Saturday, October 13, 2012

PIE - mirage of structure - 2

It was James Clackson (Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics), published in 2007, who wrote this. which CIP does not find convincing.
"Reconstructed PIE is a construct which does not have an existence at a particular time and place (other than in books such as this one), and is unlike a real language in that it contains data which may belong to different stages of its linguistic history. The most helpful metaphor to explain this is the ‘constellation’ analogy. Constellations of stars in the night sky, such as The Plough or Orion, make sense to the observer as points on a sphere of a fixed radius around the earth. We see the constellations as two-dimensional, dot-to-dot pictures, on a curved plane. But in fact, the stars are not all equidistant from the earth: some lie much further away than others. Constellations are an illusion and have no existence in reality. In the same way, the asterisk-heavy ‘star-spangled grammar’ of reconstructed PIE may unite reconstructions which go back to different stages of the language. Some reconstructed forms may be much older than others, and the reconstruction of a datable lexical item for PIE does not mean that the spoken IE parent language must be as old (or as young) as the lexical form."
You can verify the quote at, the page on which this is written is visible.

I suppose that James Clackson is some kind of crank,  a few meters from flat earthism and evolution denial, and presumably despite that, is hired by Jesus College, Cambridge.

Anyway, here is an example, via Alinei, that may hold.  There are two classes of words in for wheel in the Indo-European languages, one in the "kyklos" class and the other in the "rota" class.  I believe there is an argument to be made that the "kyklos" wheel refers to the solid wheel, which was invented long, long before the spoked wheel "rota".   In particular, in Sanskrit, the cognate of rota, ratha, means chariot, not wheel - and this may be an argument that this, in Sanskrit,  is a loan word.

So, did PIE have both the solid wheel (~3500 BC) and the spoked wheel (~2000 BC)?   It is entirely feasible, I believe, even within the conventional model,  that PIE dispersed with the solid wheel only, and the word for the spoked wheel spread by diffusion along with the new technology.

This example illustrates the point-
 "In the same way, the asterisk-heavy ‘star-spangled grammar’ of reconstructed PIE may unite reconstructions which go back to different stages of the language."

Or else one can say that what is 1500 years between friends!

I'd guess that Clackson has examples in his book which illustrate his point.  

PS:  CIP's post
My reply:  No, it does not mean devaluing the evidence.
It means understanding that comparative linguistics has overreached a bit; it has no good absolute dating method - only a relative chronology; and the main constructions it arrives at can stand with relatively few adjustments (even if the absolute chronology is greatly changed.)
The reason that I devalue the horse-chariot dispersal theory of Indo-European languages is that it requires torturing the most ancient Indian texts to accomodate that theory.  It requires torturing the archaeological evidence as well.   It requires torturing the emerging genetic evidence as well.  The two candidates that are left are the Renfrew demic dispersion theory (that IE spread with agriculture) and the Paleolithic continuity theory.  The problem with the Renfrew theory is that PIE doesn't contain common words for farming, and it too violates the archaeological continuity of cultures  observed in Europe and elsewhere.   I'm not sure, but it may be consonant with the genetic evidence.