Indo-Uralic

Ben Jamin

Senior Member
Polish
I have recently found a book written by the Dutch professor Frederik Kortland about a hypothetic Indo-Uralic language. The book is freely available at Indo-Uralic . I have browsed the book and found an apparently sound academic treatise that demonstrates the development from the common Indo-Uralic language to modern Indo-European and Finno-Ugric languages, using the "Song of sheep and horses" as an example.
I am not a scholar in historical linguistics, so I'm not able to judge if the treatise is well founded, or not. I am interested in opinion of people that know more about the matter than me.
 
  • Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Any book by a professor should appear academically sound!

    A summary of the arguments for and against Indo-Uralic can be found here: Indo-Uralic languages - Wikipedia

    The problem with all theories looking to connect language families is that you are comparing two hypotheses, which puts you on shaky ground. A "proto" language is constructed by looking at attested languages and, whilst hypothetical and provisional, you are at least starting with certainties. When comparing two proto-languages you are comparing two uncertainties. The comparative method also has its limitations because languages do not evolve following a straightforward tree model, but borrow from each other. You do not have to go back millennia for there to be uncertainty about how one group of languages relates to another. Within Indo-European there is no agreement as to how the Baltic and Slavic languages relate to each other.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Any book by a professor should appear academically sound!

    A summary of the arguments for and against Indo-Uralic can be found here: Indo-Uralic languages - Wikipedia

    The problem with all theories looking to connect language families is that you are comparing two hypotheses, which puts you on shaky ground. A "proto" language is constructed by looking at attested languages and, whilst hypothetical and provisional, you are at least starting with certainties. When comparing two proto-languages you are comparing two uncertainties. The comparative method also has its limitations because languages do not evolve following a straightforward tree model, but borrow from each other. You do not have to go back millennia for there to be uncertainty about how one group of languages relates to another. Within Indo-European there is no agreement as to how the Baltic and Slavic languages relate to each other.
    You did not include any conclusion, but I interpret your reply in the following way "the method is irreproachable but the premises are weak, and the reconstruction is founded on a shaky ground. It's nothing more than a hypothesis, and may never be possible to verify or falsify". Do you agree?
    By the way, there are books written by professors that don't hold the necessary standard.
     

    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    All Indo-Uralic work so far, and Kortlandt's work is no exception, is currently at the stage of trying to find correspondences under the assumption that Indo-European and Uralic are related. That is, unlike the reconstruction of Indo-European, his reconstruction of Indo-Uralic is basically an educated guess. And an educated guess based on (a rather speculative) internal reconstruction of the prehistory of Indo-European.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You did not include any conclusion, but I interpret your reply in the following way "the method is irreproachable but the premises are weak, and the reconstruction is founded on a shaky ground. It's nothing more than a hypothesis, and may never be possible to verify or falsify". Do you agree?
    More or less except that, never having studied the comparative method in detail, I am unable to assess the soundness of the methodology. The purpose of my post was to make the very general point that the comparative method can only take you back so far and that any conclusion reached has to be regarded as provisional. The further you go back with a reconstruction the "more provisional" it is.

    The comparative method has various limitations. Whilst you begin with attested languages you do not know anything about unattested languages. (Views on Indo-European had to be revised when Hittite was deciphered). Languages do not develop neatly with each language being a discrete entity. You can never be certain whether a feature is inherited, an innovation or a borrowing.
     
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