Re: A Comparison of Historical Biology and Historical Linguistics (off topic)

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Tue Apr 26 2005 - 16:57:41 EDT

On Tue, 26 Apr 2005 14:45:52 -0400 "Alexanian, Moorad"
<> writes:
> I received this essay and thought it may be of interest to the list.
> Moorad
> A Comparison of Historical Biology and Historical Linguistics
> By Lydia Hazel(1), Bachelor of Arts in Latin (1983), Master of Arts
> in Linguistics (1989) from Southern Illinois University at
> Carbondale
The historical biologist's job is much simpler in terms of data
compilation and comparison than the historical linguist's because there
is only one relevant cell type for comparison -- germ cells(2). How much
simpler the task of historical reconstruction of languages would be if a
linguist only had to isolate two equivalent words (cf., male and female
germ cells) across languages for comparison.

This is so silly I don't know where to get hold of it. This passage wipes
out proteomics, genomics except for the Y chromosome, and apparently
thinks that mitochondria are the totality of descent. In descent, a
zygote gets a proper haploid set of chromosomes from each parent, plus
mitochondria mostly from the mother, or it usually dies. In language,
there is imitation, which is more or less. Apparently a Spanish king
lithped, and Castille followed. I hear Americans call a noted German
/Grtuh/ because they neither hear nor know how to pronounce an umlauted
o. The Indians I knew in Ecuador spoke Quichua; those my wife's cousin in
Peru knew, Quechua. It's essentially the same language, for there is no
recognition of the two sounds as distinct in the Indian tongue. Two
groups meet and pidgin develops. If one knows the languages involved, one
knows the source of individual words. But the grammar seems to be
distinct. It will likely be difficult to impossible to detect ancient
pidgins in what could be recorded only later.

Hazel's argument boils down to: since linguists have problems detecting
connections among languages that involve imitation, biologists cannot
detect connections requiring necessity. Ignorance is sure a fertile
source of hypotheses!
Received on Tue Apr 26 17:04:06 2005

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