18.437 how natural and real language families?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2004 10:25:23 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 437.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2004 10:20:42 +0000
         From: "Yuri Tambovtsev" <yutamb_at_mail.cis.ru>
         Subject: How natural and real language families?

Dear Humanist colleages, are there many publications which prove on
phonological or phonetical level that classically defined language families
and other language taxons are natural and real. I mean Indo-European,
Finno-Ugric, Samoyedic, Tungus-Manchirian, Mongolic, Turkic, Paleo-Asiatic,
Sono-Tibetan, Austronesian and other classically defined language families.
It looks like some of them are not very compact from the phono-typological
point of view. It seems to me that all the world linguists are quite happy
with the defined language families, though the fundamentals of these
definitions are rather weak and obsolete. In physics, mathemathics,
chemistry, biology and other natural sciences the fundamentals of
classifications are analysed and reconsidered by every generation of the
scholars. Not so in linguistics. Or may be I am not aware of such critical
works. I have calculated the compactness of several language families from
the typological point of view and discovered that there is a great
difference between them. The most compact is the Mongolic language family
Its dispersion is only 10.78%, while the dispertion of the
Tungus-Manchurian (18.60%) or Turkic (18.77%) language families is greater.
The dispersion of Finno-Ugric (24.14%) or Indo-European (28.00%) language
families is much greater. It may mean that Finno-Ugric or Indo-European
families are not natural and real families, but some sort of
conglomerations or Sprachbunds. Not to speak of the dispersion of the
Altaic (25.97%) or Uralic (28.31%) language unities which should never be
called language families if we consider a language family some more compact
language taxon. In this case, only Mongolic language family seems to be
natural and real. Should we consider the other language families language
unities or Sprachbunds? Or what? May be some sparce language unions or
language communities? Or what? Is it not the high time to define language
1) branch;
2) subgroup;
3) grpoup;
4) family;
5) unity;
6) union;
7) filia;
8) community.
Any other taxons?
   I wish you could send me your ideas about language families and the other
language taxons to my correct e-mail address
<mailto:yutamb_at_hotmail.com>yutamb_at_hotmail.com Looking forward to hearing
from you soon to <mailto:yutamb_at_hotmail.com>yutamb_at_hotmail.com Your
sincerely Yuri Tambovtsev
Received on Sat Dec 18 2004 - 05:31:16 EST

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