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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 18:04:15 -0500
Message-id: <478D3BEF.9000608@xxxxxxxx>
John,    (01)

You make a good point.  Buried in the various bits of your email is the 
observation that the term "Iberian people" in referring to the 
precursors of the Celts along the Atlantic coast isn't necessarily a 
reference to a single culture unified by a common language stem.  We 
don't have enough knowledge to say that.  (And as you point out, we know 
from the native Americans and the peoples of New Guinea that multiple 
peoples with different language families and cultures still often trade 
and share or borrow some practices.)    (02)

>  > 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.
> The differences between Latin and the Romance languages are trivial
> compared to the differences between Basque and any Indo-European
> language.      (03)

That wasn't my point.  No one asserted that Basque was Indo-European.    (04)

The argument was that we can't judge the relationship between modern 
Basque and some first century Celt-Iberian language on the basis of a 
handful of unusual syntactic formations that were observed in the 1st 
century language.  The best we can say is that, if the Basque language 
family ever had such formations, Basque has lost them in 2000 years.    (05)

> Since there is so little evidence about the language of the Picts,
> it's hard to say anything for certain about them.  I would even be
> willing to accept that they spoke some language that was derived
> from whatever the builders of Stonehenge spoke, which could well
> have been related to Basque.   But after a thousand or more years
> of independent development, it would have diverged far from Basque.    (06)

Surely.  The question is whether their languages belonged to a common 
family that predates the Indo-European dominance in Europe.  And the 
answer is that we simply don't know.  Surely, there was at least one 
such language family -- human languages go back at least 20,000 years. 
But there may well have been several unrelated families along the 
Atlantic coast.    (07)

My original position was that Basque is descended from one of those 
languages, because it is not Indo-European and it is not Semitic, or in 
fact related to any other known language.  And I should have made that 
clearer.  I made the mistake of using a now-probably-outdated term for 
the pre-Celtic peoples of the Atlantic coast -- "Iberians".  As you say, 
we don't know whether that was one people or several peoples, one 
language family or several.  The term is a catchall for a collection of 
peoples that were contemporaneous and largely unknown.    (08)

>  > But the Stonehenge builders do show consistency in practices and
>  > some wares with other "Iberian" (i.e. pre-Celtic) sites in France
>  > and Spain.
> That would be evidence of trade, but not of a common language.
> There were many common wares and cultural practices among the
> native Americans, despite the many different language families.    (09)

Yes.  What I had in mind was building practices and burial practices and 
ornamentation, as well as trade.  But other archeology shows that even 
those "cultural tells" are sometimes adopted from neighbors over time.    (010)

>  > The Basque people themselves say that their land and their
>  > language are older than every invader.
> That is certainly true.  Lots of invaders, such as the Visigoths,
> called themselves "conquerors of the Basques", but their language
> died out while the Basques remained.    (011)

The Visigoths brought nothing but military prowess. They weren't even 
numerous enough to create a significant presence in the large 
populations of the territories they conquered.  When they ran out of 
worlds to conquer, they were just absorbed.    (012)

It is interesting to wonder why the Visigoths would be proud of 
conquering the Basque people.  They were either a significant populace 
in 500 A.D. or regarded as invincible.  Having seen the country, I favor 
the latter. Conquering Bizkaia has got to have been more work than it 
was worth.  But if your purpose was to demonstrate your prowess...    (013)

-Ed    (014)

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    (015)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (016)

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