Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

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lichtrausch
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Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby lichtrausch » Tue Sep 22, 2020 9:55 pm

Deinonysus wrote:Well sure, there could have been as few as three migrations from Siberia into the Americas. But I don't think "recent", even relatively, applies. Even if most of the indigenous languages of the Americas are ultimately descended from one language, that would be something very deep into prehistory. Even by conservative estimates of how early the first migration was, it would make Proto-Indo-European look like an absolute whipper-snapper.

I was working on an assumption of 20,000 to 14,000 years ago for the original peopling of the Americas. Compare that to when Eurasia is thought to have been initially peopled, 125,000–60,000 years ago.

What I'm wondering is why you presume there are "likely hundreds" of indigenous American language families. You agree that the indigenous American languages likely ultimately descend from a handful of language families, so doesn't it follow that further research will discover some of the obscured relationships and end up reducing the number of currently established (proto)language families? Or are you assuming that many of the currently unclassified languages will end up in "new" families?

Thanks for quoting that chapter from Mallon's book. Super interesting stuff!
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Deinonysus
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Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby Deinonysus » Wed Sep 23, 2020 2:50 am

lichtrausch wrote:I was working on an assumption of 20,000 to 14,000 years ago for the original peopling of the Americas. Compare that to when Eurasia is thought to have been initially peopled, 125,000–60,000 years ago.

What I'm wondering is why you presume there are "likely hundreds" of indigenous American language families. You agree that the indigenous American languages likely ultimately descend from a handful of language families, so doesn't it follow that further research will discover some of the obscured relationships and end up reducing the number of currently established (proto)language families? Or are you assuming that many of the currently unclassified languages will end up in "new" families?

Thanks for quoting that chapter from Mallon's book. Super interesting stuff!
I think our point of disconnect is that you're inferring that if two languages are from different families, that implies they must not have come from a common ancestor, but this is not the case. It only means that the languages have diverged past the point of recognizability.

If two language groups are separated for so long that it is impossible to find any similarities beyond the coincidental similarities you would find between any two random unrelated languages, can you really say they still belong to the same language family?

It is uncontroversial that there are dozens of language families native to the Americas. Again, this does not imply that most these languages had no common ancestor at any point in time, only that no linguistic link can be convincingly shown.
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lichtrausch
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Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby lichtrausch » Wed Sep 23, 2020 5:00 pm

Deinonysus wrote:If two language groups are separated for so long that it is impossible to find any similarities beyond the coincidental similarities you would find between any two random unrelated languages, can you really say they still belong to the same language family?

I see your point, but I think it's a bit early to rule out improved analytic and statistical tools coming around that would allow us to peer back a little deeper in time, even if reaching a conclusion on something like "Amerind" is out of the question.
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Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby Deinonysus » Wed Sep 23, 2020 5:35 pm

lichtrausch wrote:
Deinonysus wrote:If two language groups are separated for so long that it is impossible to find any similarities beyond the coincidental similarities you would find between any two random unrelated languages, can you really say they still belong to the same language family?
I see your point, but I think it's a bit early to rule out improved analytic and statistical tools coming around that would allow us to peer back a little deeper in time, even if reaching a conclusion on something like "Amerind" is out of the question.
I'm not ruling anything out. Everything in science is provisional. New discoveries can and will spur revisions. That's how science works. But we can't assume that x, y, or z specific thing will be discovered, or act in anticipation of such a discovery prematurely.
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: 9 / 77 Assimil L'arabe
: 1 / 6 Ahlan wa Sahlan Workbook

lichtrausch
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Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:21 pm
Languages: English, Japanese, German
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Re: Team Americas - Indigenous Languages of N&S America

Postby lichtrausch » Wed Sep 23, 2020 7:14 pm

On topic: I don't have any American indigenous languages in my current plans, but if I live long enough I hope to get around to Quechua, Mayan, and Nahuatl, which I'm attracted to based on their history. I'd also like to try an Algonquian language like Cree because of my New England roots (there aren't many materials or media for the Algonquian languages spoken in my vicinity AFAIK) and the beautiful writing system.
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