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Hallo conlangers!

On Friday 22 July 2011 07:48:18, R A Brown wrote:

> On 21/07/2011 17:32, Gary Shannon wrote:
> [snip]
> 
> > That seems like the most plausible scenario. So perhaps
> > the semantic seriation can only go back so far to some
> > arbitrary starting point, say the language of the
> > "Mitochondrial Eve" 200,000 years ago. So we could say
> > that all the words in Eve's language are arbitrarily
> > deemed to be the "first words".
> 
> OK - but 200 000 years is still a long time back.  We
> have manage to more or less reconstruct a hypothetical
> Proto-Indo-European - but getting back beyond that is
> not so easy. I know there are various different Nostratic
> theories around but, as yet, none AFAIK command general
> acceptance.  As for Mitochondrial Eve's vocabulary, that
> can only been speculation at best.

Indeed, indeed.  Proto-Indo-European was spoken about 5,000
or 6,000 years ago; that is much much younger than the first
_Homo sapiens_.  The deepest we can look by means of the
comparative method is perhaps 10,000 years; the latest
common ancestor of Indo-European and Uralic may be that
age, but that is still only 1/20 of 200,000 years.

Several attempts at the reconstruction of "Proto-World" have
been published on the Web; none of them does even get close
to being worthy of serious discussion (at least, none of
those I have seen), and many were just barking mad.

> ========================================================
> 
> On 21/07/2011 18:16, Piermaria Maraziti wrote:
>  > On 19/07/11 08:31, Gary Shannon wrote:
>  >> The first question would be which are the "day-one"
>  >> words? Words that
>  > 
>  > /DELURK
>  > 
>  > Check this:
>  > http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/valk/OG_REV.html
> 
> I have, and am somewhat under-impressed.  It merely
> perpetuates standard caveman stereotype of modern
> urban myth.

Well, it is just a satirical RPG meant to have fun with clichés
about pre-sapiens hominins.  I think the authors do know quite
well that those caveman stereotypes are wrong-headed and that
"cavemen" never lived contemporaneously with dinosaurs ;)

But actually, the sounds ascribed to stereotypical caveman talk
(back vowels and velar consonants), I seem to remember having
read somewhere, are precisely those pre-sapiens hominins such
as _Homo erectus_ would have had most difficulties articulating,
due to a shorter pharynx or something like that.  A _Homo erectus_
asked to say "Uk!" may have produced something sounding more like
English _it_ or maybe _itch_ because he could not articulate the
sounds farther back!

Certainly, our early ancestors *did* speak something more
"primitive" than the kind of languages humans speak today some
time in the past, but we do not know which features of human
language evolved when.
 
>  > It's an RPGs in which you play a caveman and you must
>  > speak with other players using only these words (a fairly
>  > interesting set of "primeval words", methinks):
>  > 
>  > me you water fire go big small thing hit [the original
>  > has bang but the meaning is this] cave sleep food tree
>  > furry [perhaps "animal" would be best] stone stinky sun
>  > 
>  > I'd add "danger".
> 
> Umm - rather less vocabulary than that used by the UK
> Chanel 4 Neanderthals!
> http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/N/neanderthal/

I have noticed that some of the words listed there sound
vaguely Indo-European; in reality, there certainly was no
connection whatsoever between Neanderthals and Indo-European
languages (this was discussed here in October 2008).

> We have discussed proto-language on this list before and
> I've gone on record as saying how profoundly I disagree
> with the stereotypical "YOU ME BIG-GO - BIG BIG SMELLY BANG
> THING" rubbish.

Yes.  It is rubbish.

--
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"Bêsel asa Êm, a Êm atha cvanthal a cvanth atha Êmel." - SiM 1:1