Re: Do Basque words for farm animals resemble Indo-European ones?

Richard M. Alderson III (
Thu, 7 Nov 1996 21:00:52 GMT

In article <55r933$> Jonathan Adams <jonathan> writes:

>By the way, what patterns for crop names are observed in other parts of the
>world, for example the indian languages of the eastern USA - do they tend to
>show patterns of crop names in common between otherwise very different
>languages, reflecting the relatively late spread of farming?

I can't answer for the distribution of crop names, since I don't specialize in
anthropological linguistics, and my historical studies in Native American
languages ended almost 20 years ago.

>If not, can that be used to show how very rapidly can languages diverge from
>one another in the 'primitive' state (unwritten and spoken by small, tribal
>populations)losing even the similarities between relatively recently
>introduced crop names.

I can, however, speak to the assumption here: Mary R. Haas (in her monograph
_The Prehistory of Languages_), Leonard Bloomfield, Catherine Callahan, and a
number of other historical linguists working Native American languages have
demonstrated that the rate of change in unwritten languages is no different
from that of written languages, neither highly accelerated nor highly retarded.
Haas' work is probably the most accessible to the non-linguist.

Remember that the mode of change in any language is in speech. The written
language (if such exists) may be conservative with respect to such changes, but
they will take place nonetheless.

Rich Alderson You know the sort of thing that you can find in any dictionary
of a strange language, and which so excites the amateur philo-
logists, itching to derive one tongue from another that they
know better: a word that is nearly the same in form and meaning
as the corresponding word in English, or Latin, or Hebrew, or
what not.
--J. R. R. Tolkien, _The Notion Club Papers_