 4 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]