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Outside of the box / Re: origins of the Greek alphabet
« Last post by Daniel on August 20, 2019, 09:58:14 AM »
Has this been peer reviewed? A $3 ebook doesn't provide much confidence. This is presented like various other fringe theories, pointing out obvious apparent weaknesses in mainstream views due mainly to sparse evidence, and then not making clear or strong arguments in favor of the alternative. The basic ideas here seemed possible until I got to the paragraph mixing up etymologies and the origins of letters. A sure sign of a linguistic argument going off track (and quite likely being baseless to begin with) is when sound symbolism is introduced. Admittedly that's not quite what's going on in that paragraph, but when it says "proving" that's where I gave up on it.

Furthermore, even if some of this is correct, the conclusions are not necessarily warranted. There are likely some Indo-European-internal influences on how the Phoenician script was adapted for Greek, and that is entirely compatible with the core of the traditional explanation. Or even at the other extreme, the situation could be more like what happened with the Cherokee script, where the shapes and use of letters were based on how they were used in Phoenician but not actually by someone who understood Phoenician-- then again, that's implausible from a historical perspective, because there was plenty of contact and trade or academic interaction between the two groups as I understand it, so there's no need to recreate it. (In fact, that could also explain why Linear A or B was not more successful for writing Greek, if Phoenician instead took over.) I am also quite unclear about what the book is claiming: Phoenician seems quite clearly related to its Afro-Asiatic ancestry (Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs), so is the book just claiming that any similarity between Phoenician (and by extension Arabic, Hebrew, etc.) and Greek is coincidental, or is it instead claiming that Phoenician is actually based on Greek. The first seems unlikely, and the second has a fundamental problem: Indo-European writing is quite unique in being alphabetic in contrast to many syllable-based writing systems elsewhere (either true syllabaries or abjads like for Semitic languages). The story of how an abjad became an alphabet when adapted by the Greeks makes sense-- it was an accident, a mistake, and they ended up with vowels. Explaining how that happened, unlike all other attested cases of orthography development, without going from abjad to alphabet, doesn't seem likely: an Indo-European internal explanation relies on the idea that somehow they were targetting an alphabet to begin with, unlike other examples of writing developing around the world, or that they happened to make the same mistake/leap that is otherwise attributed to Phoenician. From a cultural perspective, it also seems obvious that somehow the development of writing in the region was all connected to some degree, even if the individual scripts were to varying degrees distinct. The number of questions introduced in this summary is far more than the number it suggests answers to, so I'm left skeptical and unconvinced. Perhaps that's just in the presentation of the summary.
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Historical Linguistics / MOVED: origins of the Greek alphabet
« Last post by Daniel on August 20, 2019, 09:35:55 AM »
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Outside of the box / origins of the Greek alphabet
« Last post by StevePool on August 19, 2019, 07:59:05 PM »
John V. Day, Ph.D., The Alphabet Code: The Origins of Our Alphabet and Numbers (2019)

At present, almost every scholar follows the unreliable Herodotus about the Greek alphabet being created by non-Indo-European Phoenicians (despite an earlier tradition attributing the invention of writing to the legendary hero Palamedes). Whereas my book, The Alphabet Code, argues that Indo-Europeans created the alphabet.

One problem with the orthodox story, as Isaac Taylor pointed out in the 19th century, is that the Greek letters and their alleged Semitic forerunners suffer from a ‘nearly absolute dissemblance of form’: for example, zēta and Semitic zayin; mu and Semitic mem; san and Semitic tsade; rhō and Semitic resh.

Furthermore, as Barry Powell admits, ‘The signs of the West Semitic signaries bear little resemblance to the objects they are said to name.’ Α, for example, supposedly depicts the head of an ox, although only after being rotated by 180°; Β, a house; Θ, a hand; Π, a mouth. Yet no one doubts the Phoenician hypothesis.

The orthodox opinion holds that the Greek letters depict a jumble of unrelated ideas. In contrast, The Alphabet Code reveals that the alphabet has a structure. Specifically, the sequence of letters begins with birth and ends with death, Α depicting a woman giving birth and Ω depicting a tombstone.

So Greek alpha has nothing to do with Semitic oxen; rather, it derives from Indo-European *al- [*h2el-], to give birth. Other derivatives of *al- proving this meaning include Latin alvus, a belly; and Middle Breton alall, Latin alius, Greek allos and Tocharian B allek, all meaning other; Welsh alu and Old Norse ala, to give birth, and Hittite haliya-, to kneel — because expectant women in Roman, Germanic and Greek myths give birth when kneeling; Greek alalazō, to cry aloud; Armenian ałałel, to shout; Hittite halzai-, to cry out; and Greek algos, pain; Latin alga, a thing of little worth, and Sanskrit alpa-, small; Armenian ałt, the skin enclosing the foetus or afterbirth; Latin algeō, to feel chilly — because one in three postpartum women feels chilled; Old Irish alt, to feed; Latin alō, to suckle; Old English alan, to raise; and Greek aldainō, to make grow.

As for Greek ōmega, it derives from Indo-European *ō- [*h3eh1-], to die. Other derivatives of *ō- proving this meaning include Latin ōtium, inactivity; Greek ōlingē, a short nap; Greek ōkhros, pale; Greek ōmos, gruesome; and Greek ōlese, destroyed; Lithuanian uolē, a hollow or a cave, and Old Russian jama, a grave; and Old English ōra, a shore, and Lithuanian uola, a cliff — because such heroes as Achilles and Beowulf were buried in tombs near the shore; Greek ōkhra, yellow ochre, and Latin ōvum, Latvian uola and Greek ōon, all meaning an egg — because ancient tombs in Europe often contained ochre and real or artificial eggs; Greek ōlenē, a reed mat — because ancient tombs in Xinjiang were often covered by reed mats; Latin ōmen, an omen, and Old Saxon ōbian, to celebrate solemnly; Old Norse ōthal, a hereditary property or an inheritance; Latvian uôzol, an oak-tree, and Lithuanian uosis and Russian jasen, an ash-tree — because in Baltic mythology the souls of men are ‘reincarnated … in oaks, birches and ash trees’; and the Old Norse god Ōthinn, described by the Prose Edda as ‘Father of the Slain’.

(It’s not a unique occurrence for the final Greek letter to represent death. The runic alphabet ends the same way. Treating the last of twenty-nine runes, the Old English Rune Poem says: ‘Earth is loathsome to every man, when irresistibly the flesh, the dead body begins to grow cold …’)

Incidentally, every guide to the Indo-European vocabulary alludes to two other letters depicting everyday objects: *bhī-, a bee — which gave rise to Greek phī or Φ; and *gwhī-, a thread — which gave rise to Greek khī or Χ.

The Alphabet Code gives an Indo-European etymology for all twenty-seven letters of the Greek alphabet, adhering strictly to the laws of sound correspondences. The book is written in plain English, has over 860 references and over 50 illustrations.


Amazon (USA) sells the paperback for $7.99 and a Kindle version for $3.05: https://www.amazon.com/Alphabet-Code-Origins-Our-Numbers-ebook/dp/B07GLCVB8H

Amazon (UK) sells the paperback for £6.60 and a Kindle version for £2.31: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alphabet-Code-Origins-Our-Numbers-ebook/dp/B07GLCVB8H
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English / Re: Is there any difference between these 2 sentences?
« Last post by Daniel on August 19, 2019, 09:32:33 AM »
No, but it implies future (temporal) motion.

The equivalence with "arrive" is not exact (especially temporally), but rather that it has a sense of being "at" rather than "near". That is, at the extreme of a path, can't get closer in any relevant sense.
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English / Re: Is there any difference between these 2 sentences?
« Last post by Audiendus on August 19, 2019, 05:59:49 AM »
Quote
On the question of motion, I think "at the beginning" is an example where no motion is implied.
That's one example of a common pattern of spatial expressions being used temporally. 'Time is motion' as the cognitive linguists would say. So it just depends on which dimension we're looking at-- here it's displacement in time, not displacement in space.
OK. But I think that whereas "at the end" may imply (temporal) "arrival", "at the beginning" does not, since the 'journey' has not yet started.
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English / Re: Is there any difference between these 2 sentences?
« Last post by Daniel on August 18, 2019, 09:21:36 PM »
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As I see it, "at" implies "in the same general place as", whereas "by" implies "in a place adjacent to". "At" may or may not mean "in", but "by" never does.

Compare "There is a coffee machine at [i.e. in] the library" with "There is a coffee machine by the library".
Ah, yes, you're absolutely right. But the "gate" example here didn't make me think of it that way. I don't imagine a gate as something you can be "in" (although that's possible in some sense), and "by" could mean "by" either of the posts/walls making up the gate. But the library example is a good one.

Actually now that does bring up another use of the phrase "at the gate" (specialized or idiomatic), in reference to a competitor at the starting point and ready to begin a race. But I don't assume that's what the original question was asking about.

Quote
On the question of motion, I think "at the beginning" is an example where no motion is implied.
That's one example of a common pattern of spatial expressions being used temporally. 'Time is motion' as the cognitive linguists would say. So it just depends on which dimension we're looking at-- here it's displacement in time, not displacement in space.
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English / Re: Is there any difference between these 2 sentences?
« Last post by Audiendus on August 18, 2019, 07:54:27 PM »
As I see it, "at" implies "in the same general place as", whereas "by" implies "in a place adjacent to". "At" may or may not mean "in", but "by" never does.

Compare "There is a coffee machine at [i.e. in] the library" with "There is a coffee machine by the library".

On the question of motion, I think "at the beginning" is an example where no motion is implied.
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English / Re: Is there any difference between these 2 sentences?
« Last post by Daniel on August 18, 2019, 07:31:02 AM »
The "meaning" of prepositions is often vague (notoriously hard to translate, for example). The default interpretation of those two sentences would be the same. However, "by" means "somewhere near", while "at" means roughly "at the end of a path leading to it".* So "by" might allow a wider range of positions, although by default it would be assumed to also be "right next to", like "at". There isn't any more substantial difference between the sentences, just some semantic flexibility in spatial prepositions.

[*Note: "at" does not necessarily imply motion of the object described, although in most circumstances at least indirectly it probably does. You can say "I am at my office", which doesn't directly refer to motion but does indirectly imply that I was somewhere else previously. With inanimate objects you might be able to come up with a sentence that doesn't imply motion, but even then it often might. "The question mark is at the end of the sentence" I suppose does not imply motion, except in the sense of the writer's hand placing it there at some point. Regardless, the meaning of "at" seems somewhat similar to the meaning of the verb "arrive" to me, since if you have not yet "arrived" somewhere, then you are not yet "at" that place. "By" just means "near, close to", so it is interpreted relatively.]
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English / Re: Is there any difference between these 2 sentences?
« Last post by mallu on August 17, 2019, 11:53:41 PM »
Oh, I am very sorry I  made a mistake. I put the preposition 'by' instead of 'at'  in the second sentence too. Kindly pardon me.You might now check the sentences once again
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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by Daniel on August 17, 2019, 01:10:17 PM »
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'By selecting "were" in your pair, you are suggesting that the addressee is not free, which is a way of defeating the inference that you've just imposed an obligation on the addressee (since the sentence is plainly a request for a meeting).'
It can mean that (by using that form-- or "had been"-- instead of "are"), but it can also just be a more formal way of phrasing it, without implying that you are not free. This is a very common formal request structure. (It's grammatically odd, as one of a few times we preserve the subjunctive usage, and it's only found in formal/learned speech patterns, not as something that is particularly natural or colloquial, but it isn't particularly rare either.)
Really, the form is not asserting whether or not you are free, which is what the subjunctive does (because it's not an indicative form, and doesn't assert). So yes, it contrasts with "are" (indicative) in that sense, but given that "are" is already in a conditional statement, there's no entailment of being free anyway. It's just emphasizing the lack of assertion. Basically it's the grammatical equivalent of saying "I don't want to trouble you, but..."
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