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>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":
>
>[snip list]
>
>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"
>Allowed correspondances:
>T - s, t, d, d, ts, z, t, tj, tl, tl, lh (lateral fricative), nt, dl, th
>(as
>in English), c, ts, ch,  sh
>I - i, e, o, @ (schwa), u, E, a, ei, ai, ay, y (front rounded), barred-i, ia,
>ea, , 
>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.

To be precise:  The fault with these reconstructions lies not in the
phonetic discrepancy between alleged cognates, but in the lack of
systematic sound correspondences.  I would be willing to buy a
sound correspondence of, say, /k/ and /j/ if it could be demonstrated
that this correspondence shows up consistently in cognate after
cognate.  From a linguistic standpoint, the real problem with Proto-
World reconstructions is not their implausibility, but their ad hocness.

Matt.