Nik Taylor wrote:
>Have any of you clicked on the link nearby, the "Caveman words", at
>http://www.discovery.com/news/briefs/20000420/misc_babtable.html ? It
>gives the following "protowords":
This looks like the work of Ruhlen and Bengtson. I've looked at their work on
this subject, and they just don't have a clue. The data they use for their
"reconstructions" are so semantically and phonetically loose, that you could
fit almost anything in.
For example, not included in this list is TIK "one; finger"
T - s, t, d, d’, ts, z, t’, tj, tl, tl’, lh (lateral fricative), nt, dl, th
in English), c, ts’, ch, sh
I - i, e, o, @ (schwa), u, E, a, ei, ai, ay, y (front rounded), barred-i, ia,
ea, ï, ö
K - k, x, g, h, kk, ?, hw, q, kh, k’, N, kw, xw, qw, ch, j, X
As you can imagine, some words that are created from these sets hardly like
TIK. To make matters worse, they allow completely free metathesis and
deletion, and insertion of all kinds of sounds (mostly nasals and glottal
stops). Worst part - they are willing to take any string with these sounds,
whether or not they are separate morphemes. Try Imihita _meuxtsekoa_
"finger". Claiming that there is a connection between this and Japanese _te_
"hand" really stretches their credibility.
Semantic variation: TIK "one; finger" was "reconstructed" from words meaning:
finger, one, ten, first, toe, only, merely, thing, guy, hand, five, once,
paw, middle finger, index finger, single, fingernail, arm, to point with the
finger, alone, thumb, and (my favorite) to say.
Some of these are clearly possible, but others (to say, guy) are insane. With
this kind of semantic latitude, anything could be related to anything.
They have given "mathematical proofs" that the odds of these resemblances
actually occuring are too small to be due to accident, but even their math is