[Top] [All Lists]

Re: [ontolog-forum] (OT) German

To: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2008 15:45:48 -0500
Message-id: <478D1B7C.5080200@xxxxxxxx>
John,    (01)

Thanks.  We may want to continue this offline, but I'm running out of time.    (02)

you wrote:    (03)

> To comment on your last point first:
>  > I can't find a model for the domination of language that explains
>  > the diverse effects of the Roman occupation of the Celt-Iberian
>  > region and the subsequent Germanic invasions in both France and
>  > England.
> I highly recommend the following book, which is very readable:
>    _Empires of the Word:  A Language History of the World_,
>    by Nicholas Ostler, Harper Perennial, New York.
> The paperback version is unavailable at Amazon, but they still have
> a few hardback copies for $24.95.
> That book is over 600 pages long, but you don't have to read it
> straight through.  Chapter 7, which is about 40 pages long, has
> the title "Contesting Europe:  Celt, Roman, German, and Slav".    (04)

Thanks for this.  This is just my kind of thing, so the 600 pages isn't 
daunting.    (05)

>  > I recently saw a PBS special about an archeological discovery
>  > somewhere along the silk road in what is now Tadzhikistan (I think).
>  > It is a bronze-age PIE site, and they believe it may have been
>  > the birthplace/home of the people whose language came to dominate
>  > much of Eurasia.  But that makes it c.2000 B.C., not 4000 B.C.
> The date of 4000 to 6000 BC is the estimated date of a unified PIE.
> By 2000 BC, the languages had already begun to spread and diversify,
> and the version spoken in that region probably belonged to the
> Indo-Iranian branch.     (06)

I suspect that the intent of the archeologists was that the site 
represented a source point for the European branches.  This is the kind 
  of problem that appears when turning stuff as detailed and complex as 
this into a 1-hour TV program for the generic intellectual.    (07)

> One of the languages spoken in that area
> was an Iranian language called Sogdian. (Alexander the Great
> married Roxanne, a Sogdian princess, partly for political reasons.)    (08)

In 328 B.C.  Whether Sogdia was a meaningful concept in 1800 B.C. is 
"quite another thing entirely".  Alexander's own kingdom (Macedon) was a 
backwoods chiefdom when Socrates was teaching in Athens, just 200 years 
earlier.    (09)

>  > Estonian, which is apparently a cross between a Baltic tongue
>  > and a Suomo-Ugric tongue, much as English is a cross between
>  > a Germanic tongue (Anglo-Saxon) and a Romance tongue (Norman
>  > French).
> The word 'cross' is misleading because it suggests an equal and
> parallel contribution from each, but there are two distinct
> kinds of mixtures:
>  1. When two unrelated (or distantly related) languages are mixed,
>     the syntax of the base language remains unchanged, but there
>     is an enormous borrowing of words (as happened with English
>     and Norman French).    (010)

Agree.  This is what I had in mind, and even that was fuzzy.  In this 
regard, I am reporting only my interpretation of a conversation I had 
with a friend who is Finnish.  ("I wasn't there, I only relate what was 
told to me by the Chinese plate.")    (011)

>  > Basque (Bizkaian/Viscayan) is assumed to be an Iberian language,
>  > named for the peoples who inhabited the Atlantic coast of Europe
>  > before the Celtic invasions of the 5th century BC.  The people the
>  > Romans called Picti (painted) in what is now Scotland were probably
>  > also Iberians, and there was an Iberian people in Cornwall until at
>  > least the 1st century.
> There was a Celto-Iberian language in Spain before the Romans arrived,
> and it was related to the Celtic languages of the British Isles. But
> it was totally unrelated to Basque.    (012)

That differs from what I remember (but admittedly from long ago).    (013)

There was a "Celt-Iberian" language in Spain, which was probably a 
"cross by conquest" as above.  But by the time the Romans got there 
(which is where most of our knowledge of it comes from), it was 
essentially a Celtic language with some significant syntax differences 
and some unusual words. (This suggests that the Celtic was imposed on a 
different underlying language structure, as John observed.)  There was 
also a significant Phoenician/Carthaginian presence in Spain, and their 
language was of Semitic origin, but Basque shows no Semitic origins.  So 
to say that the back-country language of central Spain was "Iberian" and 
"totally unrelated to (modern) Basque" is presumptuous.  It is proper to 
say that, with our very limited knowledge of the older language, no 
clear relationship has been observed.    (014)

We should also note that several important syntactic structures of 
modern French, for example, are quite different from those of Latin.  So 
it is not safe to say that (modern) Basque is unrelated to the language 
the Romans documented, just because it doesn't exhibit some of the 
syntactic structures they commented on.    (015)

> Cornish was a Celtic language.  Scottish Gaelic is a version of Irish
> Gaelic that the Irish monks taught to the Picts.     (016)

All very true, and not at issue.  And they taught it to the "northern 
peoples" generally, which probably included other Celts as well.  Irish 
Gaelic was a written language in 400 A.D., and the "northern peoples", 
who had always existed largely beyond the influence of Rome, generally 
didn't read or write.    (017)

> The Picts wouldn't
> have learned Gaelic unless they already spoke a closely related
> Celtic language.     (018)

Just as Anglo-Saxon nobles wouldn't have learned Norman French unless 
they already spoke a closely related Romance language?  It depends on 
what the motivation was.  The Irish monks were interested in bringing 
pagan souls to God, and they had a mission to educate.  Their teachers 
spoke Irish Gaelic and Latin, and their teaching texts were written in 
those languages. Also, there was commercial value to the Picts learning 
a Celtic tongue, since those were spoken by the locals on both sides of 
the Irish Sea. So familiarity with a Celtic tongue was not so unlikely 
for a Pict. In the 4 centuries of Roman occupation, the British Celtic 
tribes of the north reportedly regarded the Picts as a different people, 
whose language and customs were totally foreign.  So I have a hard time 
accepting this argument.    (019)

> There was undoubtedly a non-Celtic language spoken
> many centuries earlier by the people who built Stonehenge.  It's
> conceivable, but nobody knows whether it was related to Basque.    (020)

Indeed.  But the Stonehenge builders do show consistency in practices 
and some wares with other "Iberian" (i.e. pre-Celtic) sites in France 
and Spain.    (021)

> The Phoenicians were traveling as far as Britain long before the
> Romans arrived, and if any Basque speakers showed up in Cornwall,
> they were probably sailors who arrived on Phoenician ships.    (022)

But there are "Iberian sites" in Cornwall, and the last are contemporary 
with the early Roman occupation, which probably drove the rebellious 
Celtic peoples further west.  (It isn't accidental that Bristol was one 
of the four Roman legionnary bases.)  And there is evidence of trade 
among the Iberian peoples of the Atlantic coast in "Phoenician times", 
i.e. 900-500 B.C.  After the Phoenician colonies were created in Spain 
around 700, it seems more likely that the Phoenicians learned the 
Atlantic trade routes from the Iberians.  We know, for example, that tin 
was imported into Spain from Cornwall before the Phoenicians arrived.    (023)

Basque is not Semitic, and it is not Indo-European (except for some 
fairly recent additions).  The Basque people themselves say that their 
land and their language are older than every invader.    (024)

And if you have been there, you know that the overland approach from 
anywhere else in Spain is a lot like invading Switzerland, and the 
seacoast is mean.  Bilbao itself is in a "hole" -- a deep valley 
surrounded by mountains -- with a narrow access to the sea.  The place 
would have been impregnable to any pre-gunpowder force.  And it strikes 
me that Bilbao and its people must somehow have dominated the sea in 
that area, because it is still called the Bay of Biscay (Bizkaia, which 
is what the Basque call their land) in French, Spanish and English.    (025)

I wasn't aware that we knew enough about any Iberian languages to say 
whether Basque is related to them.  In my time, it was simply easier to 
say Basque is "Iberian" = the people older than all the invaders on the 
historical record.    (026)

Perhaps there is new knowledge now.  (I told John once before that my 
formal education in this stuff was 40 years ago.  The rest is a 
consequence of eclectic reading.)    (027)

-Ed    (028)

P.S. I am amused by the fact that we seem to be engaging in a classical 
19th century kind of academic debate, and by post, of course.    (029)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (030)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (031)

Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/  
Subscribe/Config: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/  
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ 
To Post: mailto:ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    (032)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>