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Category:   E-InfoReq
Subject:   Language Classification by Numbers
From:   Yuri Tambovtsev
Email:   yutamb_(on)_mail.cis.ru
Date received:   25 Sep 2006

Dear all, I wonder if you are interested in the subject : How natural and real are the language families in the new book on world languages by April and Robert McMahon "Language Classification by Numbers"? I hope all the books are available for you. It is not so in my case, unfortunately. I found some short information about the book by April and Robert McMahon "Language Classification by Numbers". - Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. I failed to get this book to read. This is why, I can't say if I disagree or if I totally agree with the authors' analysis. Does this book use any new numerical data, like the compactness? I wish the authors would express some new ideas, certainly regarding the most well-known taxa like Uralic (Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic), Indo-European, and Altaic (Turkic, Mongolic and Tungus-Manchurian), especially. About other language families I do not know that much however, having studied only of them. In my personal opinion F-U and I-E are indeed some sort of Sprachbund. I also wonder if you totally agree with the following statement of mine: " though the fundamentals of the definitions of these language families are rather weak and obsolete, they have never been reconsidered. In physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and other natural sciences the fundamentals of classifications are analysed and reconsidered by every generation of the scholars". I wrote my papers on the classification of world languages from the point of view of quantitative phonology and typology. I wonder how the current theories of language taxa tested in this book. I wonder if this book formulates new ideas and demonstrate new language taxa? I wonder if new convincing results are produced? I wonder if there are many new 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, Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, Afroasiatic 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. The linguists do not want to trouble the "sleeping dogs". Why is it so that in physics, mathemathics, chemistry, biology and other natural sciences the fundamentals of classifications are analysed and reconsidered by every generation of the scholars. Why it is Not so in linguistics? Or may be I am not aware of such critical works, since US and European linguistic journals are not available for me. 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 taxons: 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 yutamb_(on)_mail.ru Is it possible to publish my article about it in some journal? I wonder if you could tell me more details expressed in this new book "Language Classification by Numbers" (2005)? How is the defusion of the world languages measured in the exact numbers? Looking forward to hearing from you soon to yutamb_(on)_mail.ru Your sincerely Yuri Tambovtsev _______________________________________________ Elsnet-list mailing list Elsnet-list_(on)_elsnet.org http://mailman.elsnet.org/mailman/listinfo/elsnet-list

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