18.727 hierarchy of language taxons

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 07:58:35 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 727.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 07:49:53 +0100
         From: Baden Hughes <badenh_at_cs.mu.OZ.AU>
         Subject: Re: 18.721 hierarchy of language taxons?

The question of language classifications, relations and taxonomies is not
as understudied or published as your correspondent might believe. It is
true that these matters are of some considerable debate in the linguistics
community and consensus has not emerged as to the fine grained scientific
divisions which some parties seek to impose on the language
relation/classification context. There are many people working on various
aspects of this problem in the historical and comparative linguistics
domain, and various proposals circulating. Consensus is that language
complexity is probably not easily reduced to a closed set of categories as
is the case in a range of other sciences.

As to publishing the paper referred to, I cannot comment on the suitability
of it per se for any particular journal, but there are many to choose from
in linguistics generally, and reviewing is usually quite rigorous. In any
case, non-acceptance for publication doesn't necessarily imply that the
ideas in any given paper are not valid, and reviewer comments will reveal
areas which could be addressed to mould the manuscript into more acceptable


> In my opinion hierarchy of the language subgroups, groups, families and
>other language taxons is one of the most global, central, important and
>leading in linguistics. However, linguistics journals do not bother to
>publish the articles on this burning question.This is why, I'd like to ask
>you to share with me your opinion on the hierarchy of the language taxons.
>Or may be, you know a journal which could publish my article on the most
>global, central, important and leading problem of linguistics? That is the
>burden of the upper class journal. I noticed that monor and special
>linguistic journals do not bother to publish articles on general problems
>of linguistics. In my opinion, we should discuss the most general and
>burning linguistic issues online. There are some problems which can only be
>solved and are to be
>solved by the community of world linguists. It could be done with the help
>of a discussion online or in some linguistic journal.
> I think that linguistics lacks a strict, proper and unambiguous
>definition of the hierarchy of the sets of languages, which are
>usually called language branches, subgroups, groups and families. In other
>words, linguistics lacks
>the establishment of the strict, proper and unanimously accepted
>ordered series of language taxons. In my mind, this series hierarchy
>should begin with the smallest language taxon (like "a branch of
>languages") and the biggest one (like "a community of languages").
>Thus, we can propose to discuss in your journal the hierarchy of the
>language taxons. By the smallest language taxon we mean the
>language taxon, which includes the least number of languages. The
>languages in this taxon must be closely connected or related either
>genetically, or typologically. It is quite logical to begin with the
>notion of a branch since it is the smallest language taxon. Actually,
>the smallest is the tightest and the most compact language taxon.
>Therefore, the biggest language taxon ("community of languages")
>may be the loosest or the least compact one.
> In fact, we propose to define the following ordered series:
>Let us see how interested the world linguists are in establishing good
>order in linguistics. Are there any volunteers to discuss the hierarchy
>of language taxons? If so, please, share your opinions with us
>sending your e-mails to <mailto:yutamb_at_hotmail.com>yutamb_at_hotmail.com
>Remain yours most sincerely
>Yuri Tambovtsev, Novosibirsk Pedagogical University,
>Novosibirsk, Russia
Received on Fri Apr 22 2005 - 03:22:42 EDT

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