Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 27

September 29, 2013

Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues!

27 YAHUDA, RHOME, WILKENS ETC ON GREEK

Because of its long history and respected status, Greek – from Mycenaean through Homeric, Classical, Koine, Hellenistic, New Testament and Byzantine/Medieval to Modern (both Katharevousa and Demotic) – is a major focus for non-mainstream claims.

Some non-mainstream theories involve claims to the effect that Greek was the Ursprache. Joseph Yahuda, supported by Konstantinos Georganas, Kostas Katis and others (see also ‘Around The World In ‘Mysterious’ Scripts & Texts’, this blog, 22 May 2012), is one writer who advances this view. Yahuda commences from the claim that Hebrew specifically is disguised Greek, almost all of its words being composed of one or more distorted Greek roots, and goes on to identify Greek as an overall Ursprache and thus to deny the existence of Proto-Indo-European as an ancestor for Greek and other languages. However, even where Yahuda’s claims are not mutually contradictory or are not actually refuted by other evidence, the ‘evidence’ in their favour is of the usual inadequate kind.

Another author of much the same kind is Harrell Rhome. Citing Yahuda and various dated sources, Rhome identifies Greek as the ancestor of Hebrew, Semitic languages generally, Egyptian, Indian languages, etc. Rhome’s main intention here is to lower the status of Hebrew, which he perceives as having been tendentiously exaggerated by Jewish writers. But in fact it is not clear how seriously he himself takes his own account of Greek.

Some other non-mainstream theories involve the Greek legends regarding the Siege of Troy (in modern Turkey) and its aftermath, as recounted in the Homeric poems. Several authors have sought to re-assign the location of the Trojan War and associated legendary events to distant areas, in the Atlantic and elsewhere. On less than persuasive grounds, Iman Wilkens (previously alluded to in ‘Linguistics Hall of Shame 2’, this blog, 23 March 2013) holds that the main actions of the Trojan Cycle really occurred in Britain, France and his native Netherlands. (Compare Daunt and others, who relocate the events reported in the Old Testament). Wilkens identifies Homeric place-names etc. with later British (Celtic), English, Dutch and other local place-names using the usual amateur methods. For instance, he equates Cambridgeshire river-names with the superficially and unsystematically similar Homeric Greek names of rivers in the Trojan Plain.

Felice Vinci instead re-interprets the actions of the Trojan Cycle as occurring in the area surrounding the Baltic Sea. Linguistic details are not at all salient in Vinci’s argument, but he does make a vague comment about ‘Achaean-like place-names’ in the Baltic and naïvely interprets the presence in the Baltic region of Lithuanian (a conservative Indo-European language but not one especially closely related to Greek) as supporting his case.

Of course, the precise location of Troy was not known until relatively recently, and the ‘facts’ of any genuine ‘Trojan War’ and the locations of many associated places remain disputed and indeed often conjectural; but it is very generally accepted that these events, or the genuine events upon which they were based, did indeed occur in the Eastern Mediterranean Greek world, where they appear to be set.

References to any of these writers on request!

More next time!

Mark

For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=64212

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.

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The Shellackistan in Khazakstan

September 28, 2013

If the G+ discussion with the pseudonymous Burzynski supporter happens at 900AM, it will appear here:

 

RJB


Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 26

September 23, 2013

Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues (main heritage trips over for now!).

26 W.G. SEBALD & JORGE LUIS BORGES (more oddity than shame!)

W. G. (Winfried Georg) Sebald (1944-2001) was a German literature scholar who spent much of his life in East Anglia, England. He wrote (apparently intentionally) in old-fashioned and elaborate German (an effect which is partly but not completely lost in the English translations to which Sebald himself contributed). His subject-matter is wide-ranging. His best known book is probably The Rings Of Saturn, which (like much of Sebald’s other work) displays the influence of the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), especially the 1940 short story ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’.

The ‘storyline’ of ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ starts with an encyclopedia article about a country which is in the process of being fabricated and hence created by a cabal of scholars; this country is called called Uqbar or (as it is increasingly reified) Tlön, and eventually begins replacing Earth itself as a feature of the ‘real world’.

A substantial part of the story deals with the invented languages of Tlön and with its tradition of ontology/epistemology: a strong version of idealism. The languages reflect (and/or generate?) this position, for instance by having many sequences of short adjectives or else many impersonal verbs with no subjects; indeed, they have no nouns at all. These patterns are extreme versions of some which are actually found in some real languages, such as Apache. The absence of nouns relates to the absence of things (entities) in the philosophy accepted in Tlön – this, supposedly, excludes both propositions and deductive reasoning.

However, even if no entities are recognized, it is not clear that these further exclusions are necessarily implied. Indeed, some of Borges’ own linguistic formulations appear to express propositions, albeit in forms unfamiliar to those accustomed to English or other Indo-European languages. More generally, the linguistic strictures and notions developed by Borges appear interesting and not lacking in insight but as somewhat exaggerated. The same can be said of Sebald’s applications of these notions.

Of course, if either author’s intention be judged STRICTLY fictional, such objections are not in any way damning; and, even if Borges and/or Sebald are to be regarded as expressing genuine ontological/epistemological stances, their positions might still be arguable. But they do appear rather extreme. It is not clear that a language incorporating such features in strong versions would really be usable in practice, whatever philosophical ideas were embraced by its speakers and writers.

More next time!

Mark

For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=64212

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.


Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 25

September 16, 2013

Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues (still between heritage trips!).

25 ILCC INC.

ILCC Inc. (Intergalactic Lovetrance Civilization Center) work to ‘provide more precise guidance to seekers of Truth’. They adopt a Vedantic world-view similar to that of Oak, Knapp and other extreme Hindu writers discussed in earlier instalments of this blog: Hinduism and the Sanskrit language were universal throughout the world for millions of years, until wicked Christians, scientists etc. took advantage of temporary weakness to pervert this paradise and re-write history. ‘Lovetrance’ is ILCC’s name for the civilisation which existed before this outrage and (if they had their way) would exist again. However, they need first to become more accurate about basic historical facts. There follows their account of British history; all of it is grossly in error. Strangely, none of this (except, marginally, 2) relates to these writers’ non-standard ideas on Hinduism, the Vedas etc. 1) First [Britain] was conquered by the Romans, then the Celts. 2) The Celts combined with the ancient Aryan Dravidians… 3) Britain was then gradually conquered by the Mutos, Thangles, Sextons, and Danes. 4) In 1066 French and Germans from Denmark’s royal races conquered and governed over Britain. 5) The British were then converted into Christians. 6) Until Henry VII, French was the national language of England. 7) Then the German royal race was amalgamated into England and the conqueror and the conquered became amalgamated into one Christian community.

More next time!

Mark

For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=64212

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.


Virtual Skeptics: Season 2 Episode 2 Rethink911, Mummies and Congress

September 12, 2013

The Virtual Skeptics is a fun little show Eve and I do with Brian Gregory, Sharon Hill and Tim Farley. It’s on Wed nights at 8:00PM EST.

I talked about a 9/11 Truth poll that was not unlike this poll:

Eve looked into a mummy. Metaphorically.

Sharon gave us the news blur, a quick run through of a number of weird news stories, including the least lucky guy in the world (spontaneous human combustion).

Tim looked at tools that can help skeptics track bills as they move through Congress.

So check us out. We’re pretty awesome.

 


Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 24

September 5, 2013

Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues (between heritage trips!).

24 WILLEM HIETBRINK & OTHERS ON DUTCH

A somewhat extreme proposal regarding language origins is that of Willem Hietbrink and Ronald Lagendijk (both Dutch), who propose in Het Oertaalwoordenboek (Rotterdam, 1994) that all expressions in all languages are ‘corruptions’ of meaningful short sentences in contemporary or near-contemporary Dutch, often via series of intermediate forms (without providing historical evidence of these intermediate forms). For instance, English exact derives from Dutch ik zeg ‘t dich (‘I say it to you’), via ‘k sektik, ‘k sakt. Of course, the chronology does not work; many of the non-Dutch words cited have established etymologies or indeed were themselves already used long before the development of the modern Dutch language.

Hietbrink analyzes Dutch as having 24 consonants and fifteen vowels. (The usual analysis is different; for instance, Standard Dutch is held to have fourteen monophthongal vowels and nine diphthongs. Hietbrink appears to have been distracted by the spelling.) He refers to the Dutch phonological system as ‘the alphabet’; thus he is naïvely folk-linguistic in treating the spelling rather than the phonemics as primary. Indeed, he appears to believe that this 39-phoneme system is valid for all languages. (This is reminiscent of spelling reformers who imagine that their reformed system for spelling English can also replace the International Phonetic Association Alphabet for the transcription of other languages.) Hietbrink goes on to claim that there are thus only 24 x 15 = 360 ‘combinations’ of vowels and consonants that human beings can pronounce, at least as long as they use the Roman alphabet (of course, the spelling/writing system used will in fact have no decisive effect on what sequences can or cannot be pronounced). This assumes that only syllables of the form Consonant-Vowel or Vowel-Consonant occur; but many languages, including Dutch, also permit many more complex syllable structures, such as Consonant-Vowel-Consonant. In addition, even some of the short Dutch words cited by Hietbrink have more than one syllable.

Hietbrink’s work resembles that of early modern Dutch-speaking writers such as Jan van Gorp (seventeenth century) and Simon Stevin (late sixteenth-early seventeenth centuries), who worked before scientific linguistics had developed.

More next time!

Mark

For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=64212

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.