Two Glossaries.

Courtesy of John Cowan, two more online treasures:

1) Du Cange, et al., Glossarium mediæ et infimæ latinitatis. Niort : L. Favre, 1883-1887. JC says:

This edition is about twice as long as the original and insanely comprehensive: 10 volumes in print, who knows how many lemmata. The site itself is in (modern) French, but easy to follow with or without GT; the glosses are of course in Latin.

I occasionally consulted Du Cange (as everyone calls it) in grad school, and it’s great to have it available at the touch of a cursor.

2) Lyle Campbell, A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. JC again:

It’s from 2007, so no entries for “Dene-Yenis(s)ean” or “Trans-Himalayan”, and there are a fair amount of Campbell-type opinions: “However, since not even Na-Dené has been satisfactorily demonstrated, Na-Dené could hardly be shown successfully to be connected to these various Old World groups.” But still, a damn useful resource. Searchable PDF.

Thanks, John!

Comments

  1. Trond Engen says:

    I just bought Lyle Campbell’s Historical Linguistics — An Introduction (3rd edition, 2014) at the university bookstore in Trondheim. He leaves the dismissal of Dene-Yeniseian to the reader. From Ch..14 Distant Genetic Relationships, section 14.17 Some Examples of Long-range Proposals:

    14.17.4 The Dene-Yeniseian hypothesis

    Edward Vajda’s (2010) proposal of a connection between the Yeniseian language family of central Siberia and ‘Na-Dene’ (Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit, minus Haida of the traditional Na-Dene hypothesis) has recieved considerable attention. Factors that scholars have thought support Vajda’s hypothesis include the following: Vajda is a respected, serious linguist; he attempts to to deploy appropriate methods judiciously, presenting as evidence proposed cognates, several from basic vocabulary; he presents regular, recurring sound correspondences, not all of them nearly identical, and morphological matchings. Factors which have been thought to go against the hypothesis include georgraphical implausibility, with a great distance separating Yeniseian and Na-Dene territories; the long time depth separating the two; grammaticalizations which weaken seeming similarities in verb affix patterns; some typological mismatches; the limited overall amount of evidence; lack of non-linguistic corroborating evidence, with little or no support from archaeology or human genetics; lack for the most part of matchings in pronouns and in basic kinship terms; problems with phonological and semantic matches in the proposed cognates; and poor fit with areal neighbours.

  2. David Marjanović says:

    Starting with an ad-hominem argument? Has he no shame as a scientist?

    and poor fit with areal neighbours.

    I don’t understand that one. It’s a strength of the hypothesis that any similarities between Dené and Yeniseian cannot be borrowings from each other, or separate borrowings from a common source – they must be either inherited or wholly coincidental.

    That also holds for Dené-Caucasian as a whole.

  3. David Eddyshaw says:

    How is it ad hominem if he puts in in the scale against what I presume is his preferred conclusion (Campbell being Campbell), viz. no demonstrated historical relationship?

    Moreover, it’s surely germane to the point in question that Vajda is clearly a careful scholar of a kind not readily prone to poorly substantiated claims, and who has made serious efforts to use appropriate methods. This has not invariably been the case with proponents of long-range hypotheses.

  4. @David Eddyshaw: A discussion beginning “Of course, X is a serious and respected scholar…” is to my ear the academic equivalent of “I’m not racist, but…”

  5. But there’s no “Of course” here.

  6. Is there really any need to make subjective statements like “serious and respected scholar”?

    Obviously opinions can and do differ on who is serious and who is not (let alone “respect”).

    Can’t we just judge the theory on its merits without looking at the person who proposed it?

  7. That’s like saying “Can’t we just judge a work of art on its merits without looking at the person who created it?” (See: Formalism, New Criticism.) Sure we can, but it’s not satisfying to most people.

  8. And of course it matters who proposed an idea; life is short, and if a new theory is coming from a known crackpot, I’m not going to waste my time on it.

  9. Most new theories come not from “known crackpots”, but from younger scholars who haven’t yet had chance to establish themselves as “serious and respected”.

    I just finished reading an article on Maya hieroglyphic writing controversy between Knorosov and Thompson.

    It defies belief how fantastically wrong “serious and respected” American scholar was.

  10. Most new theories come not from “known crackpots, but from younger scholars who haven’t yet had chance to establish themselves as “serious and respected”.

    So? I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about crackpots. If you’re going to say we should “just judge the theory on its merits without looking at the person who proposed it,” then you’re saying we shouldn’t care if someone is a crackpot.

  11. Trond Engen says:

    This is a nice study in pragmatics. I immediately read the comment not only as an assertion that with a less merited scholar, the hypothesis wouldn’t have been met with the same interest and tentative support — which is quite probably true, whether or not the hypothesis has merit on its own — but as implicating that the best thing that can be said for the hypothesis is that Vajda is a serious scholar. I still wouldn’t call that an ad hominem attack, though, but rather an attack on a, eh, de homine defence. The implication comes from this argument being mentioned first. After several readings, the effect of that wears off and it reads less confrontative, but it’s still clear what conclusion Campbell wants the reader to draw.

  12. it’s still clear what conclusion Campbell wants the reader to draw.

    Oh, sure. And I found his attack, however cautious and non-ad-hominem, unpersuasive.

  13. J.W. Brewer says:

    The “could hardly be shown” point sort of logically follows if you don’t accept that Na-Dene as such has been adequately shown to be a coherent thing. (A “clade” I guess?) But that uncertainty wouldn’t, by itself, make it impossible to demonstrate than one or more of the subpieces of the alleged Na-Dene have more long-distance relationships with something on the other side of the Bering Strait.

  14. David Eddyshaw says:

    how fantastically wrong “serious and respected” American scholar was

    British, in fact; though wrong, even despite that.

  15. David Eddyshaw says:

    It’s not that “serious and respected” scholars don’t get it wrong: the history of science provides as many examples as you could possibly wish.

    It’s that crackpots only ever get things right (and they sometimes do) on the stopped-clock-is-right-twice-a-day principle. And scientifically it is no use at all being right if you can’t show your working, or if the working doesn’t actually justify your (correct) conclusion.

    As I’ve said before, the practice of genuine science depends on a moral principle: the willingness to seriously and actively consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and to be humble in the face of the evidence. Being “respected” by no means guarantees the possession of this intellectual virtue, of course, and there is moreover no neat binary division between scientists and crackpots (in particular, it’s all too easy to think of true scholars who are complete crackpots when they trespass outside their own areas of expertise.)

    Nevertheless, I would still maintain that it’s far from irrelevant when weighing up the evidence for a hypothesis to consider the (intellectual) character of the promoter of the hypothesis, and tendentious to call this ad hominem.
    In Real Life we do this all the time: it’s not an infallible guide, but it’s a good heuristic.

  16. Stu Clayton says:

    the (intellectual) character of the promoter of the hypothesis

    I see what you did there by putting “intellectual” in parentheses. It don’t fool me.

  17. Somehow I can’t see Campbell writing this:

    Joseph Greenberg’s (1987) proposal that all Native American languages except the Eskimo–Aleut and Na-Dené groupings belong to a single language macro-family, which he termed Amerind has received considerable attention. Factors that scholars have thought support Greenberg’s hypothesis include the following: Greenberg is a respected, serious linguist….

  18. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Stu:

    Hah! you can’t scare me. I’m perfectly prepared to maintain that there is a correlation between intellectual and other virtues, albeit a very far from perfect one. Obviously.

    @SFR:

    I can imagine exactly that, if Campbell were writing half a century ago. The reason it’s not imaginable today is that Greenberg was in fact trespassing outside his field of (very great) expertise with his Amerind, and this was rapidly pointed out by experts in the relevant area many years ago.

  19. And that’s exactly the reason why these kind of personality statements shouldn’t be made as if they mattered.

    Being “a respected, serious linguist” didn’t stop Greenberg from making proposal rejected by 100% of specialists.

  20. David Eddyshaw says:

    The proposals were worth serious consideration (and comprehensive rebuttal) because they came from Greenberg, undoubtedly a serious scholar. It’s not a question of personality (all too often orthogonal to any kind of virtue, intellectual or otherwise.)

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’ve rather muddied the waters, I think, by talking about virtues. Brings in too many extraneous issues. Perhaps I should have gone with track record.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    Me: The implication comes from this argument being mentioned first.

    …plus the gratuitious use of “attempts”

    I didn’t really follow my pragmatic analysis through. The feeling of ad hominem follows by pragmatic implication since the importance given to the statement that “Vajda is a respected, serious linguist; he attempts to to deploy appropriate methods judiciously” means that this should otherwise be in doubt,

  23. Stu Clayton says:

    @David E: track record saves the day. This gets us away from that tiresome surreptitiously essentialist business of “serious”, “respected”, “chaste” and so on as substantial properties (to coin a phrase) of persons.

    Athletes have good and bad patches, and may screw up by getting caught doping. The record can change drastically over time. Meanwhile, one goes by what one currently knows, and distributes the eggs over several baskets.

  24. David Eddyshaw says:

    As far as the pragmatics goes, the ad hominem implicature seems very far-fetched to me; but introspecting a bit, snowflakily, it seems all too likely that this is at least in part because I regard Campbell as a pure-hearted fellow-splitterist. To the more lumpily inclined (like David M, or, to be honest, most people), it may well seem bizarre that I don’t see it.

    As that astute scholar Reginald Jeeves rightly points out, it all turns on the psychology of the individual. All grist for my definitive work on Lumperism.

  25. John Cowan says:

    David M is no Lumperist, and of course no Splitterist either. If the evidence is weak, he sees a weak lump, perhaps one of those asteroids made of dust held together by gravity rather than the electromagnetic force. The better the evidence, the more coherent the lump.

  26. I’ve just learned that Saturn, though it started out as a solid ball of rock(s) surrounded by a vast amount of solidified gases, has apparently become a sort of slurry throughout. I’m not sure what the linguistic implications are.

  27. Trond Engen says:

    I think the technical term is “saturation”.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    No, no, Campbell wasn’t trying to damn Vajda with faint praise. Rather, he was trying to damn everyone else who had proposed any relations for Na-Dené (with or without Haida) or Yeniseian – in order to damn those proposals in a further leap of logic.

    But what really gets me upset is that the very first thing he said about the hypothesis was a judgment about who made it. (Praise, to be sure – but the argument from authority is just the inverse of the argumentum ad hominem.) What was he thinking? Not only do serious, respected scientists make honest mistakes all the time, but crackpottery strongly tends to be very quickly recognizable as such even if you have no idea about its authors. Merely wrong conclusions, as opposed to crackpottery, comes from “serious, respected” people, but can be just as wrong as crackpottery in the end.

    Showing that the conclusions follow from the facts, and showing that all the relevant known facts have been taken into account, are properties of a publication, not of a person.

  29. Stu Clayton says:

    La mort de l’auteur ! That has always been a main principle of science. I see only now that Barthes stole it to make French literary waves.

  30. I don’t know the substance of the debate, which is bad thing pragmatically, but gives me a pure sense of rhetoric. I would say that Campbell’s attack is not against Vajda (who comes out as a respected scholar, which in Campbell’s view happens to be mistaken), but on other scholars who accepted Vajda’s theory mostly based on his reputation without independent look at the evidence. “Ricochet ad hominem” so to say.

  31. David Marjanović says:

    crackpottery strongly tends to be very quickly recognizable as such even if you have no idea about its authors

    Case in point: the LLog fiasco about the supposed Indo-European origin of the alphabet. By the time I finished reading the post, reached the comments and learned that the author was a well-known Nazi who wanted to prove that the alphabet, like everything else that can’t be disparaged easily enough, had been invented by Pure Aryans, I had pretty much planned my whole comment. 😐

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    Up to a point; but I think the said fiasco was the more alarming as a particularly egregious example of the tendency for serious scholars to show an unnerving vulnerability to crackpottery when they leave the areas in which they’ve built up resistance by long exposure to copious sound data and sound theorising.

    You see this sort of thing with papers published by biologists on language affiliation, when the authors are evidently blithely unaware of basic historical linguistics. Those authors aren’t stupid and may well have done valuable work elsewhere: but a thoroughgoing lack of insight into their own ignorance of the field in question leads them into the worst kind of crackpottery – crackpottery with meaningless added statistics.

    We’re probably all crackpots round the edges. And if you’re a genuine expert in your field it’s perhaps all too human to imagine that the boundaries of your expertise are more extensive than in reality.

    Crackpottery is the default.

  33. David Eddyshaw says:

    The fact that the author of the paper was a Nazi should (ex hypothesi) have made no difference to the perception of whether his work was crackpot; it did, though. That was the reason why LL fully recanted – not the crackpottery as such. They’ve let equally bizarre stuff stand.

    (Nazis can do sound work: Wolfram von Soden’s work on Accadian is justly celebrated.)

  34. David Eddyshaw says:

    La mort de l’auteur.

    It was Maudred did it.

  35. David Marjanović says:

    an unnerving vulnerability to crackpottery when they leave the areas in which they’ve built up resistance by long exposure to copious sound data and sound theorising.

    You see this sort of thing with papers published by biologists on language affiliation, when the authors are evidently blithely unaware of basic historical linguistics.

    Yes.

    (Though, in the archetypical paper-by-biologists you’re probably thinking of, the main problem seems to have been a way of coding the data that wouldn’t have worked with phenetic biological data either. The authors were used to molecular sequence data and may not have encountered that issue before…)

    La mort de l’auteur.

    Le Morte Dautheur

    (Sorry, I had to.)

  36. … the tendency for serious scholars to show an unnerving vulnerability to crackpottery when they leave the areas in which they’ve built up resistance by long exposure to copious sound data and sound theorising.

    They do not necessarily even need to leave the topic area for this to happen. My dissertation advisor was one of the outside readers for one of the crackpot theses involved in the Bogdanov Affair, and he applied basically the same criteria that he used in judging the regular doctoral theses that he read. As he told Dennis Overbye: “All these were ideas that could possibly make sense. It showed some originality and some familiarity with the jargon. That’s all I ask.” The key difference was that this was not a dissertation produced by an MIT graduate student, which would (I hope) ensure a certain baseline of scientific quality. He was just not prepared for the possibility that he would be handed a thesis by a total crank.

  37. I think you can also read Campbell as merely pointing out that the Deniseian issue has become one where “scholars have thought” the reputation of the person making the case is of grave importance.

  38. John Cowan says:

    Agreed.

    But I think it has to be “Le Mort Dauthour”.

  39. Stu Clayton says:

    Le Morte Darthur.

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