[b-hebrew] Language, Culture or Both? was Nostratic

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Wed Apr 18 18:26:41 EDT 2007

Dear Yitzhak,

Thank you for the information on Nostratic.

I have questions based on what is found in the Bible (Genesis 10-11) First,
are the different groups, Indo-European (Japheth), Semitic (Shem), and
Afro-Hamite (Ham). There are areas of some assimilation of the Semitic with
the Hebrew spending 430 years in Goshen, Egpyt (Egyptian loanwords). The
Assyrian-Babylonian Captivities with the assimilation of Aramaic (the use of
Aramaic square script and several chapters of Daniel and Ezra in Aramaic
including the references in II Kings 18 that Hebrew was understood by
Rab-shakeh and Aramaic understood by the Hezekiah's representatives).
Finally, on a historical basis is that the Medeo-Persian Empire was the
first non-Semitic empire. If I remember correctly, and I could be wrong, it
this fact of the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires being Semitic. So, when we
speak of Indo-European, Semitic and Afro-Hamite, are we speaking of culture,
language or both? What are the differences? What are the similarities?

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Yitzhak Sapir" <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2007 12:37 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Nostratic

> On 4/18/07, Peter Kirk wrote:
> > Yonah, you can't see this clearly in Latin because the fusion actually
> > took place much earlier. If you look back at reconstructed
> > Proto-Indo-European, see the examples I gave earlier, the
> > correspondences are much more clear. Despite what Uri wrote, that "this
> > is the realm of sheer speculation", this is in fact as clearly
> > demonstrated as anything can be from the remote past. This is how
> > language works, even if you have to look a bit beyond Latin 101 to see
> Saenz-Badillos has this to say on Nostratic:
> "Starting with the publications of H. Moller at the beginning of the
> century, there have been a number of studies on the relationship of the
> Afro-Asiatic phylum and Indo-European, despite the problems associated
> with this kind of study.  Although the lexical comparisons of Moller and
> Honnorat did not seem particularly compelling, pioneering studies of
> comparative phonetics and morphology, such as those of A. Cuny, have
> helped clarify the relationship.  However, as a result of assumptions
> racial history then prevalent, Cuny, and other scholars like H. Pedersen
> and G.I. Ascoli, went beyond the evidence of shared linguistic features in
> developing the hypothesis of a proto-language which was the common
> ancestor of both Indo-European and Hamito-Semitic.  Ascoli called this
> putative language 'Aryo-Semitic', whereas Pedersen and Cuny preferred
> 'Nostratic'.  Other scholars, such as P. Meriggi, also came to support
> this idea, which, however, should not be regarded as well-founded."
> "In this type of analysis the methods used are of primary importance, and
> nowadays the approach of Moller and Cuny is rightly viewed with suspicion.
> But there are difficulties as well with the more recent analysis by S.
> who, basing himself primarily on vocalized texts, concluded that there are
> many common features among Hebrew, 'an aberrant Semitic language',
> Greek, and Sanskirt.  Other studies, like that of M. Fraenkel, which
> in the path laid down by Moller, are excessively simplistic, limited to a
> rather crude, unscientific, comparison of vocabulary."
> Don Ringe, in 'Reconstructed Ancient Languages' from the Cambridge
> Encylocpedia of the World's Ancient Languages concludes his discussion
> of the methods of reconstruction with:
> "At this point it should be clear to the reader that rigor, caution, and a
> general knowledge of linguistics that is as wide as possible are crucial
> the reconstruction of protolanguages.  Those considerations alone refute
> the claims of some scholars to have established so-called long-range
> genetic groupings of langauges that include several recognized families
> (such as 'Nostratic' and 'Amerind'), because /without exception/ their
> work fails to meet the best standards of mainstream historical linguistics
> (see refutations in, /inter alios/, Campbell 1988, Vine 1991).  It is also
> true that simple, robust statistical tests reveal such claims to be
> untenable (see Ringe 1995, 1996a, 1999; Nichols and Peterson 1996 with
> references)."
> Going back to Saenz Badillos, the above discussion concludes on a
> hopeful note:
> "Much more acceptable is the work of M.L. Mayer, who, without employing
> the image of a family tree, examined the zones of contact between the two
> language groups, drawing attention to Akkadian-Hittite and
> isoglosses, Semitic loanwords in Greek, and so on.  We agree with his
> conclusion that it is becoming ever more likely that in prehistoric times
> groups of Indo-European and Semitic languages co-existed or at least
> existed in close proximity to one another, and that perhaps, after
> completion of the necessary investigations, it might be possible to speak
> not of a 'mother language' (in the sense intended by Ascoli, Moller,
> Pedersen, or Cuny), but of a range of isoglosses across the Indo-
> European and Semitic languages."
> References follow.
> Yitzhak Sapir
> Saenz-Badillos, 1996.  A History of the Hebrew Language.  translated by
> John Elwolde
> Campbell, L. 1988, "Review of 'Language in the Americas.'" Language
> Nichols, J. and D. Peterson. 1996. "The Amerind personal pronouns."
> Language 72:336-71
> Ringe, D. 1995. "'Nostratic' aand the factor of chance." Diachronica
> Ringe, D. 1996a. "The mathematics of 'Amerind'." Diachronica 13:133-154
> Ringe, D. 1999. "How hard is it to match CVC-roots?" Transactions of the
>   Philological Society 97:213-244
> Vine, B. 1991.  "Indo-European and Nostratic." Indogermanische
> Forschugen 96:9-35
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