Monday, September 23, 2013

Sorry, Duursma, but all languages have the cases of Proto-Indoeuropean, there is no primitive language ...

1) Human population after Noah, racial and demographic pseudoproblems for creationism, 2) Have "Humans Interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans"?, 3) Sorry, Duursma, but all languages have the cases of Proto-Indoeuropean, there is no primitive language ... (which is on Φιλολoγικά/Philologica blog), 4) After Flood and Babel : Was There a PIE Unity?, 5) Chiara Bozzone on Caland System - Short Review, Trubetskoyan Comment (which is again on Φιλολoγικά/Philologica blog)

[Sorry, Duursma, but all languages have the cases of Proto-Indoeuropean, there is no primitive language ...] And the opposite of "primitive" in this context is not "complex" but adequate.

All languages express subjects and objects of active transitive verbs. All languages express subjects of intransitive verbs. Some lump the latter together with subjects of transitive verbs, like Latin, and some lump them together with objects of intransitive verbs, like Basque, but all express these three roles.

All languages express possessors or other kinds of related objects or persons to a noun, so that all languages have some kind of genitive. In French it is a syntagm with "de", in Latin a case ending, in English the case ending is for names and the "of" syntagm for other nouns, in Welsh and Hebrew it is placing the noun after the main noun (and Hebrew changes some of the main nouns phonetically in the construct state before the noun of genitive meaning), in Hittite it is an adjective (like personal possessive pronouns of many languages) - with a derivative ending related to other IE languages' genitive. In Chinese the noun in genitive gets a help word after it, which corresponds roughly to English ending "-ish". This toneless word is also used after Verb-Object or Verb-Complement and before a noun to make the verb-complement a relative clause with the noun for subject, as I recall it (never learned Chinese, but looked at more than one chapter in a beginners' book out of interest in its syntax).

All languages can express the partitive, "some of", "certain among", "part of", "made of", in Latin it is either genitive or an adjective, in Finnish it is a case separate from genitive and it is used also for nominatives or accusatives in the indefinite acceptation. Drinking milk takes accusative of milk only if you drink "all of it" (all in the glass, all in the bottle ...), otherwise partitive.

All languages express datives as in receivers of gifts.

All languages express the locality from which the verb moves or in which it rests or towards which it moves. The locality to which is in Finnish divided into "on to the outside of" and "into the inside of", in Latin it coincides with accusative and in Turkish it coincides with dative. But all languages have it.

All languages express nominal predicates, in Latin it is same case as subject (thus in a main clause a nominative, in an accusative with infinitive an accusative, in either case same case as its subject), in Finnish it is a separate case-ending. Or rather two, one for established identity or "quality of being" and one for resulting such (same difference as between "be" and "become").

There is no such thing as an "incredibly complex" language to its users. Nor was Indo-European such, if there ever was such a Proto-Language. It is only to learners (coming to it after already learning their language), that any language can look "incredibly complex". And that includes Greenlandic too!

My own reason for doubting that proto-language as a Creationists is double:

  • 1) Languages supposedly evolved from it (Hittite and Vedic being earliest) turn up so quickly after the Tower of Babel that for Proto-Indo-European to have evolved into the different ones in that little time, one would presume a miracle like Babel differentiated the family, meaning that:

    • either you have Proto-Indo-European as pre-Babel language, which does not explain why some post-Babel are non-Indo-European, and which discords from a traditional Patristic view that pre-Babel language was Hebrew,

    • or you have some second Babel-miracle punishing only the Indo-European peoples, a bit like an Atlantis Flood after the Flood of Noah, if you are into that scenario - but I find it difficult to believe in such a second Babel-miracle, in fact more than in believing in secondary Floods.

  • 2) Immediately post-Babel you would presumable have different languages between descendants of, say Iavan and Ashkenaz, but Greek dialects like Ionic and Germanic languages like German are both "Indo-European" to linguists.

I therefore think the Indo-European unity was ideal rather than factual. This can be on two models: either Proto-Indo-European was a model that God used as base for different languages imposed at Babel (like Tolkien used Proto-Eldarin for inventing Quenya and Sindarin), or different languages all acquired the traits that linguists attribute to Indo-European unity. This is my own pet theory, and it contradicts Duursma (as does the other one, which I ahve not foregone totally either). Here is what he says (I incorporated a footnote into the text):

History shows that when a language changes, it tends to become more user-friendly. It likes to be flexible. When it has rid itself of cases, it is free to make them up again. However, as these changes are spontaneous, unplanned, and often unnoticed, it seems impossible that a language as sophisticated and regular as the Indo-European ‘parent’ was made up from a simpler form. Language change, as Crowley’s model shows, would be unlikely to produce consistent endings for the whole of the Inflecting Language. It could possibly make such patterns for an agglutinating language, but not for an inflecting language, as the phonological reduction would not be consistent.

The Tower of Babel account affirmed by linguistics
by K.J. Duursma

The point is: the eight cases of Proto-Indo-European are not consistent. And some of them show hints of being traces of agglutinative languages. Here is for instance the animate accusative plural. Ending -ns. This can be analysed as accusative ending -m plus plural ending -s, with some reduction since in nominative plural we see this ending as -es. Which in turn could be a reduction of plural -es plus nominative -s - or of nominative -es/-s plus a plural -s. Making the pattern of nom/acc, sg/pl basically agglutinative in the animate nouns:


As to other cases, the genitive singular is supposed in modern linguistics to have been an adjective derived from noun (thus not saying whether possessor was singular or plural) before it became a noun case (and inflexible as to the possessed and parallel to a genitive plural). Genitive plural could have originally been partitive. In Greek, Sanscrit and Baltoslavic, genitive coincides with the case for direction from. Apart from that we deal with endings that can also be adverbial, especially as to the plural cases. So, yes, the inflexional case endings of indo-european can have evolved. They can even have been borrowed from one language to another.

Look at the Indo-European verb system. The Apophony in the stem reminds of Hebrew stem forms. The personal endings are all like the Fenno-Ugrian ones - which is one reason for Ruhlen's Nostratic hypothesis (Indo-European plural -s = Fenno-Ugrian plural -t in that case). The Indo-European case endings are unrelated, but the plural -s possibly related to Fenno-Ugrian and Greenlandic counterparts. Dual -k, -γ, Plural -t, -δ or -s.

Indo-European (reconstructed) 
1p-o, -m(i)-mes, -men
 Finnish today
3p-(long vowel)-vat

The similarity is even closer if you consider that 2p sing -s in verbs corresponds to a 2p sing t- in pronouns, which is also the case for -t, t- in Finnish. And yet you also have an apophony (changing in-stem-vowels between long and short -e-, long and short -o-, zero, to atke one example) which is close to Hebrew grammar or Arabic, but is totally lacking in the very regular Finnish.

Verbs systems are, apart from the facts of apophony and these endings, pretty dissimilar in Latin, Greek and Sanscrit. And when Latin verbs system broke down partly, the Western Romance languages invented the modern verbal tense system of West-European languages (Germanic ones make counterparts to it).

This brings us to the next point:

However, as these changes are spontaneous, unplanned, and often unnoticed, it seems impossible that a language as sophisticated and regular as the Indo-European ‘parent’ was made up from a simpler form.

This is more or less what I was taught in my early reading on language histories (especially Indo-European), but it is not what modern linguistics tell us. I am taking an example from Aitchison here:

A man speaking Cockney (an accent of popular English in London, for those who do not know) will not pronounce any h. Yet he will tell his child a thing like "this is an 'edge'og - it is really two words, 'edge and 'og. They both begin with an aitch." And he will know and his son will know exactly how h sounds in the mouth of someone not speaking Cockney. And in certain contexts where Cockney does not fit, he will have no problem to start pronouncing the h either. Dropping or keeping an h is in London a conscious choice. The so-called sound laws are statistically only and only in retrospect like something a computer made across the words of the language. While ongoing processes, they are all set in double standards of pronunciation (like pronouncing the h or not) and the choice of standards is conscious.

See further her book Language Change: Progress or Decay.

Steel has shown how modern Indo-European languages have reduced the number of noun inflections for different case, gender and number; and different verbs inflection for tense, voice, number and person. He also showed how English has also lost 65–85% of the Old English vocabulary, and many Classical Latin words have also been lost from its descendants, the Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc.).

What Duursma misses is that all this happened through pretty consciously replacing one expression with another. When "solem" and "solum" both started to sound like "sol@" (sawluh/solluh) in France, the one meaning sun ("solem") was replaced by a derivative. Because it was done consciously. The then equivalent of what would have been "soliculum" is now the French "soleil". Now, replacing "sol@" with "soliculum" in one meaning but not another is not a change happening unconsciously or automatically. It is a choice, and it is a choice of prudence and of art - not unlike the choices that built the verbal systems of Sanscrit, Latin and Greek on endings (partly agglutinative, since personal ending can come after a present derivative ending) or the Modern Western verbal systems on symmetrical uses of Auxiliary verbs.

"Sebastopolim habeo ire" = "I have to go to Sevastopol" or with a shift of meaning "I will go to Sevestopol" = "J'irai à Sévastopol" [ire habeo > ir hai > irai]. The man who first wrote Sebastopolim habeo ire made a choice a bit outside the grammar he could have studied in school. Not against it, but he did not foresee it was going to become a new ending for the future tense. He did not foresee the consequences of his choice, but he made one, and very consciously - and so did everyone else up to the time when we do get to the French "irai" or the Spanish "andaré". Even if certain people's choice was a choice of the lazy pronunciation (which is a recurrent choice all through language history).

Therefore, though the systems of Indo-European definitely point to intelligent design, human such is sufficient to explain the system of endings.

And the chronolinguistic stuff with a fixed rate for how fast vocabulary is replaced is in my view pretty much in the same boat as other uniformitarian assumptions. It is also contradicted by the facts. If we take sounds rather than words, the scale from Latin to French can be bridged as Italian between first two thirds of distance and Spanish between the second two thirds. And the distance within the third third can be bridged as Spanish - Catalan - Provençal - Francoprovençal - French. In other words, how much one language "evolves" does not imply anything about how fast the next one does, each has its own rate.

The linguistic facts that I know for facts do not directly support the Tower of Babel as a fact. Proto-Indo-Eropean is dated 3000 BC or possibly 2500 BC as the latest possible, since 2000 BC we get Hittite and 1500 BC Vedic Sanskrit. Other datings go as far back as 10.000 years ago for common ancestor of Hittite and Indo-European. But neither do they contradict it. If change can happen consciously and slowly (each generation changing only little and feeling about it as if chosing to keep or drop an h), they can also be done by God's miracle, as easily as the processes of growing and fermenting wine could be shortcircuited by the author of it all, when he made wine from water in Canah.

The facts I know for facts do contradict the kind of assumptions earlier made about linguistic changes, such as were in the 19th C. used even by linguists and are even now used by non-linguist atheists as a parallel example of non-intentional accumulative change that is somehow nevertheless supposed to give us functional languages like we have today.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Nanterre University Library
and Georges Pompidou Library
St Linus Pope and Martyr

PS, one more thing. Language is a given. Unlike the scenarios for picking up endings or dropping endings, there is no plausible scenario for any language starting without some of above mentioned categories and slowly adding them. Human language, in its double articulation (messages divided or articulated into parts each with a meaning like words or case endings, words or case endings divided into parts which taken separately have no meaning and of which there is about one alphabet full or little more in each language) is a powerful demonstration against humans evolving from apes of any kind.

PPS - two more considerations. One is that since Jean Aitchison is herself an evolution believer, she wrote none of what I cited in the intention of helping me refute evolutionist arguments - unless she is concerned for her side, as I for mine, to debunk arguments no more worth using. She would also of course not agree with my comment in the previous PS. She even wrote an evolutionist book which I have not yet read and therefore not yet refuted. Will if I get a chance, though, I owe her that.

The other is this, strictly for Bible believers: immediately after Babel you would have 72 languages. Barring a few getting close to Hebrew (since Hebrews were to live among these peoples) and getting therefore classed as same language family, earlier "Semitic", now "Semitic" and "Hamitic" are classed together as Afro-Asiatic, barring that, we would have many different language families, and in fact linguists nowadays count only 32 of them. So, maybe certain original languages and language families coalesced by borriwing words and endings and grammatical traits from each other (a phenomenon known as Sprachbund), or maybe God put Hebrew on a kind of rewind of a purely theoretical language development to get to a purely theoretical proto-semitic-and-hamitic and then fast-forwarded to the other Afro-Asiatic ones, and did something similar for Indo-European and Fenno-Ugrian ones. Either scenario is consistent both with what we humanly know from linguistics and with what we known about the Miraculous punishment at Babel./HGL


Preview. First chapter and index of Jean Aitchison : Language change : Progress or decay?

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