Recent Posts

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10
1
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by Daniel on Today at 05:36:53 PM »
Quote
I am not sure I understand. Of course the proportion of words that look similar is higher among cognates than in those that aren't cognates (aside from borrowing). If there are a lot of cognates between languages, of course there are going to be cognates such as Croatian "svinja" and English "swine" or Croatian "sunce" and English "sun". It's not like all the phonemes are bound to change to dissimilar phonemes in a few thousand years.
Correct. I don't disagree with you about that, and the problem is less extreme than the example I gave. My point was that the most likely flaw in your argument (if there is one) would be that you are finding relatively obvious examples (that look convincing!), and that perhaps the true etymology is more obscure and less transparent than that. It's not about any of your particular derivations or anything, just a general comment of something to watch out for, example, if you might find some of your etymologies more intuitive than existing proposals (which might actually be correct because they are less intuitive, if you follow what I mean).

It is great though to see you incorporating the known sound changes into your work, so as I've said, your proposals seem plausible to me, and unfortunately I can't comment further than that.

Quote
This is not really related to the topic, but why are you guys so much against the attempts to reconstruct older proto-languages? If the first human languages were sign languages that gradually evolved into fully spoken languages, isn't it reasonable to assume that all spoken languages share a common ancestor?
That's a topic for another thread! But I'd be happy to discuss it. In short, after about 10,000 years the changes have piled up too much to be sure of what's a borrowing or a chance resemblance. I personally am not opposed to trying to go back farther, but there's a point where it becomes almost impossible. Reconstructing proto-world is just not possible, since it's at least 5 or 10 times older than that 10,000 'limit'. Maybe we can push the limit to 20,000 years, but 50,000 or 100,000? The two methods we have are broad statistical comparison that breaks down around 10,000 years (the noise can no longer be distinguished from the real data), or reconstructing based on our reconstructions, which is a viable possibility but ends up stretching our hypotheses (and layering them) too much to be sure of much. I could go into more detail (start a new topic?) if you'd like.

Quote
Why do you think those statistical methods work any better than common sense does? If you count the English dictionary equivalents of the Croatian words that start with a 't', do you think that a significant portion of them will start with a 'th'? Wouldn't the early loanwords and coincidences average them out?
I'm not arguing for blind statistics at all! What I'm saying is that if you have a large sample, you'll probably be right on average. If you have a single data point, there's no reason to assume you'll be right that one time. Imagine a game of darts where you win by guessing what the thrower is trying to hit. With a sample of one, you can only assume they were trying to hit wherever the dart landed (or near there). With a sample of 10 or 100 or more, you can much more likely guess where they were aiming overall. So figuring out whether two languages are related (do they share a lot of cognates) is a much easier question than figuring out the etymology of an individual word-- if you're wrong sometimes, you can still be right statistically, but not for an individual data point. Thus without any direct evidence, an individual etymology is harder to figure out and there's no clear way to verify that you're right.

But that doesn't mean we should just dump the dictionary into a statistical program and see what happens! (And far too often non-linguists do something along those lines and claim they've solved a major linguistics problem like where the homeland of Indo-European was-- they're almost always wrong, even though, unfortunately, papers like that can get a lot of attention in the world outside of linguistics.)

Quote
Well, finding a few hydronyms such as Colapis or Serapia, or a toponym near the river such as Andautonia, in a native American language would prove that my methodology is flawed. But I don't think there are such.
Your methodology isn't flawed. It's just not clear how to verify that your individual results are correct. (They might be!!) And it's certain that in general many places are named after bodies of water.

Quote
My most serious opponent is probably the Croatian etymologist Petar Skok, who ascribed many toponyms to "Mediterranian substratum", that is, the supposed Pelasgian language, spoken all the way from Itally to Turkey. His evidence was allegedly the same or similar elements appearing in toponyms in that area. However, he didn't ascribe any meaning to those supposedly repeating elements. So, I am pretty sure that his hypothesis is invalid.
Unclear. You might be right. The question is how to decide between the two.

Quote
I waged a Wikipedia war against his hypotheses there:
Wikipedia is not the place for original research, and a 'war' there is utterly meaningless, even if you 'win'. If you have new ideas, publish them. Sometimes science is no better than just sharing ideas and hoping other people read them. After they are published (and especially if others start to accept them as useful/good/reliable/etc. ideas) then you can cite them on Wikipedia (and elsewhere). And in publishing them you'll get a peer review from someone who really knows the specific subject in detail and can determine whether your contribution is worth sharing. The result will be your hypothesis as a competing hypothesis with the others out there. And time will tell what happens. Maybe nothing. Maybe just two plausible hypotheses with no clear way (currently) to decide between the two (that's what I observe at the moment). But yours will be on par with the other then.

Quote
I am a native speaker of Croatian and I know something about linguistics, so I think I can safely tell you that those etymologies are invalid.
Neither of those is a qualification for knowing etymologies. Native speakers have no intuition whatsoever about the historical state of their languages (I wasn't born knowing how Shakespeare wrote, for example, or with any intuition that my American English was somehow inherited from England, or before that older Germanic tribes). And knowing something about linguistics means you can attempt to figure it out (as you are doing!), not that your answers are necessarily correct.

Quote
And the same goes for the other supposed explanations using Croatian which I tried to contradict.
The way to dispute them is to show that you have an alternative explanation that is equally coherent, and that there may be some flaws in that argumentation. If so, you probably have something publishable. Again this isn't my personal area so I can't tell you if that's the case.

Quote
Quote
Etymology is not a major focus of linguistics publishing these days.
Perhaps because it takes less knowledge of linguistics to discuss morphosyntax than to discuss etymology. I could probably write two full pages about what part of speech is "plus" in Croatian without doing any actual research. But that probably won't be interesting to anybody whom I know.
Not that I'm personally offended, but that's a major oversimplification of things.
I don't disagree with you that there are some things in linguistics (including some published papers) that don't take much background to understand. But there are vastly more things that take a lot of background (e.g., a PhD, or lots and lots of self study). If you really know the subject well, the next step is to publish. If you're not ready for that, that's fine! But until you can publish about it, you're not at that level yet. (Admittedly there are some theory-internal political factors for some journals in terms of what will be likely to be published, but rarely will it matter who you are because for good journals the process is double-blind so they don't know your name or whether you're affiliated with a university or whatever; watch out for predatory pay-to-publish journals that will publish just about anything they receive, but that's another story).

As for the real reasons why etymology isn't a major topic in linguistics today, here are some bullet points:
--Historical linguistics in general is not a major topic anymore. I personally don't like that (and some others also want to promote it), but most research now is about how languages 'work' (in the brain, in the mind, in society, in their structure, etc.) rather than where they came from.
--Emphasis is on how languages work rather than the details of individual lexical items.
--Etymology is still alive and well (relatively speaking) in the field of philology, which is like linguistics, but more interested in describing details like etymology rather than an explanatory science (linguistics) about how language works.
--Plus, etymology requires high level knowledge of individual languages, and (unfortunately in my opinion) the personal language knowledge of individual linguists seems to be in decline, in favor of things like statistical, experimental, computational, corpus, etc., methods. To oversimplify, not all linguists today have studied Latin and Greek (as was once common), and few study Indo-European roots in detail-- Historical linguists do, but there are fewer of them, as I said.
--Overall, there is also the fact that much of Historical Linguistics and etymology, in the sense that it interested the first historical linguists a couple centuries ago (and which eventually lead to modern Linguistics as a science), has actually been solved. There are dictionaries of etymologies for Proto-Indo-European roots, and while they are far from flawless, a large amount of research has been done, and has been done well. So linguists have moved on to other projects, while of course some still work on issues related to those original topics.

(Personally I study syntax, as well as morphology and semantics, mostly from the perspective of 'how language works', but also from historical and comparative perspectives. So I can certainly comment on this topic, but you'll need to find someone who specializes in Indo-European etymology, and perhaps Croatian in particular, to give you specialized feedback on this topic. It's nice to see you working on it though!)
2
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Favourite etymologies
« Last post by Daniel on Today at 04:50:32 PM »
Another fun one I came across just recently is Spanish trabajar ('to work') originally coming from the meaning 'to torture':
http://dle.rae.es/?id=aBpHmn0
Quote
Del lat. vulg. *tripaliāre 'torturar', der. del lat. tardío tripalium 'instrumento de tortura compuesto de tres maderos'.
"From Vulgar Latin *tripaliāre 'torture', derived from late Latin tripalium 'torture device made of three beams of wood"

(As for the others, I think they should be interesting because it reveals such a large network of related languages throughout so much of history, but you're right that many people don't know about that enough to be interested.)
4
Sociolinguistics / sociolinguistics
« Last post by hadi on Today at 12:36:54 PM »
hi dear friends : well there was a topic that i have problem with it if any one could help me i would be grateful , the topic is : how language functions identify speech community ?
 
5
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by FlatAssembler on Today at 05:48:56 AM »
I'm glad to hear another educated opinion!
Quote
The best counterargument (aside from a lack of systematic correspondences) was simply that the time depth was too great for it to not have changed more substantially to be less transparent.
I am not sure I understand. Of course the proportion of words that look similar is higher among cognates than in those that aren't cognates (aside from borrowing). If there are a lot of cognates between languages, of course there are going to be cognates such as Croatian "svinja" and English "swine" or Croatian "sunce" and English "sun". It's not like all the phonemes are bound to change to dissimilar phonemes in a few thousand years.

This is not really related to the topic, but why are you guys so much against the attempts to reconstruct older proto-languages? If the first human languages were sign languages that gradually evolved into fully spoken languages, isn't it reasonable to assume that all spoken languages share a common ancestor? Though I personally wouldn't assume an especially close connection between Indo-European and Uralic, as most of the people who try to reconstruct and older proto-language do, but between Indo-European and Austronesian. Look at the pronouns. Most of the proto-languages have a nasal in the 1st person singular, while both Indo-European and Austronesian have a velar. In PIE, it's *egjoh2, in PAN, it's *aku. Then look at the PAN Swadesh list. Doesn't it seem to you that PIE *r corresponds to PAN *l, that PIE *s corresponds to PAN *q and that PIE *d corresponds to PAN *d?
*treys (three)-*telu (three)
*romk (hand)-*lima (hand/five)
*ser (to flow)-*qalur (to flow)
*skend (skin)-*qanic (skin)
*stembh (to walk)-*qaqay (foot)
*smew (smoke)-*qabu (ash)
*serw (to watch)-*qalayaw (day)
*bheh2s (to talk)-*baqbaq (mouth)
*dwoh1 (two)-*dusa (two)
*dyews (sky)-*daya (upwards/height/sky)
*danu (river)-*danaw (lake)
Yes, I should study PAN a lot more before making such extraordinary statements, but why wouldn't this method be legitimate? I may be missing something very important.
Quote
Statistical methods (even informal, traditional approaches) work because you have enough data that even if one data point is off the whole analysis still works out (maybe one proposed cognate-- or a few-- just developed by coincidence, but overall most of the proposed cognates are still accurate).
Why do you think those statistical methods work any better than common sense does? If you count the English dictionary equivalents of the Croatian words that start with a 't', do you think that a significant portion of them will start with a 'th'? Wouldn't the early loanwords and coincidences average them out?
Quote
Of course many of the examples you're looking at probably do have simple (even obvious) etymologies, but it's hard to verify that you're correct, because it's a sample of one (i.e., not really statistics at all), so there's no way to compare your results to know if you're right.
Well, finding a few hydronyms such as Colapis or Serapia, or a toponym near the river such as Andautonia, in a native American language would prove that my methodology is flawed. But I don't think there are such.
Quote
And for most of these there are already other proposed etymologies, right? How would you propose selecting one rather than the other?
Well, for example, far away from the sea, there is a marshy valley called Mariniana. In language A, this means "of the marine". In language B, this means "marshy valley". Which etymology is more likely? Every child knows the answer. It's B.
My most serious opponent is probably the Croatian etymologist Petar Skok, who ascribed many toponyms to "Mediterranian substratum", that is, the supposed Pelasgian language, spoken all the way from Itally to Turkey. His evidence was allegedly the same or similar elements appearing in toponyms in that area. However, he didn't ascribe any meaning to those supposedly repeating elements. So, I am pretty sure that his hypothesis is invalid. I waged a Wikipedia war against his hypotheses there:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Vis_(town)
As for the interpretations using Croatian, listen, Croatian language in most of the cases doesn't give any explanation of a toponym. If "Krndija" really comes from "krčiti", where did the 'č' disappear? And what does the ending "-ndija" mean? If "Daljok" really comes from "dal", what does the ending "-jok" mean? I am a native speaker of Croatian and I know something about linguistics, so I think I can safely tell you that those etymologies are invalid. And when Croatian does give some explanation, it's almost always complete nonsense. If there was a town called "Far", would you assume that its name means "far away", or would you assume it's actually not an English name? That's why I assume the toponym "Dalj" doesn't come from Croatian. And why would anyone call a river "a female wolf" (Vuka)? And the same goes for the other supposed explanations using Croatian which I tried to contradict.
Quote
Etymology is not a major focus of linguistics publishing these days.
Perhaps because it takes less knowledge of linguistics to discuss morphosyntax than to discuss etymology. I could probably write two full pages about what part of speech is "plus" in Croatian without doing any actual research. But that probably won't be interesting to anybody whom I know.
6
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by Daniel on August 19, 2017, 01:32:28 PM »
Quote
Quote
The only potentially helpful commentary I could give would be to point out that some of them look quite transparent, so perhaps they are too convenient/easy (and plausible), and therefore just coincidental?
Which ones? And why would being transparent indicate that it's just a coincidence? Sound changes are derived from the obvious etymologies.
It reminds me of the proposed cognate between Indo-European and Semitic/Afro-Asiatic for 'bull' (something along the lines of 'taurus'), which did indeed look similar. The best counterargument (aside from a lack of systematic correspondences) was simply that the time depth was too great for it to not have changed more substantially to be less transparent. (Of course your derivations are not quite that transparent, and they also have a shallower time depth, so my comment was not as strong an objection.)

Quote
Shouldn't we first try to find obvious etymologies, and then try to derive the regular sound changes and explain the less obvious ones?
Sure! But the important distinction is whether you're trying to determine a large-scale statistical question (like "are these two languages related?") or trying to identify small-scale data points accurately (like "what is the etymology of 'Croatia'?"). Statistical methods (even informal, traditional approaches) work because you have enough data that even if one data point is off the whole analysis still works out (maybe one proposed cognate-- or a few-- just developed by coincidence, but overall most of the proposed cognates are still accurate). But the comparative method and reconstruction in general involve a lot of guessing, which is fine if you're going for the statistical approach, but it's much, much harder to provide direct evidence for individual etymologies. Even for various well-known words with some direct evidence about their original usage (one example is "OK"), we don't know exactly what their etymology is. Of course many of the examples you're looking at probably do have simple (even obvious) etymologies, but it's hard to verify that you're correct, because it's a sample of one (i.e., not really statistics at all), so there's no way to compare your results to know if you're right. I suppose we could look at all of your proposed etymologies and get a sense that they're reasonable (as I've said) and then use a statistical comparison of your personal skill but that's a sort of ad hominem argument rather than real statistics about any individual data point. Again, I'm not saying you're wrong, but I also don't know how to verify that you're right.

And for most of these there are already other proposed etymologies, right? How would you propose selecting one rather than the other? Let's say for the sake of argument that you're right about half of your proposed etymologies. In that case, which ones? I don't know how to answer that question. Plausibility is not evidence per se. One possibility would be to try to find a pattern (for example, you notice a lot of rivers being relevant to your proposed etymologies, so if you can find something systematic in that maybe it would help), but it would still end up being about individual data points overall.

Etymology is not a major focus of linguistics publishing these days, but there's still some work in philology on the subject, and actually toponyms in particular are still frequently researched. So I imagine you could publish some of these results in a journal if that interests you. But it would simply be one perspective with no clear way to decide whether your proposal is right. (On the other hand, looking at known sound changes you might be able to find some flaws in the proposals of others and try to falsify those, which is all we can really do in science. Show flaws in the others, and no known flaws in yours, thus leaving yours as the only known remaining possibility.)
7
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by FlatAssembler on August 19, 2017, 06:26:56 AM »
I know this is a bit of politicized issue, but does anyone here have an idea where the name "Croatia" comes from? I have a theory, which appears to me nobody before suggested. See, the Croatian word for "Croat" is "Hrvat". This could mean "one from the river *Hrva". Then the hydronym *Hrva can be analyzed as PIE *ser-h2ekw-eh2. What do you think?
To give some more context, the first mention of the name "Croat" is on the Tanais Tablets on the east cost of the Sea of Azov.
8
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by FlatAssembler on August 19, 2017, 04:20:48 AM »
I'll share a few more of my ideas until I get another response. I believe I know where the toponym Scardona (the ancient name for Skradin) comes from. It's explainable as Proto-Indo-European *(s)kwor-dhos (big cliff). The same root can perhaps be seen in Cersia (the ancient name for the island of Cres).
9
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by FlatAssembler on August 18, 2017, 12:40:28 AM »
Thanks for responding!
Quote
The only potentially helpful commentary I could give would be to point out that some of them look quite transparent, so perhaps they are too convenient/easy (and plausible), and therefore just coincidental?
Which ones? And why would being transparent indicate that it's just a coincidence? Sound changes are derived from the obvious etymologies.
Quote
Have you lined up systematic sound changes that would correlate with those developments?
Well, a few of them. Of course, there is a loss of the laryngeals. Then there are a few more for consonants:
*kw>k (Colapis)
*kj>k (Cibalae, Incerum)
*bh>p (Papuk, written as "Papugh" in historical sources)
*gj>gh (in Papugh, whatever sound that represented)
*mr>b (in Bosut, if it comes from *mreys), but this is uncertain.
*kjm>ym (in Aenona), but this is also uncertain.
As for the vowels, I've written that the rules of ablaut probably changed from the primary vocalism being e/o to being a/u (as in the toponyms Mursa, Marsonia and Mariniana, all on marshy land). Also, it probably had an epenthetic vowel e, as in the hydronym Ervenica.
Shouldn't we first try to find obvious etymologies, and then try to derive the regular sound changes and explain the less obvious ones?
Quote
But even if so, it's hard to verify (with any independent third factor) that those etymologies are more than coincidence (or that all of them are).
I don't know. Look, the only places in which there were Illyrian thermae in Croatia were called: Issa, Balissa and Iasa. What's the probability of the same element occuring in all three places with Illyrian thermae if it was a coincidence? And it being so simply explainable as derived from PIE *yos (spring)?
10
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by Daniel on August 17, 2017, 07:13:29 PM »
Your etymologies seem plausible, given that I'm not an expert on these languages in particular.
The only potentially helpful commentary I could give would be to point out that some of them look quite transparent, so perhaps they are too convenient/easy (and plausible), and therefore just coincidental? The problem with toponyms is that there is no correlating factor to check. Have you lined up systematic sound changes that would correlate with those developments? But even if so, it's hard to verify (with any independent third factor) that those etymologies are more than coincidence (or that all of them are). Again I can't comment specifically on these points, and you may very well be right. But this is a very narrow/specialized field and it's hard to say more.
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10