Showing posts with label historical linguistics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical linguistics. Show all posts

23 February 2016

Proto-Indo-European nominals (PIE grammar)

map: location of various
Indo-European peoples in
Europe & Anatolia, c.
1000 BC
Published, edited, formatted & annotated (in red) by Kenneth S. Doig

map: western Eurasia: Indo-European peoples c. 800 BC

(websource: Wikipedia)

Nominals in the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) include nouns, adjectives and pronouns. Their grammatical forms and meanings have been reconstructed by modern linguists based on similarities found across all Indo-European (IE) languages. This article discusses nouns and adjectives, while Proto-Indo-European pronouns are treated elsewhere.

21 January 2013

(some of) The techniques of historical linguistics

Published, edited, images added & annotations/comments (in red) by Kenneth S DoigFrom Logo

The techniques of historical linguistics

In the course of the 19th century when Indo-European (IE) studies evolved as a science in its own right various techniques and methods were developed which help the linguist to arrive at solid facts about previous stages of a language. 

Of all the methods, the two listed at the beginning below are the main ones, the next two representing additional techniques which can be useful occasionally; the last phenomenon quoted below is important when one is considering the plausibility of change.

15 August 2011

What is Historical Linguistics? What are 'Indo-European' Languages?

Published by Kenneth S. Doig 

The term "historical linguistics" refers to the study of languages as they have evolved from past to present, which often includes periods of time that pre-date the art of writing -- i.e., requiring "reconstruction" of forgotten languages lacking written records, but which gave rise to languages in which texts were (and perhaps still are) written. It all began, as legend has it, with Sir William Jones.

29 July 2011



In the course of the 19th century when Indo-European studies evolved as a science in its own right various techniques and methods were developed which help the linguist to arrive at solid facts about previous stages of a language. Of all the methods, the two listed at the beginning below are the main ones, the next two representing additional techniques which can be useful occasionally; the last phenomenon quoted below is important when one is considering the plausibility of change.

1) COMPARATIVE METHOD This refers to the practice of comparing forms in two or more languages with a view to discovering regularities of correspondence. A simple instance from English and German concerns /t/ and /s/. With a series of native words, i.e. not loans, one can see that where English has /t/ German has /s/: water : Wasser, better : besser, foot : Fuss. It is obvious here that English /t/ corresponds to German /s/ in non-initial position.

10 July 2011

Excerpts from: "A History of English, Volume I: From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic" D.Ringe PhD

Published by Kenneth S. Doig
This is a scholarly work, only for those who are truly dedicated to furthering their knowledge on this subject.

From Intro to 24 Proto-Indo-European

2.1 Introduction

The earliest ancestor of English that is reconstructable by scientifically accept-
able methods is Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of all the Indo-European
languages. As is usual with protolanguages of the distant past, we can't say
with certainty where and when PIE was spoken; a reasonable guess would
be the river valleys of Ukraine in the centuries around 4000 bc, though one
can't absolutely exclude a somewhat earlier date, nor a place somewhat
further east. The best discussion of the 'IE homeland problem' is still Mallory
1989; it is cautious and not fully conclusive, as is reasonable under the

31 May 2011


Posted, formatted & edited by Kenneth S. Doig

Germanic languages

Primary Contributors: Anthony F. Buccini, William G. Moulton

Germanic languages, Distribution of the Germanic languages in Europe.
[Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.]branch of the Indo-European language family. Scholars often divide the Germanic languages into three groups: West Germanic, including English, German, and Netherlandic (Dutch); North Germanic, including Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Faroese; and East Germanic, now extinct, comprising only Gothic and the languages of the Vandals, Burgundians, and a few other tribes.
In numbers of native speakers, English, with 450 million, clearly ranks 4th among the languages of the world (after Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish); German, with some 98 million, probably ranks 10th (after Bengali, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, and Japanese). To these figures may be added those for persons with another native language who have learned one of the Germanic languages for commercial, scientific, literary, or other purposes. English is unquestionably the world’s most widely used second language.
See table for information on each of the modern standard Germanic languages.

Table 14: Modern Standard Germanic Languages

                 where spoken                       approximate number  use as a 
                                                    of native speakers  second language 
English          Great Britain, Ireland, United         450,000,000     extreme 
                   States, Canada, Australia, 
                   New Zealand, South Africa
German           Germany, Austria, Switzerland           98,000,000     extensive 
Netherlandic     The Netherlands, Belgium                21,000,000     moderate 
  (Dutch,          (part) 
Swedish          Sweden, Finland (part)                   8,000,000     slight  
Afrikaans        South Africa (part), Namibia (part)      6,000,000     slight
Danish           Denmark                                  5,000,000     slight 
Norwegian        Norway                                   4,000,000     slight 
Frisian          The Netherlands, Germany                   400,000      -- 
Yiddish          various countries                          400,000     slight
Icelandic        Iceland                                    260,000      -- 
Faroese          Faroe Islands                               44,000      --
The source for the English-, Netherlandic-, and Yiddish-language figures is
B.E. Grimes (ed.), Ethnologue (1992); other figures, except Frisian, are from
various official country sources.

The very core of the Germanic proto-homeland was modern-
day Denmark, southern to south-central Sweden & extreme
SE Norway, near present-day Oslo. This is where the
ethnogenisis took place. From a core of Asiatic late-comers
to northwestern Europe. These people brought with them,
Indo-European (IE) speech, religion, society to this recently
deglaciated, cold, wet, and sparsely-populated area. It was
here that the IE's who were of the Mediterranean race,
virtually all long-skulled, long/oval-faced white people who'd
undergone dramatic pigment-loss due to their long sojourn
in their putative second Urheimat, the staging-grounds
whence they dispersed c. 2500 BC to c. 1000 BC, bounded
by the northern shores of the Black Sea, mostly northeast-
wards into central Asia up to lat. 55 deg N. The skeletal
evidence alone has convince me and the non-communist,
scientist who rejected the doctrines of the lying fraud,
Franz Boas & his minions who admittingly used politcal-
base science (i.e.) lies to further communism. I am speaking
about the honest man of true science, Carletoon S. Coon PhD
(Harvard) whose PhD was in physical antropology. He wrote
the greatest book, based on years of measurements, field-
research, and he even admits in areas that some of what
he's written is conjecture. This magnum opus, the best book
ever written about the white races in and around Europe,
is "The Races of Europe". He concluded, but with the
proviso, that is was conjecture that the people connected
with Proto-Indo-European speech, its spread and the founders
of most European and many western Asian nations (Persia,
India) were of an "acestral nordic type" in all cases.
Conclusions drawn from anthropometric skeletal
 measurements. This is backed up by legend, ancient
historians such as Herodotus, Dio Cssio, etc. All of
the ancient polytheistic IE religions have blond, nordic
type deities, even in places like India. Euhemerism.

13 April 2011

comparative-method, ways to find out and prove certain languages are genetically related or not

(websource Wikipedia)

In linguistics, the comparative method is a technique for studying the development of languages by performing a feature-by-feature comparison of two or more languages, as opposed to the method of internal reconstruction, which analyzes the internal development of a single language over time. Ordinarily both methods are used together to reconstruct prehistoric phases of languages, to fill in gaps in the historical record of a language, to discover the development of phonological, morphological, and other linguistic systems, and to confirm or refute hypothesized relationships between languages.
The comparative method was developed over the 19th century. Key contributions were made by the Danish scholars Rasmus Rask and Karl Verner and the German scholar Jacob Grimm. The first linguist to offer reconstructed forms from a proto-language was August Schleicher, in his Compendium der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen, originally published in 1861. Here is Schleicher’s explanation of why he offered reconstructed forms:
In the present work an attempt is made to set forth the inferred Indo-European original language side by side with its really existent derived languages. Besides the advantages offered by such a plan, in setting immediately before the eyes of the student the final results of the investigation in a more concrete form, and thereby rendering easier his insight into the nature of particular Indo-European languages, there is, I think, another of no less importance gained by it, namely that it shows the baselessness of the assumption that the non-Indian Indo-European languages were derived from Old-Indian (Sanskrit).

09 February 2011

Book Review- "Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue" by John McWhorter

Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Book Review- "Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue" by John McWhorter

John McWhorter's “Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue”
Gotham Books, 2008
A Review by Melissa J. Nussbaum (source

The Linguist John McWhorter subtitles his book, “The Untold History of English,” and he delivers on that promise. There is little in the way of the usual tale, such as we might know from PBS's “The Story of English” or the Baugh and Cable textbooks used in introductory linguistic classes around the globe. But there's a great deal about the structure of language, the ways in which language families differ, and how historical situations of language contact have left their imprint on the language today.
This tasty little tome clocks in at just over 200 pages, but it navigates everything from orphan Germanic loanwords to the mysterious, meaningless “do” that permeates every question we ask today. Along the way, McWhorter gets in his licks at linguists who ignore everything outside their own area of interest, prescriptivists who tell us we speak wrongly, and academics pushing discredited theories about the structure of languages dictating types of thought. In some ways, the book is the author's rant against academic inertia. But it's a very polite rant, rendered in a breezy, conversational fashion.
McWhorter studies creoles, languages that grow out of a contact situation, passed on by adult learners in an abbreviated, altered form. It's common to find that an English word traces back to Latin, French, Greek, or some other language, but McWhorter makes the point that this situation is not unusual. Languages in contact exchange words. As he puts it, “Languages like sex,” and he points out that pretty much every language borrows from its neighbors. For McWhorter, the story isn't just about the words, it's about the syntax. Changes to syntax are a lot less common than word-borrowing. For the grammar to change, something has to happen to a language. McWhorter has intriguing theories on what some of those happenings were.
He suggests that English grammar is “in a word, weird.” English not only outsourced a third of its vocabulary, but it shaved off most of its cases and tenses, chucked its gender, and rearranged its word order. He offers a mouthful of words in this example sentence: “Did she say to my daughter that my father has come alone and is feeling better?” It's awkward, but it's very recognizable English.
And it's all wrong. English is a Germanic descendant of Proto-Indo-European, and a good, card-carrying Germanic language is ordered and constructed in a particular way. “Said she to my daughter that my father alone come is and himself better feels?” McWhorter examines those syntactic changes and ties them into historical context, suggesting that English is, “Miscegenated, abbreviated,” and “interesting.”
McWhorter tells a convincing story, the tale of a language battered by contact, crushed under the heel of Viking invaders and Norman French conquerors, and seasoned with Celtic quirks. But he's not content just to examine the weirdness of English. He goes back further, investigating the mother language. He says, “There was a history of bastardy in English long before it was even a twinkle in Proto-Germanic's eye.” Simply speaking, Germanic languages pronounce Indo-European sounds in a way that suggests everyone speaking the language had a speech impediment. Linguists call this, “Grimm's Law,” and it describes sound changes from Proto-Indo-European into Proto-Germanic. “P,” “T,” and “K” turned into “F,” “Th,” and “H.” Pater becomes Vader. Vader becomes Father.
But who messed up Proto-Germanic? Not surprisingly, McWhorter has a suspect for this crime. He hypothesizes a contact situation between Proto-Germanic and some Semitic language in the dark recesses of prehistory. In evidence, he offers a strange structural anomaly in the Germanic languages: strong verbs. These are verbs that indicate a change in tense with a change in internal structure. Come, Came. See, Saw. Drink, Drank. This kind of tense-building is wrong for Proto-Indo-European, but it is de rigueur for Semitic languages like Arabic and Hebrew.
McWhorter's book reads quickly and easily, but it's jam-packed with information and ideas that are almost unheard of outside the realms of academia. For the layman, it is an excellent introduction to the study of the English language. For the academic, it is an enjoyable survey of some of the latest thinking in the field. Either way, its well worth its price in hardcover.
Labels: Linguistics

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