Interesting little graph here from an unpublished paper by Stefan Georg. Now according to linguistic consensus, Eskimo-Aleut and Uralic are simply not related. They have never been proven to have been related. Uralic is a group consisting of Finnic (Finnish and related tongues), Ugric (Hungarian and related languages) and Samoyedic (a variety of different languages stretching from the Urals far into Siberia. Uralo-Eskimo does not exist. It is the author’s name for a hypothetical language family intended to show the probable genetic relationship going on here.
Below is the paradigm for personal possessive suffixes in both groups. Look how well they line up. This is the sort of thing we look for when we try to see if two languages are related. For one, personal pronouns and their derivatives are rarely borrowed between languages. For another thing, entire sets such as listed below, which are called paradigms, are almost never or never borrowed. Morphology is also not borrowed much. Entire paradigm sets of suffixal morphology in personal pronouns is typically considered prima facie evidence of a genetic relationship between tongues. Here we have an entire paradigm of pronoun morphology between two supposedly unrelated language families lining up almost perfectly. The skeptical argument is that this paradigm could have been borrowed. You know what? That didn’t happen. Getting down to brass tacks, there is no way to explain charts like below other than genetically.
Uralo-Eskimo Samoyedic Eskimo-Aleut Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural 1sg -m -t-m -mǝ -t-mǝ -m-(ka) -t-m-(ka) 2sg -t -t-t -tǝ -t-tǝ -n/t -tǝ-n/t 3sg -sa -i-sa -sa -i-sa -sa -i-sa 1pl -mǝ-t -n/t-mǝ-t -ma-t -t/n-ma-t -mǝ-t -mǝ-t 2pl -tǝ-t -t-mǝ-t -ta-t -t-ta-t -tǝ-t -tǝ-t 3pl -sa-t -i-sa-t -i-to-n -to-n -sa-t -i-sa-t
The problem with historical linguistics is that it has gotten away from its roots. Typically languages were determined to be related through simple observation. Later on, efforts at reconstructing the ancient proto-language with possible sound laws and regular sound correspondences can be done. This is what Sir William Jones did when he announced the discovery of the Indo-European language family at a speech to an academic society in India in the late 1700’s. No one had done any reconstruction at that time and to this day, there are many problems with the reconstruction of Proto Indo European to say nothing of lesser known large families.
What happened was the reconstruction crowd took over the field and historical linguistics became much more conservative. First you had to do reconstruction and find cognates and regular sound correspondences, and then and only then could two languages be shown to be related. This was not so much true with obviously closely related languages but surely it was the case with the larger macrofamilies. This became known as “the comparative method” and to this day, it remains supreme in our silly field of linguistics.
This is how it works.
- Determine that the languages are related. First via observation, you look at a group of languages and determine them to be related by finding such dead giveaways as the paradigm above.
- Reconstruct. Later, often much later, you reconstruct the proto-language that they descended from and try to find cognates and regular sound correspondences.
The new Comparative Method Conservatives do it like this:
- Reconstruct. First you reconstruct the proto-language that a number of possibly related languages descended from, hopefully with regular sound correspondences.
- Determine that the languages are related. Then and only then can a group of languages be said to be related.
The new way is ass-backwards, and in recent years, we have not been discovering many new language families due to the conservatism of this silly approach.
- Georg, Stephan. 2001. Cross-Bering Comparisons. Unpublished paper. (presented at Leiden University).
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