[Corpora-List] How natural and real language families?

Yuri Tambovtsev yutamb at mail.cis.ru
Fri Dec 17 15:52:01 CET 2004


Dear Corpora colleagues, are there many publications which prove on phonological or phonetical level that classically defined language families and other language taxons are natural and real. I mean Indo-European, Finno-Ugric, Samoyedic, Tungus-Manchirian, Mongolic, Turkic, Paleo-Asiatic, Sono-Tibetan, Austronesian and other classically defined language families. It looks like some of them are not very compact from the phono-typological point of view. It seems to me that all the world linguists are quite happy with the defined language families, though the fundamentals of these definitions are rather weak and obsolete. In physics, mathemathics, chemistry, biology and other natural sciences the fundamentals of classifications are analysed and reconsidered by every generation of the scholars. Not so in linguistics. Or may be I am not aware of such critical works. I have calculated the compactness of several language families from the typological point of view and discovered that there is a great difference between them. The most compact is the Mongolic language family Its dispersion is only 10.78%, while the dispertion of the Tungus-Manchurian (18.60%) or Turkic (18.77%) language families is greater. The dispersion of Finno-Ugric (24.14%) or Indo-European (28.00%) language families is much greater. It may mean that Finno-Ugric or Indo-European families are not natural and real families, but some sort of conglomerations or Sprachbunds. Not to speak of the dispersion of the Altaic (25.97%) or Uralic (28.31%) language unities which should never be called language families if we consider a language family some more compact language taxon. In this case, only Mongolic language family seems to be natural and real. Should we consider the other language families language unities or Sprachbunds? Or what? May be some sparce language unions or language communities? Or what? Is it not the high time to define language taxons:
1) branch;
2) subgroup;
3) grpoup;
4) family;
5) unity;
6) union;
7) filia;
8) community.
Any other taxons?
I wish you could send me your ideas about language families and the other language taxons to my correct e-mail address yutamb at hotmail.com Looking forward to hearing from you soon to yutamb at hotmail.com Your sincerely Yuri Tambovtsev
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