Who Can Save Ayapaneco?

Daniel Suslak, an associate professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, has an impassioned piece at SchwaFire on a dying Mexican language, the dedicated linguists and people of Ayapa (“Linguists started calling the language of the people here ‘Ayapaneco’ because it’s spoken in Ayapa and nowhere else”) who are trying to save it, and the telecom company that has been misrepresenting the story for their own benefit; it’s longish but worth the read. It’s just one of the many (59!) links at Stan’s latest Link love post, which I am slowly working my way through; I suggest you bookmark it and do the same. Lotsa good stuff.

Comments

  1. It turns out we all know one word from dying Ayapaneco language – kaagwa (cacao).

    BTW, if anyone is wondering Daniel Suslak’s surname is likely a dimunitive derived from Polish suseł (gopher), related to Russian suslik.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: cacao does not come from kaagwa, but from one of the other languages of the Mixe-Zoque family that Ayapaneco is a member of. It is likely that the name in the proto-language was something like *kakawa, stressed on the first syllable, and some of the languages lost the final a and some (incuding Ayapaneco) the middle one.

  3. Specifically, it’s probably from Nahuatl cacahuatl (i.e., kakawa– plus a noun ending).

  4. marie-lucie says:

    I think it is hard to know which language might be the original one, since the plant and the drink made from the seeds was so widespread. It is unlikely to come directy from the Nahuatl form though , since the ubiquitous ending tl was borrowed into Spanish as te, as in xocolatl > chocolate, or tomatl > tomate.

  5. Thanks for the link, Hat. Suslak’s essay deserves to be read widely. (By the way, ’59’ in the title of my post refers to its number in the ‘Link love’ series; there are 40-something links in the post.)

  6. J. W. Brewer says:

    Hmm. It does sound like rising-GDP-per-capita was one of the risk factors here. Even universal primary education, which tends to be in more dominant languages, was highly uncommon before the 20th century and only becomes feasible when a nation has reached a certain level of both wealth and organizational/bureaucratic competence. (Indeed, the whole idea of “civilizing the savages,” with all its negative baggage and risk of problematic side-effects, is an agenda only a comparatively wealthy society can attempt to pursue in the first place. Otherwise your society’s policy toward the “savages” will be either benign neglect or massacre/enslavement, or possibly cycling back and forth between those alternatives.) Although there are also issues of scale, and the particular language community may have been so small that it would have been at risk even if it had been left alone to live “off the grid” without any local presence of either PEMEX or the ministry of education. I expect that over the course of earlier centuries in Mexico there were similar small communities that lost their languages and whose descendants assimilated to a more locally-dominant language, but with that language being Nahuatl or something else indigenous to the region at large rather than Spanish.

  7. I saw this article when it came out. The behavior of the telecom company was disgraceful, surprise, surprise.

    That language family was much more widely spread in the past, and apparently it was Oto-Manguean languages that shouldered it out.

    And I saw somewhere that someone had taken Olmec inscriptions, which were written in “Mayan” script then read them phonetically and wondered if they could match or link them to any languages in the area. The closest they came was to something in the Mixe-Zoque group. It’s isn’t widely accepted though.

  8. By the way, ’59′ in the title of my post refers to its number in the ‘Link love’ series; there are 40-something links in the post.

    Ah, that makes sense, and I feel better now!

  9. marie-lucie says:

    Jim: someone had taken Olmec inscriptions …

    You mean Kaufman and Justeson, studying the La Mojarra Stele. To my (untrained) eye the carving of a human-like personage on one side and the general appearance of the inscription on the other side are very Maya-like, but the text is apparently meaningless in Maya. Few people are equally versed in Mayan languages, classical Maya epigraphy and Mixe-Zoque languages (or their reconstructed ancestor given the age of the text), and thus far the inscription is unique, hence the mixed reception of the alleged decipherment.

  10. M-L,
    “and thus far the inscription is unique, hence the mixed reception of the alleged decipherment.”

    I think this is the real sticking point for people, and who can blame them?

    Likewise I can’t blame anyone for being skeptical for including M-Z in Macro-Pentuian or whatever the proposal was called.

    BTW – I may have asked this before, and you may have answered, but I forget the answer – what’s going on with Penutian? Ethnologue has dropped it and left all the member families as independent. When you demonstrated that Tsimshianic was Penutian that had to be on the basis of solid comparisons to demonstrated groups. How could that larger unity then not exist?

    I understand rigor and standards, but at some point it becomes rigorism.

  11. J. W. Brewer says:

    Regardless of the unhappy fate of this particular language, it is worth keeping in mind that indigenous languages are doing a lot better in Mexico than the rest of North America. E.g., using wikipedia’s numbers (because you gotta use something and no doubt there are lots of disputes about specific figures), there are 11 indigenous languages in Mexico with more speakers than the currently-most-spoken indigenous language (Navajo) in the U.S., with Nahuatl still over a million speakers, and another 16 with fewer speakers than Navajo but more speakers than the next-most-spoken candidate in the U.S. (Cherokee). A lot of this is the result of different demographics (i.e. very different %age of the current population descended in whole or part from the pre-1492 population), but perhaps there has been something going on in terms of language policy that lessons could be learned from.

    Of course, due to various historical/political oddities, in the U.S. we typically only classify descendants of indigenous-to-the-Americas ethnic groups that historically lived within our present-day borders as “American Indians.” If you’ve recently migrated up from Mexico, you’re generally deemed “Hispanic” even if you’re an L1 Mixtec speaker with minimal fluency in Spanish and little if any non-Amerind ancestry. It seems not implausible that there might already be Mexican Indian languages with more fluent speakers in the U.S. than Cherokee etc. have, but we’re not collecting or categorizing the data the right way (and/or some of the relevant populations might be particularly hard to get good data from because they are transient and/or of irregular immigration status and thus quite sensibly wary of outsiders asking impertinent questions).

  12. [W]e typically only classify descendants of indigenous-to-the-Americas ethnic groups that historically lived within our present-day borders as “American Indians.”

    Indeed. There was a considerable flap back in 1995 when Robert Beltran was cast to play the Native American character Chakotay in Star Trek: Voyager, on the grounds that he was Hispanic. But in addition to being a native American (born in Bakersfield, California) he was of Mexican ancestry on both sides, and therefore at least as much a descendant of pre-1492 Americans as, say, a lot of Cherokees.

  13. Stefan Holm says:

    What’s more important? The ‘cute’ big cats of southern Africa or the people living there? The ‘cute’ indigenous languages of the world or the people speaking them? This fresh pdf at least raises the question. http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1793/20141574.full.pdf+html

  14. Why is it an either/or proposition?

  15. marie-lucie says:

    JIm, a linguist after my own heart!!

    I can’t blame anyone for being skeptical for including M-Z in Macro-Penutian or whatever the proposal was called.

    The term “Penutian” originally applied to 5 languages or small groups of California, which were structurally similar although lexically much less so. Sapir later expanded the term to several groups North of California, mostly along the Pacific Coast, again mostly on the basis of structural resemblances. Later again, he added M-Z and Huave, both in Meso-America. It was Swadesh (I think) who set up “Macro-Penutian” which added many more languages throughout the Americas. If people disagreed on “Penutian”, they would disagree even more on MP, and I don’t think anyone is working on that. I would not dismiss it out of hand, but the current state of scholarship is not up to tackling it yet.

    “California Penutian” used to be called the “core” Penutian group, suggesting that it was the homeland from which the languages diffused northwards, or at least that research into the group should start in California, but my own research rather shows that the most conservative members (in terms of phonology and morphology) are in the Northwest.

    what’s going on with Penutian? Ethnologue has dropped it and left all the member families as independent.

    As I mentioned before, Ethnologue is a notorious “splitter”, so there is no reason for it to accept a larger group which is still disputed. Read the Smithsonian book on Languages (vol 17) and the term “Penutian” is only found as “Plateau Penutian”, which comprises languages of the Columbia River area, far from the coast. This is ironic since the name “Penutian” was started for California. Asya Pereltsvaig’s book “Languages of the world” only mentions Plateau Penutian and goes on to give a “Penutian” example of structure from Nez Perce, one of the languages in question but the feature chosen is certainly not pan-Penutian in the wider sense.

    When you demonstrated that Tsimshianic was Penutian that had to be on the basis of solid comparisons to demonstrated groups. How could that larger unity then not exist?

    As I explained in my article (1997), when I started I was pretty certain that the answer would be negative, or at least “not proven”, judging from the work of the (very few) people who had tried to demonstrate the link but had no personal acquaintance with the Tsimshianic languages apart from perhaps reading Boas’ grammar. After I encountered a particularly egregious example, I thought it was time for me to put in my two cents’ worth. When I started to do my own research, in as many potentially Penutian languages I could find materials on, morphological resemblances (of actual morphemes, not just general structural features) popped up all over the place, causing me to conclude that Sapir was right after all about Tsimshianic, and also about Penutian as a whole (athough some of the details of membership are still not settled). As far as I am personally concerned, “the rest is history”, and I have never had to reconsider my position. Since then I don’t think that any others have looked at the group as a whole, although work continues on subgrouping, for instance Catherine Callaghan’s recent book on Yok-Utian (adding Yokuts to Miwok-Costanoan). But I think that most people in the field (incuding CC) put almost all their faith in lexical ressemblances and phonological correspondences (although these must be done) to the detriment of morphological considerations, even though morphology was crucial in the identification of Indo-European languages, which is still the standard.

    I understand rigor and standards, but at some point it becomes rigorism.

    I completey agree, certainly in the field of Amerindian classificatory and historical linguistics. Time and again I have seen people claiming to have used “the most rigorous standards of the Comparative Method”, something which is a Red Flag for me. I am sure that some of those people could not have figured out Grimm’s Law!

  16. Stefan Holm says:

    It necessarily isn’t. But the article concludes, that if particular efforts aren’t made the spontaneous outcome of increased welfare is the extinction of species and languages. All that has been known since the days of Charles Darwin. So the real question is why a species or a language should be preserved. And the answer is a little bit more complicated than the gut feeling ‘I just wish that the world I wake up to tomorrow will look the same as today or – even more – as when I was a child.

    In Europe we really have no creationists. Everybody accepts the theory of evolution, the natural selection and the survival of the fittest. But – when it comes to our own species the theory of evolution is no longer valid. No, we are an extraterrestial element thrown out in the nature just to destroy it. All man-made is ‘unnatural’ contrary to the impacts of everything else, which is ‘natural’. I just don’t get it, ye men of little faith.

  17. J. W. Brewer says:

    It may not be an absolute either/or proposition, but life is all about tradeoffs. Maybe the simplest thing to do is to state the problem at a very high level of generality: languages are embedded within social/cultural groups, and it seems to be comparatively hard to preserve minority/endangered languages in a context where barriers between different social/cultural groups living next door to one another have become too permeable. But keeping the barriers between such groups comparatively impermeable (which could be a reasonably effective means of making it more likely that children will speak the same minority/endangered L1 their grandparents spoke) turns out, upon reflection, to be somewhat difficult to achieve without using means that would widely be considered illberal or immoral by most 21st century Americans/Europeans. To give a comparatively upbeat contemporary U.S. example: Two ethnocultural minority groups that are currently doing very well at preserving their traditional languages are the Amish and Hasidim. They are, fortunately, not being persecuted or marginalized by the authorities. Rather, they are being tolerated by the authorities (and imho properly so) in socializing their own children from a very young age into a rather distinctive set of illiberal/separatist cultural norms that make those children less likely in later life to leave the group and assimilate into the larger society (linguistically and otherwise). They are, in raw empirical terms, succeeding thus far. But they are making tradeoffs, and not particularly cute and fuzzy ones.

  18. I know next to nothing about ecology, but species of a typical human size do not reach normally 7 billion in numbers. We are taking up too much space. And all those cute African cats are not dying out all on their own, they are being hunted down by us.
    Anyways, it has very little to do with dying languages. People do not need to be L1 in only one language. Bilingual schools is not that impossible thing to set up and so forth. I am not sure why exactly it is a problem, theoretically speaking. Why the alternative (let things die out on its own) is better? It boggles the mind that people would extend centuries of research in trying to read Etruscan, but will be unmoved by disappearance of hundreds of languages. I understand that solution to the dying languages problem can be not easy, I don’t understand why it might not be a problem.

  19. Ethnologue is a notorious “splitter”, so there is no reason for it to accept a larger group which is still disputed.

    Ethnologue is a splitter at the level of languages, but a lumper or long-ranger at the level of families/phyla.

    So the real question is why a species or a language should be preserved.

    It’s a special case of the paradox of liberalism: liberals recognize that values are relative, and yet they are willing to use force if necessary to defend their meta-value of relative values.

  20. J. W. Brewer says:

    The odd thing about John Cowan’s analysis as applied to this particular case is that it makes “liberalism” the defender of stasis and tradition and/or of some imagined previous Golden Age that got spoiled by modernity.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    I am sure that some of those people could not have figured out Grimm’s Law!

    *giggle* I love strong language. ^_^

    However, I can sort of see the point. If you want to use “the most rigorous standards of the Comparative Method”, you won’t want to litter your dictionary with “that’s irregular, probably conditioned by a phonological factor I haven’t quite figured out yet” (as the Moscow School long-rangers do a lot). In other words, you’re expected to figure out Grimm’s and Verner’s law at once. I’m not sure I could do that if I didn’t know about the precedent of… Verner’s law. And figuring both of these out still leaves the long consonants, the origin of which is still controversial two hundred years after Grimm, with “expressive gemination” *eyeroll* being the most popular idea last time anyone looked… anyway, many of them fit neither Grimm’s nor Verner’s.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    Biodiversity and language diversity often coincide in the same regions.

  23. marie-lucie says:

    David: Grimm’s Law:

    I am glad I can use stronger language here than I could in an academic paper.

    Grimm did not call his discovery a “law”, since there were exceptions to it, but he did recognize a general pattern and did not conclude: this pattern may be interesting, but it can’t mean anything since the consonants are not the same – “p” and “f” are too different from each other (etc), which is the type of thing one meets too often in my corner of the field.

    Lack of attention to morphology also prevents people from recognizing old morphological alternations as sources of otherwise inexplicable phonological correspondences (or lack thereof), as in English leaf/leaves (and a few other forms continuing a now obsolete historical alternation) as opposed to chef/chefs (a modern pattern, currently the default one for English plural formation). Or they might recognize and accept phonological correspondences they are used to (such as voiceless/voiced in the older forms), but not others they are unfamiliar with, such as m/w (which was mentioned a short while ago).

  24. Stefan Holm says:

    There’s another striking similarity between species and languages: we could for sure state that more than 99% of both that has ever existed on earth are already extinct. I’m not a cold-hearted laissez faire guy but I object to the use of scientific arguments (or references to some ‘eternal natural order’) for preserving one or the other. There are however humans who feel comfortable knowing something is preserved – may it be the giant panda or a Saami dialect – and that’s a valid argument to me.

    The problem is, that e.g. the panda is an evolutionary frail creature with very slow reproduction and feeding from (almost) one single plant. The chance is it wouldn’t survive without humans. As for threatened dialects in areas with good economic growth the problem often is the speakers themselves, among which the young don’t want to use their parents ‘mossy’ old language.

  25. David Marjanović says:

    “p” and “f” are too different from each other (etc), which is the type of thing one meets too often in my corner of the field

    Wow, that’s bad.

    The problem is, that e.g. the panda is an evolutionary frail creature with very slow reproduction and feeding from (almost) one single plant. The chance is it wouldn’t survive without humans.

    I really don’t think so. All it needs is a huge bamboo forest – and that’s exactly what covered the area before agriculture was introduced. It may have shifted north and south (and up and down the mountains) with the ice ages, that’s all.

  26. D.O.,
    “I know next to nothing about ecology, but species of a typical human size do not reach normally 7 billion in numbers. We are taking up too much space”

    I’d say you know quite a lot about ecology, as you demonstrate in that one sentence. Humans fit every criterion for being labeled an invasive species. You mention our population of 7 billion – remember that in 1900 our population was 1 billion. That is an absolutely cancerous rate of growth.

    Fortunately for those of us with an interest in human rights, the only thing that is know to achieve real and permanent population shrinkage is… affluence!

    M-L,

    “JIm, a linguist after my own heart!!”

    You just made my week. I will always be grateful to you. I am just an amateur linguist, so coming from you that is very high praise. I will always be grateful.

    Thank you for that explanation. I remember Scott Delancey referring to some conference of Penutianists, years ago now, where one of the items of discussions was an attempt top determine whether or not Penutian was real or just an artifact of research methods. The real sticking point seems to be the difficulty of teasing out genetic inheritances form contact effects. Well, you know, if IE had only received the same level of interest and effort that Penutian has, then how strong would the case be for saying French and English are genetically related? The claim would be laughed out of the conference.

    Part of the problem is the tendency to isolate the history of the language from the history of the people speaking it, simply because it’s too much for anyone person to get really good at. In the case of California there wasn’t much archeology to go on until developers started having to fund digs every time they wanted to build something. Shazaam!

    Now we know there were various waves of migration – original settlers, “Hokan” speakers later around the northern Central Valley, then a first wave of Penutian speakers followed by another. The first wave was the Utian speakers apparently and since the Yokutsan ancestors came in with that wave, it only makes sense there was some kind of language unity. The Maidu and then the Wintu groups came in later, followed by Athapaskans and then white.

    I saw one reference somewhere that linked Wintuan with Alsea on the basis of pronouns. Why is contact the default setting on a set of correspondences like that? It don’t make no sense. Anyway, to me that blows “California Penutian” apart.

  27. Marie-Lucie, David: Grimm’s law? Based on my readings and discussions with some of these “scholars” I very much doubt they would be able to prove to their own satisfaction that Spanish and Portuguese are genetically related. And yes, I am quite serious. Possibly overly generous, frankly: in his LANGUAGE IN THE AMERICAS Greenberg observed that using one critic’s “methodology” the genetic affiliation of New York City English and Philadelphia English could be disproved. When I first read this as an undergraduate I thought this was an outrageous strawman of Greenberg’s, unworthy of a serious scholar. I now believe that many “scholars” with impeccable credentials might well deny the genetic affiliation of two varieties just as closely related.

    The core problem, as I think I have written here once or twice, is that the anthropological linguists of today (who are the ones who work on unwritten, non-European languages) utterly lack any familiarity with any ancient European language, with the history of any European language (or indeed any language with a long written tradition), and as a result know nothing whatsoever of the comparative method except the handful of examples they were given in class or textbooks. Because these examples were selected to exemplify something as clearly as possible (a particular sound change, typically), they graduate and enter the field having NO idea how messy, how untidy, how complex real comparative linguistics actually is.

    I’ve been re-reading Sapir and Bloomfield recently, and much of what they write, I realize, assumes a readership far more familiar with Latin or Old English than what would typically be found among the tenured professors of a Classics or English Department today (I speak from experience in making this claim). Among today’s (especially younger) anthropological linguists (again, if the ones I met are a representative sample), I suspect that much of what Sapir and Bloomfield wrote would simply be incomprehensible (I write “would be”: as a rule any pre-twenty-first century scholarly work is too conceptually alien for them to tackle).

    They don’t just lack the background knowledge, they don’t even know that they lack it. And in turn this is because neither Sapir nor Bloomfield made it explicit that having/acquiring this knowledge was an explicit condition to understanding their work.

    And in the end their failure to do so is because neither man (I suspect) could have dreamt, could have even conceived how utterly divorced from knowledge of actual language(s) linguistics was to become.

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne, thank you!

    I made much the same points (not quite so well) in an article I wrote several years ago. Right now the older anthropologically-oriented linguists (now retired or dying out), who had actually learned “their” anguages, may have had a smattering of PIE (taught the way you describe) but the younger ones have mostly been raised on Chomsky or his disciples, who had no use for historical work. I knew one of those older linguists (now passed on) who had started in Romance inguistics, especially Romanian, before going on to Siouan, so he knew what comparative inguistics was about, but he was an exception.

    A few years ago one of the best-known specialists in Amerindian linguistics (especialy in Athabaskan and Penutian) wrote in a note addressed to anthropologists something iike “a language family is either obvious – a rich skein of phonological correspondences […] – or it is forever unknowable” (I may have cited this here before). With this kind of a scientific attitude among people who may be very competent in descriptive work or very shallow reconstruction (eg dealing with several dialects of the same anguage), no wonder that the problems of Amerindian language classification, let alone reconstruction, have hardly progressed since before Sapir! I remember what Greenberg said about the state of the art (especially in the field of California languages), and athough I am not happy at al with his own “Amerind” work I must say that I agreed with his criticisms. I had heard the same principles and methods he criticized expounded by people working on languages included by Sapir under “Penutian”, most of whom were quite opposed to the hypothesis.

  29. Yeah, Whistler 1977 pretty much explodes “California Penutian”: the Penutian languages in California reflect several different migrations from the north.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    JIm,

    some conference of Penutianists, years ago now, where one of the items of discussions was an attempt to determine whether or not Penutian was real or just an artifact of research methods.

    This must be the 1994 workshop in Eugene, which I attended along with most of the people who had ever worked on a Penutian language (included in Sapir’s list). Sapir’s criteria for grouping the then-recognized language families (most of which are still the same) into larger “phyla” were mostly typological, not based on detailed comparison of morphology and lexical items (although he noticed a few of those). Most later linguists who had attempted to “prove” the validity of this hypothetical group by looking at apparently shared lexical items were very frustrated because their training did not go beyond obvious resemblances such as serve to establish “first-order” families (eg Romance, Slavic, etc), so they attributed lexical resemblances and the often irregular correspondences between those families to “massive borrowing”.

    The real sticking point seems to be the difficulty of teasing out genetic inheritances from contact effects.

    This is always a problem, but it is grossly exacerbated when the methodology consists mostly in comparing lexical items, usually along with pronouns. My own approach relies heavily on morphology, something that some colleagues seem to consider as anathema (but where would IE be if linguists had ignored verb morphology?). Seen from my point of view (and my continuing results, which build on each other), of course borrowing has taken place between neighbouring languages, but when you find the same verb roots and other details in languages located hundreds of miles from each other, without any evidence that they were ever neighbours, massive borrowing cannot be the answer. Even though some morphological elements can be borrowed, they are much less susceptible to borrowing than lexical items. Borrowing of whole morphological structures is even less likely. For instance, French and English have been borrowing verbs back and forth for centuries, but they have never borrowed the morphological structures which go with those verbs.

    I saw one reference somewhere that linked Wintuan with Alsea on the basis of pronouns. Why is contact the default setting on a set of correspondences like that? It don’t make no sense.

    I think you are mixing up two things: Wintuan is mostly likely the result of a relatively recent move South by Penutian speakers from Oregon, as shown by its more complex phonology than that of the other Penutian languages of California. It does show a number of lexical resemblances and phonological correspondences with some Alsea vocabulary (but not only with Alsea!). But its pronouns are not comparable to Alsea’s but rather to (I think) Klamath (which is part of “Plateau Penutian”). (The Alsea case is allso complicated by the fact that this language has been heavily influenced by Salishan, including the borrowing of a pronominal series).

    Anyway, to me that blows “California Penutian” apart

    The concept was blown apart quite some time ago already, but the name and concept may still be found in some of the literature. In current practice it should only be understood in a geographical sense.

  31. Spanish and Portuguese are genetically related

    Or worse yet, prove that Romanian and French are genetically related based solely on loanwords.

  32. On Cacao: A wonderful paper by Dakin and Wichmann is the latest on the etymologies of cacao and chocolate, in formidable etymological detail. They argue that cacao < Nahuatl kakawa-tl is not of Mixe-Zoquean origin, but may ultimately come from a proto Uto-Aztecan word for ‘egg’, referring to the shape of the seeds.

  33. David Marjanović says:

    A few years ago one of the best-known specialists in Amerindian linguistics (especialy in Athabaskan and Penutian) wrote in a note addressed to anthropologists something iike “a language family is either obvious – a rich skein of phonological correspondences […] – or it is forever unknowable” (I may have cited this here before).

    You have, several times in the last “few” years.

    Biology got over phylopessimism some 40 years ago – but that’s because a method was introduced, which changed phylogenetics from an art into a science. Linguistic phylogenetics has had a method for close to 200 years now! I can only shake my head.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    David, I don’t mean to radoter (I don’t think there is a word for that in English), but when the topic of Amerindian histling comes up this attitude seems to be typical.

    Linguistic phylogenetics has had a method for close to 200 years now!

    The problem is that inguistic phylogenetics stopped being in the forefront of inguistic research almost a hundred years ago, when “synchrony” rather than “diachrony” became the flavour of the day, and still is. Darwin was partly inspired by linguistic evolution, finding an obvious parallel in biological evolution. Now the biologists are taking over, trying to apply their methods to linguistics! Most current linguists, if they are not specializing in language families in which there is a long tradition of comparative-historical scholarship, have had little or no training in this branch of linguistics and their understanding of the “Comparative Method” is primitive if not often wrong, as in the quotation I keep repeating!

    Actually, I was quoting from memory and omitted many words. Here is the whole thing, which claims to present the voice of mainstream historical linguistics:

    a language family is either obvious–a skein of regular sound correspondences knitting together hundreds of etymologies and allowing unambiguous reconstructions in a rich morphological schema–or it is forever dubious.

    This fits a language with a few closely related dialects, not a language family (comprising mutually unintelligible languages) such as Romance, Germanic, etc, let alone a superfamiy like Indo-European, or (at a supposedly deeper level) a “phylum” such as Sapir supposed Penutian to be (beyond the reach of usual historical methods).

    As a comparison, here is the voice of a true historical linguist, Johanna Nichols (who started in Slavic before going on to Chechen-Ingush): “Lexical comparison has been the primary occupation of Indo-Europeanists for two centuries … and this has led to the frequent use of the term ‘comparative method’ to refer only to the lexical comparison … Perhaps this is why the same term is sometimes used to describe research that uses only lexical comparison, assuming any resemblant vocabulary is cognate but operating without a theory of grounds for assuming relatedness, and producing lexical ‘reconstructions’ without embedding them in grammatical accidence.” (1992)

    And here is another quotation from another well-known linguist with more wide-ranging views than most, Michael Silverstein (who has actually looked at Penutian languages): “There has been an unfortunate … tendency in Amerindian linguistics, particularly debilitating in problems of remote relationship … to see phonetic … correspondences and the establishment of ‘sound laws’ using isolated lexical forms as something different from, or discontinuous with, or even opposed to considerations of morphosyntax.” (1979)

    “Penutian” is generally considered to be among proposed “remote relationships”.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    (I thought I was being careful with my use of italics, but I did not quite succeed.

  36. I fixed the italics, and also the missing ells — you seem to have a problem with the “l” key on your computer!

  37. radoter

    Glossed by various dictionaries as ‘to drivel, to talk nonsense’ but also ‘to ramble on’. I think the latter is what you want.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks LH. The missing “l” started just a couple of days ago. It is not unfixable, I just have to press harder on the key, but I don’t always notice it as I write or reread. This is one of a few little quirks my computer is developing with age, and I need to be looking for a new one.

    JC: radoter : it is what old people are often accused of doing: repeating the same thing often. But same happenings or circumstances often call for the same response!

  39. Yes, definitely ramble on. When I suspect myself of doing that, I run a Google search [site:languagehat.com ], and see if I’ve said it before on this blog. Things I have said elsewhere, I go ahead and repeat!

    Around 2002 I had to shrink the number of mailing lists I was on, and I dumped some that I’d been on so long that I felt I was repeating myself with every posting.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    JC, perhaps I have always misunderstood “ramble on”? I thought it meant “go on and on on the same topic, boring the listeners”, rather than “repeating things one has often said”.

    I am glad I am no longer teaching, because of needing to repeat the same things year after year in the same course (even though trying to introduce variations where possible). Of course the incoming students don’t know what earlier ones have heard, but I hate to sound to myself like a broken record.

  41. marie-lucie says:

    Back to my previous comment, where I had problems with italics: in case it is not quite clear, this is what I meant:

    .. the whole thing, which claims to present “the voice of mainstream historical linguistics”:
    a language family is either obvious–a skein of regular sound correspondences knitting together hundreds of etymologies and allowing unambiguous reconstructions in a rich morphological schema–or it is forever dubious.

    The next words are my comment on this declaration. I should add that reconstructions are not always unambiguous even in the presence of regular sound correspondences.

  42. JC, perhaps I have always misunderstood “ramble on”? I thought it meant “go on and on on the same topic, boring the listeners”, rather than “repeating things one has often said”.

    No, you were right the first time. I think in English we just have to say “repeat oneself (over and over),” “keep repeating the same things,” etc.

  43. in case it is not quite clear, this is what I meant

    OK, I put the quoted material in blockquote; hopefully that will make it clear.

  44. Stefan Holm says:

    Grimm’s law

    Linguistic laws are of course no ‘laws’ in either the scientifical or the legal rendering of the word. In science a law is objective and says, that if I drop my pencil it will every time fall down on the floor (well, quantum mechanics say it could actually behave differently, but with a probability almost equal to zero). A legal law on the other hand is subjective, man made, and can be changed according to our ideological points of view.

    Instead of linguistic ‘laws’ one should talk about ‘tendencies’ or ‘probabilities’. Unlike English (as John has pointed out) German and Swedish keep a fairly reasonable true resemblance to the PGmc strong verb conjugation system. But it is far from perfect. Verbs have ‘jumped’ from one conjugation class to another. Originally weak verbs have adapted a strong conjugation and vice versa.

    Languages are after all spoken by individual humans and they could have an impact. It is not proven but one theory states that the spread of uvular ‘r’ in Europe (France, Germany, Denmark, parts of Sweden and Holland) might be due to a speech disorder of a single French king, adapted by his court and then mediated through the European upper classes.

    But still, studies of these linguistic ‘tendencies’ or ‘probabilities’ have turned out to be a quite fruitful scientific instrument to reveal the development of human languages and their relationships. Let’s not push it to far in either direction.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    SH: Grimm’s Law

    Of course this “law” and many others are not strictly comparable to either physical happenings or human-devised standards of conduct: the term (not used by Grimm itself) dates from a time when science was discovering more and more of such generalities and was in keeping with the scientific spirit of the period.

    one theory states that the spread of uvular ‘r’ in Europe (France, Germany, Denmark, parts of Sweden and Holland) might be due to a speech disorder of a single French king, adapted by his court and then mediated through the European upper classes.

    Another thing I remember writing about, at least on the earlier “Linguist List” (which I think was the first use of the internet for informal communication among linguists, before so many people started blogs) and perhaps here also.

    The supposed story about a French king’s speech defect derives from a garbled recollection inspired by the journal of young Louis XIII’s tutor, who kept very careful notes about his charge: as a child the young king could not pronounce the then-normal apical [r] (as in Spanish, Italian etc) and substituted [l], something fairly common among children (and even adults unused to the sound) and not really a “speech disorder”. The apical pronunciation was general in France at the time, as evidenced by the elocution lesson in Molière’s le Bourgeois gentilhomme (in which the bourgeois is instructed about the placement of the tongue and other details, which he has in fact used all his life) and it remained so at least in rural areas until modern times, both in standard French and in local dialects and minority languages. I am not sure when the changed started or became an upper-class marker in France and other European countries (I bet Etienne knows), but for a long time the uvular pronunciation was associated with the Parisian lower class.

  46. David Marjanovic says:

    The missing “l” started just a couple of days ago. It is not unfixable, I just have to press harder on the key, but I don’t always notice it as I write or reread. This is one of a few little quirks my computer is developing with age, and I need to be looking for a new one.

    Probably there’s just a grain of dust under the key.

    Linguistic laws are of course no ‘laws’ in either the scientifical or the legal rendering of the word.

    I would say they are laws in the scientific sense of the word – generalizations across a large number of observations that hold up so well they can be expected to apply to future discoveries. Where historical linguistics differs from physics is basically just the number of conditions under which a typical law applies – and the sheer number of laws, including the dreaded analogical developments (which create synchronic regularity), that can potentially apply to a single word (root, whatever) within a few hundred years, often undoing previous changes.

    I am not sure when the changed started or became an upper-class marker in France and other European countries (I bet Etienne knows), but for a long time the uvular pronunciation was associated with the Parisian lower class.

    Maybe it never became an upper-class marker, then, but instead an urban marker.

    There’s lots of interesting sociolinguistics going on in the spread of [ʀ]. It has spared Flanders, where it may have been perceived as French and therefore consciously avoided, but not the Netherlands; it has spared most of the German-speaking part of Switzerland*, but not southwestern Germany; it has largely spared Bavaria, where it was probably perceived as Prussian and where [r] is now a symbol of tribal identity, but not generally speaking Austria.

    * Intriguingly, the patricians’ dialect of Berne is said to have used [ʀ].

  47. Trond Engen says:

    In western Norway it’s definitely an urban marker, spreading from city to town to local centre and so on. In Southern Sweden the table has turned and it’s said to be receding along with other rural characteristica. That may well happen in Norway too if and when higher order urban markers from Oslo gain momentum.

  48. Don’t forget Northumberland, where the uvular R was for centuries a matter of intense local pride. As Daniel Defoe described it in 1727:

    I must not quit Northumberland without taking notice, that the Natives of this Country, of the antient original Race or Families, are distinguished by a Shibboleth upon their Tongues in pronouncing the letter R, which they cannot utter without a hollow Jarring in the Throat, by which they are as plainly known, as a Foreigner is in pronouncing the Th: this they call the Northumberland R, or Wharle; and the Natives value themselves upon that Imperfection, because, forsooth, it shews the Antiquity of their Blood.

    I love that expression “hollow Jarring in the Throat”.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    I love that expression “hollow Jarring in the Throat”.

    That’s the easiest way to distinguish uvular from velar fricatives. 🙂

  50. On language classifications and the scholars who work on them: another problem is that the shrinking pool of scholars who do practice historical linguistics, and the micro-politics of the various scholarly communities who work on (a) given language(s), all mean that a great deal of what emerges as the “scholarly consensus” is in fact something that has all too often never been scrutinized or criticized by any competent outside scholar. As a result many things that are presented (in reference works especially) as established knowledge turn out to be supported by evidence that is weak or (sometimes) simply non-existent.

    A recent instance of this from my own neck of the woods: most good reference works on Romance linguistics mention the extinct “Dalmatian” language once spoken along today’s Dalmatian coast, of which Vegliote and Ragusan are the best-attested dialects. A recent article by a Romance scholar (whose core interest is not Dalmatian) has pointed out that the belief that Dalmatian was either a single language or a clearly defined subgroup of Romance rests upon…well, absolutely nothing, actually: as he points out the total number of shared innovations (phonological mostly, because for extinct Romance varieties of Dalmatia other than Vegliote and Ragusan the only evidence we have consists of loanwords in non-Romance languages and of place-names, revealing little of these Romance varieties except their phonology) which define Dalmatian linguistically boils down to zero.

    On Uvular r: the first unambiguous testimony to its existence in Parisian French as the unmarked rhotic is a late eighteenth century observer who compared its articulation to that of a velar fricative in Arabic. Quebec French, which is basically transplanted upper-class Parisian speech of the *seventeenth* century, originally quite lacked this feature, which only spread in Quebec during the second half of the twentieth century.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: a great deal of what emerges as the “scholarly consensus” is in fact something that has all too often never been scrutinized or criticized by any competent outside scholar. As a result many things that are presented (in reference works especially) as established knowledge turn out to be supported by evidence that is weak or (sometimes) simply non-existent.

    Yes, alas! I am currently preparing a presentation on a problem of Amerindian classification which exactly fits this description. (More details later, perhaps).

  52. Stefan Holm says:

    I’m aware, that a speech disorder by the man in Versailles may well be an urban myth. There are some witnesses about Swedish warrior king Charles XII (1686-1718) using uvular ‘r’. Its spread among all of the Swedish aristocracy is though doubtless as well as the use of it by commoners in the former Danish lands of Skåne, Blekinge and Halland together with adjacent Småland.

    Around 1900 the aristocracy, along with its general decline, started to abandon the uvular for a trill and so the popular advance of the former to the north stopped. Today it’s slowly on its way out (as all dialectal differences). The exception is the Scanians, who are our by far most ‘patriotic’ tribe, constantly trying to delimite themselves from both Danes and Swedes – even linguistically.

  53. Around 1900 the aristocracy, along with its general decline, started to abandon the uvular for a trill and so the popular advance of the former to the north stopped.

    Correlation is not causation, and I would need a lot of specific evidence to overcome the general presumption against the we-all-copy-the-aristos theory (which is so inherently attractive that it must be taken with as much salt as the my-offspring-really-are-the-brightest-and-best one).

  54. David Marjanović says:

    That’s interesting about “Dalmatian”!

    Just for the record, there are people who are physically incapable of articulating an alveolar trill and resort to a uvular one in their mother tongues that normally use an alveolar one. The question remains exactly how that becomes prestigious enough for others to imitate.

    On Uvular r: the first unambiguous testimony to its existence in Parisian French as the unmarked rhotic is a late eighteenth century observer who compared its articulation to that of a velar fricative in Arabic.

    …which is uvular in most varieties (as makes more sense here), but I’m told a velar one is more prestigious in the modern standard. – Well, late 18th century means the revolution could have made it an urban middle-class marker.

    (More details later, perhaps).

    🙂

  55. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: many things that are presented (in reference works especially) as established knowledge turn out to be supported by evidence that is weak or (sometimes) simply non-existent.

    Here is the illustration I am currently working on. I needs a bit of background.

    In vol. 7 (the Northwest) of the Smithsonian Institution’s massive “Handbook of North American Indians” series there is a section on Languages, covering the ten or so languages or families of the area, each of which rates a short sketch presenting the major typological features. For the largest families there is normally a general sketch followed by specific details of the component languages. One smaller family is “Takelman”, which includes the Oregon languages Takelma and Kalapuyan (the latter a group of three languages or dialects). There is no sketch of the “family” as a whole, only of each of the two components, which are described very differently from each other. (Even where the two have categories in common, such as verb tenses, the morphological expression is very different). The difference between the two components is certainly odd for a single family (especially when families are supposedly “obvious”, according to a previous quotation)..

    The existence of this alleged family rests on a 1918 article by Frachtenberg (who wrote grammars of other local languages) citing a number of shared lexical items and mostly negative morphological similarities (lack of gender and a few other typological features). F’s article is not very clear but gives the general impression that he wishes he could demonstrate a close relationship between the two languages, but has to stop short of doing so because of morphological differences and insufficient documentation of Kalapuya. Abundant documentation was later provided by Jacobs, who worked with the last speakers to collect and publish (1945) a large number of texts in the Kalapuyan languages. But few linguists worked seriously with this material, and the languages acquired a reputation for fearsome difficulty. Some linguists have left notes, but there is almost no published material. In 1965, Swadesh, another tireless fieldworker and classificational “lumper”, used the existing materials to do a (sometimes dicey) lexical comparison of Takelma (known from Sapir’s grammar) and Kalapuyan, and pronounced them to be closely related within a “Takelman” family. Next, Shipley, a Maidu specialist, seized the opportunity to try to reconstruct “Proto-Takelman” but understandably found the task daunting. This experience probably contributed to his rejection of the Penutian concept because “there ARE NO regular phonological resemblances!” (he said in 1996). As for myself, when I started to look at as many Penutian languages as I could, and approached the Kalapuyan notes after studying Sapir’s grammar and texts available for Takelma, I found Kalapuya extremely different from Takelma, and the lexical resemblances more likely to be due to borrowing rather than close relationship, although (since non-relationship is very difficult to “prove”) the languages might still be relatable at a very deep level (like English and French within Indo-European, for instance). I joined forces with the then-only Takelma specialist (Kendall) to argue against the “special relationship” claimed for the two. Recently, new analytical material on Central Kalapuya (the best-known variety) has been presented in two MA theses, one on phonology (therefore full of lexical examples) and the other on verbal morphology, which could hardly be more different from that of Takelma: complexity is about the only thing they have in common. Meanwhile, although the “Takelman” family is not accepted everywhere (as opposed to Sapir’s placement of the two languages separately within “Oregon Penutian”), some new reference works (eg Golla 2011) continue to support Frachtenberg’s alleged classification and stress the “special relationship” between the two groups and the “substantial” or even “considerable” similarities (not spelled out) justifying the validity of the alleged family. I wonder if they and I have read the same articles or looked at the same data!

    I also wonder that no one seems to have tried to test the hypothesis by comparing the two sets of languages separately to other ones. At the end of his Takelma grammar Sapir wrote that he had first thought that (California) Penutian had relatives farther north by noticing resemblances between Takelma and Yokuts (the Southernmost Penutian family). Indeed the verbal morphologies of the two are very similar (and both quite unlike that of Kalapuyan). However, there was at the time an apparently critical methodological difference preventing him from classifying them together in the same family: “pronominal incorporation” (with pronouns as inflections on the verb) was held to be typical (and practically diagnostic) of Amerindian languages, and Yokuts pronouns were individual words. Using this single criterion, there was “absolutely no similarity” between Takelma and Yokuts!

    Recently I decided to revisit the controversial topic with more “ammunition” from the increased documentation and this time to immerse myself in the Kalapuya texts and make my own notes before consulting other people’s writings. That’s mostly how I have been keeping busy lately.

  56. Marie-Lucie, thank you so much for all those details! Very interesting…and a story that sounds oddly like several such stories relating to linguistic classification in that part of the world: I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Christopher S. Doty, who has recently argued that the “Coosan” family does not exist, and that belief in its existence was likewise due to a series of assumptions built on sand?

  57. David Marjanović says:

    But few linguists worked seriously with this material, and the languages acquired a reputation for fearsome difficulty.

    I’m surprised anything has a reputation for fearsome difficulty among Americanists, to be honest.

  58. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: Merci! I thought maybe I had got carried away with too many details.

    Christopher S. Doty, who has recently argued that the “Coosan” family does not exist, and that belief in its existence was likewise due to a series of assumptions built on sand

    I have read his dissertation, about the affiliation of Miluk Coos, which is less well-known than Hanis Coos (a member of “Oregon Penutian”), for which Frachtenberg wrote a grammar. Doty thinks this language is Salishan not Penutian. Let’s say I did not find his proposal convincing, although this language (in common with several Northern Penutian others) has no doubt been affected by Salishan presence in the region, probaby more so than Hanis Coos. Is this the work you are referring to, or has he also presented or published something else? Actually I heard from him before he finished his dissertation, because his supervisor advised him to contact me about a detail of one word’s morphology which he thought I might be able to help with (I was not). In the course of a few messages back and forth I said (wanting to be diplomatic) that since his opinion was likely to be controversial he had to make doubly sure of his data and interpretation, but he seemed quite sure of himself and of his committee’s support.

    David: I’m surprised anything has a reputation for fearsome difficulty among Americanists

    Personally, I have great admiration for Athabaskanists, since the languages look really fearsomely difficult. However, I am assured that one gets used to them. As for Kalapuya, I was told that a number of linguists had started to study it (probably from Jacobs’ materials) but had broken their teeth (or a similar expression) on it and given up in disgust or despair. From my still very limited acquaintance, verbal morphology is the difficult part (as in many languages), but since an MA student was able to come to grips with it I think I should be able to figure it out too (and then compare my analysis with his). Sapir’s grammar of Takelma (from fieldwork with the very last speaker) was also his MA thesis! That set the bar really, really high, but it has since been considerably lowered.

  59. Marie-Lucie, are you inclined to think either Takelma or Kalapuya (or both) are Penutian?

  60. marie-lucie says:

    Y : are you inclined to think either Takelma or Kalapuya (or both) are Penutian?

    Takelma, definitely. Kalapuya, perhaps, but I am only in the early stages of serious study there. My purpose here is not to answer the question “Are these languages related at all?” but “Are these languages each other’s closest relatives?”, which is very unlikely for the reasons given (of course my paper will include a lot of actual data, not just generalities as presented above).

    Of course it depends how you define “Penutian” and whether you think of it as a potentially genetic grouping or just a convenient umbrella name for some typologically similar languages without a presumption of genetic relationship (as Sapir thought, since he considered them too different for “the usual historical methods”). The generally accepted membership for practical purposes is the one stated in Sapir 1921, which includes Kalapuya. However, relationships within the “Penutian” group are not as simple as Sapir’s mostly geographical subclassification seems to imply.

  61. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne, if you would like more info on Coos or any other topic, you can email me by clicking on my name.

  62. m.-l., of course, I meant not Sapir’s original sketch, but what you yourself think of as Penutian.

    About Doty, as I read his thesis, he concludes not that Miluk is definitely Salishan, but that there are better grounds for relating it to Salishan than to Hanis Coos. I think he argues well that the Hanis-Miluk connections are not very convincing (as Joe Pierce has already argued in a 1965 paper). The Salishan lexical and grammatical etymologies are not bad, but are unsatisfying, mostly because there is not that much Miluk data to work with.

    P.S. Doty’s thesis is here.

  63. m-l, your name is unclickable, but you could use Hat as an honest broker to exchange email addresses.

  64. marie-lucie says:

    Y, what you think of as Penutian

    I don’t claim to have a complete picture or evaluation of the alleged “phylum” at this stage. To go back about twenty years, I started from trying to determine whether Tsimshianic, a small family I knew (including working on reconstruction of its proto-language), was possibly related to Sapir’s “Penutian” or not. I thought the answer would be “no”, or at least “unlikely”, but to make my case I had to look at as many as I could of the languages that Sapir included in the group, Looking at lexical items alone was inconclusive and extremely frustrating, but when I decided to concentrate on their morphology (both typologically and in terms of specific morphemes) I was very surprised to discover a lot of resemblances among the languages and especially with the PTsim reconstructions I had been working on independently. After establishing that most of these resemblances were too numerous and specific to be coincidental or due to borrowing, I looked at features and items prevalent among most of the languages although unattested in Tsimshianic, and again I discovered a lot of resemblances within that group.

    When dealing with comparative morphology, it is very important to look at irregularities and apparently archaic features. Using this criterion, I found that one demonstrably archaic PTsim morpheme (used in forming the plural of some verbs) was also attested (though less prominently and therefore easily overlooked) in Takelma, Wintu, Yokuts and Chinook (at least). I will have to again go over all the other languages I first consulted in order to try to discover whether this feature is still more widespread. There are a few other features which are common to several languages, although they do not necessarily cluster in such a way as to define subgroups, although there is indeed a sharp divide between “Southern Penutian” (basically California without Wintuan) and “Northern Penutian” (from Northern California to BC), although the Takelma-Yokuts similarities cut through this divide. The languages East of the South-North axis of the majority of the families are more difficult to relate to the languages closer to the coast, but I have not yet looked at them in as much detail as I have the aforementioned ones.

    When looking at morphology, of course you look at lexical items, which display the individual morphemes and processes, and in many cases it is possible to analyze those items into roots and affixes, and to identify the presence and possible function of processes such as ablaut, reduplication and glottalization. A concentration on morphology cannot remain abstract but leads directly back to individual words, and therefore to their phonological forms and their meanings. I have been making more conventional lists of lexical items according to what seem to be their roots on the one hand, and according to general topics on the other (eg humans, body parts, natural features, etc), rather than to a predetermined “Swadesh list” or the like. Contrary to general opinion, there are indeed many regular phonological correspondences in words shared across languages.

    My conclusion therefore is, there is indeed a linguistic entity, a superfamily, largely corresponding to the group known since Sapir as “Penutian”, although more work is needed for its complete membership and its subgroups to be securely established as a preliminary step towards eventual attempts at proto-language reconstruction.

  65. marie-lucie says:

    JC, Thank you. I think my name used to be clickable, but I will take your suggestion instead.

  66. Stefan Holm says:

    Hat: Correlation is not causation, and I would need a lot of specific evidence to overcome the general presumption against the we-all-copy-the-aristos theory

    Well, it is a fact that the Swedish aristos ceased using uvular ‘r’ around 1900 and that it at the same time stopped advancing northwards among ordinary people. King Gustaf V, born 1858, had it. His son Gustaf VI Adolf, born 1882, didn’t. It’s also a fact, that in popular movies and theatre plays during the 1930:s and 1940:s the uvular almost always was used as a (satirical) social marker for aristos. So something beyond coincidence there is.

    When we during our teen years fine tune our dialects we all have some sorts of ‘idols’ that we (unconsciously?) copy. In the old days there were few but the nobles, today the idols may be TV celebrities, stars in sports, rock music or the like.

  67. we all have some sorts of ‘idols’ that we (unconsciously?) copy

    Lexically, yes. Manute Bol probably was responsible for spreading my bad as a form of apology so widely that it has spread to, well, me. But while in the late 1950s lots of Americans started garage bands in which they sang like Elvis, few if any started to use his distinctive regional accent in their ordinary lives who didn’t have it already.

  68. Stefan Holm says:

    I was thinking of general phonetic change rather than idiomatic expressions like English renderings of mea culpa.

    It is known that phonetic changes primarily take place not within ourselves as individuals after our teen years. But during these we turn out to pronounce slightly (more or less) different than our parents. To speak ‘math language’: changes are discrete and not continous. Why? Where do we pick up those aberrancies? My suggestion was: from the people we look up to as teens (which opposite to childhood normally isn’t our parents).

    Here and now I can among young Swedes spy a very fast adaption to the phonology and prosody of the Stockholm dialect (and decline of local ones). I can find no better explanation than the variety of Swedish heard in modern electronic media. (It should be added that unlike e.g. USA and Germany in my country politics, economics, culture etc. are very centralized to our Capital).

    (In passing: is ‘are’ in my last sentence proper English? The subject is formally plural but some strange feeling makes me want to use ‘is’.)

  69. In passing: is ‘are’ in my last sentence proper English?

    Yes, definitely; politics is centralized but politics, economics, culture, etc. are centralized. Plural subject.

  70. Re: Penutian

    Age of Penutian family is likely to exceed 10,000-11,000 BP, so the proto-Penutian language would have been spoken by first settlers of Plateau area.

    They probably formed a separate wave which came via Alaskan coast, not through the McKenzie corridor like the Clovis people.

    Hence, their closest relatives would be found somewhere in South America. Closer to the southern end of South America, somewhere in Chile or Chaco.

  71. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: Where are you getting these conclusions from?

  72. David Marjanović says:

    They probably formed a separate wave which came via Alaskan coast, not through the McKenzie corridor like the Clovis people.

    Genetics hasn’t detected such a separate wave yet; it largely fits Greenberg’s classification. And whether it was even possible to pass that corridor is another question; possibly comparable (just much smaller) corridors today tend to be filled with meltwater torrents and other obstacles.

  73. David Marjanović says:

    Wikipedia says Mapu{d|z}ungun was at one point suggested to be Penutian. Of course I have no way of telling if that was based on any evidence.

  74. marie-lucie says:

    David:

    I am not opposed in principle to the idea that the “Penutian” group might have distant relatives elsewhere in the Americas, but first things first: if one could not identify a Penutian identity in North America, there would be little point in looking for it elsewhere. As I mentioned earlier, Swadesh (and Whorf, I think) thought there must be a larger “Macro-Penutian” group involving both North and South American languages. Since Penutian is not generally accepted, Macro-Penutian does not stand a chance at this time.

    As for Mapudungun, Wikipedia has the odd comment that Scott DeLancey has not done the research, or words to that effect. Why Scott is mentioned there and nowhere else, focussing on what he has not done, probably means that those words are a leftover from a longer earlier text that has been clumsily edited. I am not in a position to argue for or against Mapudungun’s potential membership in Macro-Penutian at this point.

    SFR: early Penutian speakers …

    Not being an archeologist, I am not comfortable with assigning dates not only to known groups but to hypothetical ones such as the Proto-Penutian speakers and their supposed entry into the Columbia River. In spite of its name, the “Plateau Penutian” group is rather atypical among the “phylum”, and does not seem to include the demonstrably most archaic features I was mentioning above, which are scattered through several other languages along a North-South axis. But a coastal entry of the original speakers (in one or more groups) would make sense since most of the languages are associated with rivers flowing into the Pacific (as I mentioned in my article). Whether members of the same groups would also have reached South America is a speculative idea.

  75. Something ate my comment, so I am going to just mention the source.

    I base my comments above on work done by Yuri Berezkin on areal distribution of folklore motifs, specifically his article on California-Chaco parallels of the “Woman-bird” motif (unfortunately it exists only in Russian).

    English summary of Berezkin’s word can be found in Yuri E. Berezkin “Peopling of the New World: Some Results of Comparative Study of American and Siberian Mythologies

  76. Re: Genetics hasn’t detected such a separate wave yet

    The Diego Blood Group System and the Mongoloid Realm, by Miguel Layrisse and Johannes Wilbert. Caracas, Venezuela: Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales and Instituto Caribe de Antropología y Sociología. 1999. 333 pp.

    “The Diego blood group system is composed of two variants, Dia and Dib, which are caused by a single amino acid change determined by the SLC4A1 (Solute Carrier Family 4, Anion Exchanger Member 1) gene. Dia arises from the substitution of leucine for proline at position 854 of the band 3 protein, at location 17q21-q22 in the chromosome. The already mentioned global survey indicated that Dia is basically a marker of Asian ancestry, but not all Asians have the antigen. It is hypothesized that the mutation appeared in people living in eastern Central Asia during the last glacial maximum. Both Diego(a) negatives and positives colonized America, and an extensive examination of their putative descendants is given. Special attention is given to the high frequencies of Diego(a-) present in the areas of southern South America, lower Middle America/upper South America, and northwestern North America. Populations from these areas were considered remnants of a first wave of migrants, which was followed by a second wave composed of Diego(a+) carriers”

  77. On two waves of early settlement of Americas.

    One wave were the Clovis people – big game hunters of Beringian origin (ultimately from interior Eurasia, settled Beringia sometime after 20 thousand BP).

    The second wave (chronologically they may have arrived slightly earlier than Clovis people) were coastal hunter-gatherers, related to original inhabitants of the Pacific Rim (the best guess for their modern relatives in the Old World would be the Ainu, followed by Melanesians). They arrived from Beringia via South Alaskan coastal route. They probably reached South America earlier than Clovis descendants.

    Both waves took several centuries and both likely to have comprised people speaking different languages from different families.

    If the Penutian was linked to the coastal wave, its very remote relatives in the Old World would be found among Papuan languages (separation date – 20-30 thousand years ago, so probably impossible to detect using current linguistical methods)

  78. Re: Not being an archeologist, I am not comfortable with assigning dates not only to known groups but to hypothetical ones such as the Proto-Penutian speakers and their supposed entry into the Columbia River.

    A certain professor of antropology at University of Washington testified in court that Kennewick Man spoke proto-Penutian language!

  79. …In other Mixe-Zoque news, a paper in the current issue of IJAL, by Brown, Wichmann and Beck, claims a connection between Totonaco-Mixe-Zoque (itself a recent development) and Chitimacha, which was spoken in coastal Louisiana.

  80. A certain professor of antropology at University of Washington testified in court that Kennewick Man spoke proto-Penutian language!

    That professor should be drummed out of the profession (and perhaps sent to a desert island to live).

  81. marie-lucie says:

    Y: a paper in the current issue of IJAL, by Brown, Wichmann and Beck, claims a connection between Totonaco-Mixe-Zoque … and Chitimacha,

    Wichmann did a reconstruction of Mixe-Zoque, Beck is a Totonacan specialist, so I suppose that Brown is the expert on Chitimacha. I only read the abstract (there is a paywall), but this looks like another example of people equating “careful use of the comparative method” with lexical-phonological comparison. There can be regular phonological correspondences when a spate of borrowings during the same period are fully integrated into another language. Structural (ypological) resemblances rather than morphology can have other causes than genetic relationship (an argument often made against “Penutian” since those resemblances were the basis of Sapir’s grouping).

    I know nothing about Chitimacha, but a relationship between Totonac and Mixe-Zoque appears to be defensible according to a presentation I heard a few years ago (by someone other than the authors of this paper). Of course, if M-Z can be linked to Penutian, “Macro-Penutian” might not be far behind …

  82. Trond Engen says:

    “careful use of the comparative method”

    I noticed that too. Those words in an abstract are a warning sign. But I’d love reading the whole thing to judge for myself.

  83. Stefan Holm says:

    If I’ve got it right archeologists say that even a primitive agricultural economy can feed 40-50 times as many people on a given area of land compared to a hunter-gatherer one. This makes the ‘Amerind’ problem similar to that of constructing family trees of the languages in Australia, New Guinea, South-Saharan Africa or the circumpolar part of the northern hemisphere. Or to the question – what did they speak in Europe before the IE:s arrived?

    Any progress in relating native American languages by the comparative method must thus be cheered. With few exceptions, like Inka, Maya and Aztec, they were all spoken by hunter-gatherers. That means isolated tribes of maybe a hundred members for thousands of years, during which their dialects must have been fragmented beyond (any layman’s) recognition.

  84. Brown et al.’s preprint, at Wichmann’s website, here.

  85. Link doesn’t work, again:
    http://wwwstaff.eva.mpg.de/~wichmann/ChTz.pdf

  86. The Kennewick statement is by Eugene Hunn, here. The author, Eugene Hunn, has worked on Sahaptin culture and language for decades. His testimony is meant to assert present-day Native Americans’ claim for Kennewick man’s remains.
    What he argues is that there are good reasons to believe that a Penutian language was spoken during KM’s lifetime in the area where his remains were found. He argues that an ancestor of Sahaptin (maybe Proto-Sahaptian?) was very likely spoken there 4,000 years ago, and beyond that, that “given the concentration of distinct Penutian subgroups between central California and the Columbia Plateau and the probable predominantly north-to-south movement of early human settlement of the Americas, it is more than likely that Proto-Penutian was spoken in the Columbia Plateau region, perhaps as early as 8,000-9,000 years ago. At least, no other language group can establish as strong a claim as Penutian.”

    Not as clearcut as he would like, but not ridiculous either.

  87. What’s with the links all of a sudden? I’ll just stop using a href tags.
    http://www.nps.gov/archeology/kennewick/hunn.htm

  88. Not as clearcut as he would like, but not ridiculous either.

    It’s not ridiculous to say “According to the current balance of evidence as I understand it, it is reasonable to suggest a Penutian language was spoken at the time and in the area in question.” It is ridiculous, and in my opinion disgraceful, for an academic to overstate his beliefs in a courtroom in order to achieve a political end. It doesn’t help my mood that I consider the political end, of helping modern-day Native Americans to take control of ancient remains that have nothing to do with them (whatever language the original possessor/inhabitant of the bones may have spoken), to be unscientific and deplorable.

  89. Hunn’s conclusion:

    I speculate on the basis of the Penutian affiliation of Sahaptian that Proto-Penutian may well have been spoken in the Plateau as well, which should date to 8,000 or more years ago. However, as there is as yet no reconstruction of Proto-Penutian we cannot determine with confidence whether Proto-Penutian speakers occupied and exploited an environment like that of the Columbia Plateau. However, the geographical pattern of linguistic differentiation within Penutian suggests that the Pacific Northwest, including the Columbia Plateau, is the most likely region of initial Penutian dispersal. In sum, I believe there is a strong possibility that Kennewick Man spoke a Proto-Penutian language. However, I cannot rule out other possibilities, in particular, that the group to which Kennewick Man belonged spoke a language which was not Penutian — a language now extinct or ancestral to languages spoken outside the present region — and that the Penutian-speaking predecessors of the historic occupants of this region of the Columbia Plateau either displaced this earlier group or arrived after that group had moved elsewhere or had died out. However, there is no evidence to suggest such an alternative.

    My understanding of the current argument in the KM case is that whether or not KM is genetically related to any modern-day Native Americans, cultural continuity with the Plateau 9,000 years bp suggests that current spiritual practices are a reasonable guideline to those of the past, i.e. the presumption is that KM would object to his bones being dug up or whatever just as modern-day NAs would. From this point on, there’s no avoiding the mucky politics of it, with no strong facts on either side, and very strong feelings on both sides.

  90. Lots of the previous users of the skeletons in museums around the world would presumably have objected to being dug up; as far as I know, this has never been a sticking point, nor should it be. The dead are dead and have no use for their bones any more. But as you say, this issue arouses strong feelings, and I’m well aware there are people who strongly believe things I think are silly. I still think they’re silly, and in this case not just unscientific but anti-scientific.

  91. David Marjanović says:

    Brown et al.’s preprint, at Wichmann’s website, here.

    Looks good to me, even though the reconstruction is clearly in a rather early stage.

  92. Of course it’s not about the dead having feeling for their bones; it’s about their living relatives, actual or virtual. Here’s part of the first chapter of Tony Hillerman’s 1989 mystery Talking God, one of his wonderful Leaphorn and Chee series of novels about two Navajo detectives. Catherine Morris Perry, who works for the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, has just received a large package on her desk:

    She pulled open the top flaps. Under them was a copy of the Washington Post, folded to expose the story that had quoted her. Part of it was circled in black.

    MUSEUM OFFERS COMPROMISE IN OLD BONE CONTROVERSY

    The headline irritated Catherine. There had been no compromise. She had simply stated the museum’s policy. If an Indian tribe wanted ancestral bones returned, it had only to ask for them and provide some acceptable proof that the bones in question had indeed been taken from a burial ground of the tribe. The entire argument was ridiculous and demeaning. In fact, even dealing with that Highhawk man was demeaning. Him and his Paho Society. A museum underling and an organization which, as far as anybody knew, existed only in his imagination. And only to create trouble. She glanced at the circled paragraph.

    “Mrs. Catherine Perry, an attorney for the museum and its spokesperson on this issue, said the demand by the Paho Society for the reburial of the museum’s entire collection of more than 18,000 Native American skeletons was ‘simply not possible in light of the museum’s purpose.’

    “She said the museum is a research institution as well as a gallery for public display, and that the museum’s collection of ancient human bones is a potentially important source of anthropological information. She said that Mr. Highhawk’s suggestion that the museum make plaster casts of the skeletons and rebury the originals was not practical ‘both because of research needs and because the public has the right to expect authenticity and not to be shown mere reproductions.’ ”

    The clause “the right to expect authenticity” was underlined. Catherine Morris Perry frowned at it, sensing criticism. She picked up the newspaper. Under it, atop a sheet of brown wrapping paper, lay an envelope. Her name had been written neatly on it. She opened it and pulled out a single sheet of typing paper. While she read, her idle hand was pulling away the layer of wrapping paper which had separated the envelope from the contents of the box.

    Dear Mrs. Perry:

    You won’t bury the bones of our ancestors because you say the public has the right to expect authenticity in the museum when it comes to look at skeletons.
    Therefore I am sending you a couple of authentic skeletons of ancestors. I went to the cemetery in the woods behind the Episcopal Church of Saint Luke. I used authentic anthropological methods to locate the burials of authentic white Anglo types—

    Mrs. Morris Perry’s fingers were under the wrapping paper now, feeling dirt, feeling smooth, cold surfaces. “Mrs. Bailey!” she said. “Mrs. Bailey!” But her eyes moved to the end of the letter. It was signed

    “Henry Highhawk of the Bitter Water People [a Navajo clan].”

    “What?” Mrs. Bailey shouted. “What is it?”

    —and to make sure they would be perfectly authentic, I chose two whose identities you can personally confirm yourself. I ask that you accept these two skeletons for authentic display to your clients and release the bones of two of my ancestors so that they may be returned to their rightful place in Mother Earth. The names of these two authentic—

    Mrs. Bailey was standing beside her now. “Honey,” she said. “What’s wrong?” Mrs. Bailey paused. “There’s bones in that box,” she said. “All dirty, too.”

    Mrs. Morris Perry put the letter on the desk and looked into the box. From underneath a clutter of what seemed to be arm and leg bones a single empty eye socket stared back at her. She noticed that Mrs. Bailey had picked up the letter. She noticed dirt. Damp ugly little clods had scattered on the polished desk top.

    “My God,” Mrs. Bailey said. “John Neldine Burgoyne. Jane Burgoyne. Weren’t those—Aren’t these your grandparents?”

    Now the custom in my family is cremation, but I would be less than happy if anyone dug up the ashes of my parents and sent them off to a museum. Traditional Navajos, on the other hand (which Henry Highhawk is not) want less than nothing to do with dead bodies of any kind, and will in certain circumstances pay to have them “hauled away as garbage”.

  93. Quite the opposite outcome happened recently with the
    Larkspur shellmound. Here the tribe opted to rebury everything, including bones and artifacts, at an undisclosed location. Archaeologists weren’t too happy about it.

  94. I have mixed feelings about displays of human bones. I do think about respect for the deceased person who inhabited those bones. On the other hand, there is the scientific aspect and I lean in favor of the scientific benefit. However, I would have a problem with displaying bones of recently deceased persons who would have living descendants who would have known and loved them.

    As an example of the benefit, this summer at a museum in Gdansk Poland there was a display of bones showing the effects of injury and disease. It was interesting to me but even more to my wife, a college teacher of anatomy and physiology. She took several pictures to show in her classes.

  95. Stefan Holm says:

    The NYTimes article you refer to, GeorgeW, catches the issue in a nutshell. Exchange Swedish for English, Saami for Navaho (Navajo?), scale down by a tenfold and the problem is exactly the same. The Saami are definitely indigenous in Scandinavia and there is an almost unanimous support for the preservation of their native tounges. But is this anything beyond a sweet dream?

    And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought

  96. Of course it’s not about the dead having feeling for their bones; it’s about their living relatives, actual or virtual.

    Yes, of course, but people have all sorts of feelings that the law, quite properly, does not satisfy. The relatives of people who have been killed often want horrible things done to the killers, etc. etc. I can sympathize with the feelings of those who believe (often on little or no evidence) that some ancient bones belonged to people who shared some of their genetic material (as do we all, but that’s another story) without having the slightest sympathy for their desire to deprive science of evidence in order to satisfy their feelings. The Hillerman passage is cute but of course nothing more than a cheap rhetorical trick; people who lived tens of thousands of years ago are in no way comparable to grandparents. And as far as I’m concerned, I share my father’s indifference; he used to say “When I go, you can just toss me out the back door” (in fact, he was cremated), and I personally would not give a damn what happened to my bones (if they were still around, which is unlikely since I’ll probably be cremated too). Everyone’s different, and we as a society have to make decisions about whose feelings shall prevail. It’s a messy and complicated process, and in the end hardly anyone will be fully satisfied.

  97. I very much doubt that Saami were first inhabitants of Sweden.

    Their language is part of Uralic family which originates much to the east of Scandinavia.

    It is thought that first speakers of proto-Saami language arrived in northern Scandinavia sometime around 1000 BC, displacing and assimilating “Paleo-European” hunter-gatherers. It’s these Paleo-Europeans who were indigenous population (they entered Scandinavia after the end of last Ice Age).

    I note that speakers of pre-proto-Germanic – direct ancestors of modern Swedes – arrived in Scandinavia somewhat earlier.

  98. Just my two cents: I may very well be descended from Lindow Man, but I was still interested to see him on display, and so apparently were a lot of other people of whom the same could be said. To be sure, white folks digging up their own ancestors is a different situation from the ones discussed.

  99. marie-lucie says:

    When Boas started his career, anthropology was still strongly focused on the physical aspects of human beings, and part of his (and others’) fieldwork duties, as specified in their contracts, was taking measurements of living people (especially their heads) and looking for skeletal material in burial sites. Sometimes this brought them into contact with very recent burials. The researchers usually found this aspect of their work very distasteful.

  100. Any progress in relating native American languages by the comparative method must thus be cheered. With few exceptions, like Inka, Maya and Aztec, they were all spoken by hunter-gatherers.

    I’m not an expert, but I think you are seriously underestimating the spread of agriculture in pre-Columbian America.

  101. ,I’m not an expert, but I think you are seriously underestimating the spread of agriculture in pre-Columbian America.

    As far as I know, agriculture was found north of Mexico among groups in the Southwest, the Mississippi Valley, the Eastern U.S. and neighboring parts of Canada. At least some (most?) of these groups supplemented their agriculture with hunting, fishing and gathering*.It was found in the Caribbean and parts of South America outside the Inca empire too.

  102. marie-lucie says:

    At least some (most?) of these groups supplemented their agriculture with hunting, fishing and gathering

    This used to be a normal component of rural life in most parts of Europe (and still is in many), but we don’t call people “hunter-gatherers” just because they like to go hunting, fishing and/or berry- and mushroom-picking.

    Any progress in relating native American languages by the comparative method …

    The “comparative method” does not refer to simple comparison of languages, which could be done by most anyone, but to a method of comparing languages already known to be related (or at least strongly suspected of being so). Genetic relationship between languages normally involve substantial morphological similarity as well as similar words. Without this basic foundation, trying to reconstruct a potential ancestor, or even to set up a genealogical tree for several potentially related languages, is a waste of time.

    The classic example of reconstruction is Proto-Indo-European: resemblances of individual words had long been noticed by travellers, merchants and other people without scholarly interests, but what started “comparative” research was the resemblance in the patterns of the varied forms taken by nouns and verbs (declensions and conjugations), which were very similar in Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. Lexical-phonological comparisons are often content with basic or “citation” forms (the answers to “what is this called?”) without attention to the patterns of variations they enter into.

  103. This used to be a normal component of rural life in most parts of Europe (and still is in many), but we don’t call people “hunter-gatherers” just because they like to go hunting, fishing and/or berry- and mushroom-picking.

    Of course you are right and I didn’t mean to imply that was the case. It was my clumsy attempt to say it wasn’t always an either/or situation. My mother is from Northern Mexico and the historical accounts I’ve read describe a mix of groups that lived in the area before the arrival of the Spanish. Some of them were agriculturists (who I presume also hunted and gathered) while others are described as being simply hunters & gatherers. For what it’s worth my mother’s family farmed and ranched but when I was little she also showed me how to eat the seeds from the mesquite trees that grow in the area.

    About the word cacao….


    Languagehat wrote:
    “Specifically, it’s probably from Nahuatl cacahuatl (i.e., kakawa- plus a noun ending).”

    marie-lucie replied:
    “I think it is hard to know which language might be the original one, since the plant and the drink made from the seeds was so widespread. It is unlikely to come directy from the Nahuatl form though , since the ubiquitous ending tl was borrowed into Spanish as te, as in xocolatl > chocolate, or tomatl > tomate.”

    I noticed something curious about this. The word cacahuate with the -te ending does occur in Mexican Spanish but it means peanut. Out of curiosity I checked the dictionary at the Real Academia Española’s website and it lists cacao and cacahuate as both being derived from the Náhuatl cacáhuatl.

  104. Pancho: Dakin and Wichmann’s article above only mentions cacahuate ‘peanut’ in passing, with the note “related?” But if cacao seeds are egg-like, as D&W say, surely peanuts are too.

  105. There were some Indian groups which supplemented their hunting-gathering with agriculture.

    Essentially, their agriculture consisted of small gardens where women were growing some beans and about 90% of their nutrition came from hunting, gathering and fishing.

    “Agriculture” in eastern United States stayed at this stage for couple of thousand years untill it was replaced with real, corn-based agriculture sometime around 11-12 centuries AD.

  106. Pancho: Dakin and Wichmann’s article above only mentions cacahuate ‘peanut’ in passing, with the note “related?” But if cacao seeds are egg-like, as D&W say, surely peanuts are too.

    Sure they are! I’m just curious if that same word was used for both in Pre-Columbian times or not and if so why (since they’re distinct crops) and if not why did one pas down and the other didn’t since it’s not like Mexicans are lacking for nahuatlisms for stuff they’ve been using since some of them last spoke Nahuatl. 🙂

    (Also, because I had to look in the dictionary under cacahuete with an e and cacahuate with an a was listed as the alternative even though I’ve never, ever come across a person in Real Life that used the version with an e, but people who use it must exist somewhere, because this isn’t the first time I’ve found cacahuete with an e listed first in a dictionary…..)

  107. Wiktionary says cacahuete is used in Spain and El Salvador. I don’t know if that’s universally true. I guess this is from cacahuate with the last /a/ assimilating to the following /e/. It also says the Nahuatl for ‘peanut’ is tlalcacahuatl, ‘earth cocoa’.

  108. marie-lucie says:

    Pancho: The word cacahuate with the -te ending does occur in Mexican Spanish but it means peanut. … the dictionary at the Real Academia Española’s website … lists cacao and cacahuate as both being derived from the Náhuatl cacáhuatl.

    Somehow I don’t think the Academia is an authority on Náhuatl. kakaw(a) (transcribed as cacau or cacao) is attested elsewhere (as mentioned above – I am too tired to look it up), and it is likely that cacahuate is derived from it rather than the opposite.

    I have only seen pictures of the cacao seeds, not the actual seeds, so I am not sure what size they are, but they seem to be larger than the peanut seeds, so it is possible that the ‘peanut’ word is a diminutive of the ‘cacao’ word. I don’t know enough about Nahuatl to know whether this is plausible.

    cacahuate, cacahuete

    In France cacahuète (pronounced as if written “cacaouette”) is one of the words meaning ‘peanut’, and no doubt it comes from a language of Mexico!

  109. In recent years it’s become clearer that many groups considered ‘hunter-gatherers’, at least in western North America, actively shaped the native environment to their beneit. Whether you call these practices agriculture is a matter of degree and convention. See, for example, L. Kat Anderson’s book Tending the Wild.

  110. In 1933, ethnographer Julian Steward claimed that Paiute Indians of Owens Valley in eastern California built extensive
    irrigation ditch networks to improve yields of plants they “gathered”.

    He termed this practice “irrigation without agriculture”.

  111. Wiktionary says cacahuete is used in Spain and El Salvador…….It also says the Nahuatl for ‘peanut’ is tlalcacahuatl, ‘earth cocoa’.

    Ah, thank you. I didn’t think to look in Wiktionary.

    Somehow I don’t think the Academia is an authority on Náhuatl….

    No, but I thought they’d have a trustworthy etymology for the Spanish words. Anyhoo, I think I remembered coming across the same thing in my Larousse dictionary but I didn’t trust my memory and since I thought “If anybody knows the Real Academia knows” I headed thataway.

    I have only seen pictures of the cacao seeds, not the actual seeds, so I am not sure what size they are, but they seem to be larger than the peanut seeds, so it is possible that the ‘peanut’ word is a diminutive of the ‘cacao’ word. I don’t know enough about Nahuatl to know whether this is plausible.

    Maybe cacao was more important culturally (what with it’s use as currency and other things) and that could be a reason the ‘peanut’ word was derived from the ‘cacao’ word. That’s just a guess though. As it happens, peanuts were one of the crops grown by my mother’s family.

    The issues surrounding indigenous languages interest me because of my family’s history. The area my dad was from was still Nahuatl-speaking until the early 20th century. In all likelihood by great-grandparents spoke it and possibly my grandfather did as well but now I don’t know anybody in the family who does so.

  112. Stefan Holm says:

    SFReader: I very much doubt that Saami were first inhabitants of Sweden

    That depends on what you mean with ‘Saami’. Genetically modern Saami differ from other Europeans more than any other group. The genetic clock indicates some 15,000 years of isolation (including from the Finns).

    The theory is, that they were the first to enter Scandinavia after the last ice age. They came from the south, moved north along the Norwegian coast and made it all the way to the northernmost areas. The ice first melted along the coastlines (even in the north) but remained for several thousand years in the interior parts of the peninsula.

    Archeological evidence tells that they fed from the sea (seal, salmon, other fish). Reindeer herding is of late origin. Suggestions vary from 12th to 17th c. AD. Their language we of course know nothing about. The guess that they spoke some form of pre-proto-Uralic is as good or bad as any other. What we know is that they today speak Uralic tounges.

    If the spread of Gmc is connected to agriculture the pre-proto-Gmc:s would have arrived around 3500 BC. If not 1000-500 BC could be true (shift from Bronze to Iron age). In any case significant genetic differences between “Swedish” individuals have been proven already at the earlier date. In addition there is (only) one area in Sweden which can be proven continuously inhabited by farmers since 3500 BC. It’s the kambro-silur sedimentary limestone plain Falan (“the field”) around the modern town of Falköping 20 or so kilometers west of (the middle of) lake Vättern.

  113. The people who entered Scandinavia after the Ice Age (11-10,000 years ago) did not speak Uralic languages for the simple reason that Uralic languages are much younger than that and origin is located much further to the east (somewhere on the other side of Ural mountains in Russia).

    The Saami could well be partial descendants of these aboriginal people, but their language indicates that the ethnic group which first spoke their proto-language couldn’t have arrived into Scandinavia earlier than 1st millenium BC (and by Scandinavia I mean Finland. Saami presence in northern Sweden ought to be even more recent than that)

  114. The thesis that Saami are aboriginal population of Sweden is equivalent to the claim that the English are the aboriginal population of England.

  115. Or that Scots are aboriginal population of Scotland!

  116. It would, however, make sense to talk about Saami being aboriginal population of _north_ Sweden where their presence certainly predates Swedish.

    This would be quite historically accurate description. While Saami were not first inhabitants of the area, they arrived in north Sweden earlier than the Swedes, so could be regarded as aboriginal population for this separate area.

    Note that Swedes then have to be regarded as aboriginal population of south Sweden. /if we put aside Danish-Swedish disputes over Scania/

  117. Stefan Holm says:

    It’s tricky to at all talk about aboriginal or indegenous populations. We are a migrating species and have arrived practically all over the globe in several waves. The mutations in Y-chromosomal and Mitrochondrial DNA haplogroups form quite complicated patterns.

    http://essayweb.net/biology/haplogroups.shtml

    Are we talking languages the story beyond a few thousand years ago is also a blurry one. What is a Swede? What are the English or the Scots? I’m thought to have been able to communicate with 16th c. king Gustav Vasa but hardly with a viking. On the other hand ancestors to the Danes, Swedes, Norwegians and Icelanders spoke the same tounge until around 1300 AD according to sources from that time.

    As for Europe the only remnants of languages other the IE ones are Basque and Uralic – which of course is no positive proof of their being neither prior to IE nor widely spread over the continent. Claims about being aboriginal should always be taken with a pinch of salt. But the estimated 15,000 years genetical clock gap between the Saami and other Europeans at least indicate that they lived isolated for a long long period – supposedly by glacial ice.

  118. If you question the very concept of aboriginal or indigenous population, fine. It’s perfectly understandable position, but it should be applied consistently.

    So neither Swedes nor Saami are the aboriginal population in Sweden, because there no such thing in this universe.

    But you can’t have aboriginal Saami and non-aboriginal Swedes in the same country at the same time.

    This is simply not true.

  119. The English are astonishingly easy to define – it’s the people who have conquered most of Britain in 5-6th centuries AD and founded several kingdoms, of which one survived and united the country – the current United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (previously called kingdom of England 927-1707 and before that – kingdom of Wessex (519-927))

    The Scots are the people who conquered north of Britain in 5-9th centuries AD and founded kingdom of Scotland which survives to this day as authonomous part of United Kingdom.

    Earlier than 5th century AD, we can speak of ancestors of English and Scots who were found in north Germany and north of Ireland, respectively.

    Also a claim can be made that inhabitants of England and Scotland before 5th century AD were biological ancestors (at least partially) of current English and Scottish peoples. However, there are people on this island who can be regarded as aboriginal population of Britain with more justification than either the English or the Scots.

    I am talking about the Welsh- direct descendants of ancient Britons who speak a language descended from old Brittonic language spoken in Britain for over three thousand years.

  120. I am talking about the Welsh- direct descendants of ancient Britons who speak a language descended from old Brittonic language spoken in Britain for over three thousand years.

    Bloody Celts. I remember when it was all Picts; those where the days.

  121. Picts were all slain by king of Scots, because they wouldn’t give up secret recipe for heather ale. I think we discussed this a few weeks ago.

  122. As I’ve noted before, the definition of “indigenous” generally excludes the majority group in a nation-state. The German nation, as far as we know, arose within Germany and has been there for several thousand years as recognizably the same people, but nobody calls the Germans an indigenous people.

  123. marie-lucie says:

    the definition of “indigenous” generally excludes the majority group in a nation-state

    “Indigenous” is usually applied to the population that existed in a region before being conquered by another group usually coming from far away. Depending on the country, the indigenes may now be a minority (as in North America) or still a majority (Peru, South Africa), but they may or may not be the ruling group.

    In Europe most countries are so mixed that it is difficult to sort the indigenes from newcomers, unless the indigenes are still a majority in some areas. In 13th century England, the English were the indigenes, the conquerors were the French-speaking Normans (themselves not ethnically French but related to the Danes who had earlier settled in Eastern England). The descendants of all these people are now thoroughly mixed within the country. Of course, the fact that they did not look significantly different from each other helped with the mixing.

  124. marie-lucie says:

    Des: I remember when it was all Picts; those where the days.

    I once met someone who claimed to be a Pict! Like me he was one of a group of students hired for the summer at a historic park, where we wore costumes of the period and tried to act the part as we took groups around the place. This particular guy was fairly short, and at 20 or so years old had the kind of pot-bellied figure often seen in much older short men. He took pains to comment that his build was typical of Picts.

  125. Indigenous population of France are the Basques. The French are either the descendants of Germanic invaders of 5th century or Roman invaders of 1st century BC or proto-Celtic invaders of 13th century BC.

  126. I once met someone who claimed to be a Pict!

    One is inescapably put in mind of Kirsty MacColl’s There’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Elvis.

    Indigenous population of France are the Basques.

    I’m the indigenous population of France, and so is my wife!

  127. marie-lucie says:

    SFR, “the French” are not an either/or group, we are a mix of all those peoples and more, including Basques who were assimilated into the dominant gene pool.

  128. Stefan Holm says:
  129. Marie-Lucie,

    You state the offiical French position that all citizens of France are French regardless of their ethnicity. But this view is not accepted elsewhere in Europe.

    In Russia or Germany, for example, one has to be of ethnic Russian or ethnic German descent (with documentary proof) to be considered as ethnic Russian or German (the proof of one’s Germanness is very important for Germany which grants citizenship to all ethnic Germans wherever they might live).

    This defintion is applied to foreign countries as well. According to Soviet demographic data, population of France in 1975 consisted of ethnic French (90%) and ethnic minorities which included Alsatians and Lotharingians (1,4 mln), Bretons (1,25 mln), Jews (about 500 thousand), Flemish (300 thousand), Catalans (250 thousand), Basques (140 thousand) and Corsicans (280 thousand).

    I imagine the situation is even more complicated now with considerable immigration and naturalization of immigrants since then.

  130. the proof of one’s Germanness is very important for Germany which grants citizenship to all ethnic Germans wherever they might live

    This is a popular misconception: the provisions of the law are much narrower.

  131. marie-lucie says:

    SFR, Even if all those people define themselves as members of such groups, I doubt very much that they are genetically or even culturally unmixed.

  132. I don’t think an ethnic group (even as large as the French or the Russians) has to be unmixed in order to exist as a group.

    Barring demographic disasters, influx of foreign genes is usually quite limited and local genes always reassert their dominance.

    Consider an African immigrant who marries a French woman and his children marry French and their grandchildren. In less than a century, his descendants would be over 95% French genetically and they would have every right to proclaim “Our Gaulish ancestors were blonde and blue-eyed!”

  133. I am a bit of fan of genealogical research and I can confirm that while ethnic and racial barriers can be crossed quite easily, existence of big ethnic groups is an observable reality.

    Genealogic methods can quite easily detect even such elusive groups as ethnic Americans – descendants of 17-18th century English immigrants.

  134. I don’t think that either genetic or genealogical evidence is useful in determining ethnicity, except as a heuristic. I remember as a teenager taking a test that was also used to qualify applicants for the United Negro College Fund. Nowadays that organization provides scholarships for Americans of all races, not just African Americans, but at the time they required that the applicant “be commonly known as a Negro by his family, friends, and community” (or words to that effect). I think that illustrates pretty well what ethnicity is. Or as the Jewish joke goes, when Sammy buys a yacht and tells his mother that now he’s a captain, she says “By you you’re a captain, and by me you’re a captain, but Sammy, by captains are you a captain?”

    Actually I think Stalin also nailed it back in 1913: “[A nationality is] a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological makeup manifested in a common culture”.

    (I am in one sense an ethnic German, but even though my mother was a German citizen who lost her citizenship by operation of law — to wit, marrying my father — I am not a German citizen, though the German consulate told me I was eligible for an accelerated citizenship process if I were to move to Germany.)

    Now “indigenous” is a contrastive term. The Icelanders are almost certainly the first nationality/ethnicity to occupy Iceland (notwithstanding some Irish or Scottish Gaelic monks), but they are not called “indigenous”, because they are also the only group to do so. Per contra, the Samoans are indigenous to Samoa, because they were colonized by Germans and Americans. On the continents, we simply don’t know what peoples might have preceded any that are extant today or present in historical records, so we disregard them. Stevenson’s poem about the legend of heather ale names the “dwarfish race” Picts, but his historical footnote makes it clear that the historical Picts were never destroyed, and if such a thing happened, it was to a people who preceded the Picts and about which we know nothing.

  135. It is a common to assume that if borders of a certain ethnic group are fluid, then such ethnic group doesn’t exist.

    No, Negroes or African-Americans most certainly exist as a distinct ethnic group. Individuals or whole families may over time join or quit this ethnic group, but it will continue to exist as a group.

    Same applies to the French, Germans, Russians or English-speaking white Americans.

  136. -On the continents, we simply don’t know what peoples might have preceded any that are extant today or present in historical records, so we disregard them.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that there is no point talking about indigenous rights of peoples which don’t exist now.

    There are no Picts extant, so we can’t talk about indigenous rights of the Picts.

    But the Welsh do exist, so we are entitled to talk about their indigenous rights.

  137. I think it’s pretty obvious that there is no point talking about indigenous rights of peoples which don’t exist now.

    There are no Picts extant, so we can’t talk about indigenous rights of the Picts

    1) There *are* Picts; marie-lucie has walked among them.

    2) Ask me about my Neanderthal revanchist agenda some time.

  138. marie-lucie says:

    des: There *are* Picts; marie-lucie has walked among them.

    How rumours spread and become magnified!

  139. I think I’ve met a few elves, orcs and vampires too.

  140. It is common to assume that if borders of a certain ethnic group are fluid, then such ethnic group doesn’t exist.

    You can go further than that: all ethnic groups have fluid boundaries.

    French, Germans, Russians or English-speaking white Americans.

    I agree with all except the last. White Americans, most if not all, still have ties to other ethnicities, which means that ethnogenesis never quite completes. We are what I would punningly call a semi-creole nation.

  141. In my opinion, “English speaking white Americans” is an ethnic group descended from 17-18th settlers of British Isles origin which managed to assimilate all subsequent waves of European immigrants.

    If you go and look at ancestry of any third generation white American, it is very likely that majority of his or her ancestors would be Americans of English ethnic origin.

  142. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek example.

    1. Thomas Blossom (1580 – 1633) m. Ann Heldsdon (1583 – ná 1639)
    2. Elizabeth Blossom (1620 – 1713) m. Edward FitzRandolph (1607-1675/6)
    3. Nathaniel FitzRandolph (1642-1713) m.Mary Holloway (1638-1703)
    4. Samuel FitzRandolph (1668 – 1754) m. Mary Jones ( – 1760)
    5. Prudence FitzRandolph (1696-1766) m.Shubail Smith (1692-1769)
    6. Mary Smith (1716-1791) m. Jonathan Dunham (1709-1748)
    7. Samuel Dunham (1742-1824 ) m. Hannah Ruble (c. 1753-1826)
    8. Jacob Dunham (1794-1865) m. Catherine Goodnight (-1870)
    9. Jacob Mackey Dunham (1824-1907) m.Louisa Eliza Stroup (1837- 1901)
    10. Jacob William Dunham (1863-1936) m.Mary Ann Kearney (1869-1936)
    11. Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham (1894-1970) m. Ruth Lucille Armour (1900-1926)
    12. Stanley Armour Dunham (1918-1992) m. Madelyn Lee Payne (1922-2008)
    13. Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-1995) m. Barack Hussein Obama (1936-1982)
    14. Barack Hussein Obama Jr.

    Ancestry of any third-generation American (unless he is member of religious minority practicing extreme endogamy) looks like this.

  143. marie-lucie says:

    “Our Gaulish ancestors were blonde and blue-eyed!”

    First chapter in history class in grade 2 (equivalent): I learned that the Gauls lived from hunting and fishing, but not what they were supposed to have looked like. Much later I ran into descriptions by Latin and Greek authors (which I read in translation).

  144. David Marjanović says:

    First chapter in history class in grade 2 (equivalent): I learned that the Gauls lived from hunting and fishing, but not what they were supposed to have looked like.

    I’ve met somebody from Martinique who’s just above my age, was still taught nos ancêtres, les Gaulois, looked at himself and decided that something was wrong. He’s noticeably darker than Obama.

  145. I believe black populations in the Americas has only 80% African ancestry (the rest mostly European, but also some American Indian).

    Martinique is probably no exception.

    So it is quite likely that your acquintance did have some blonde and blue-eyed Galois ancestor two thousand years ago…

  146. Generally speaking, a family can go from 100% black appearance to 100% white in three generations.

    Have a look at Wikipedia portraits of Alexandre Dumas fils, Alexandre Dumas and general Thomas-Alexandre Dumas.

    Very enlightening!

  147. marie-lucie says:

    nos ancêtres, les Gaulois

    This is always an embarrassment. During the colonial period, schools in Africa and Indochina were under the French ministry of education, using the same programs and teaching materials as in France, including the Gaulois. I remember being pleasantly surprised a few years ago to find that in the English colonies in Africa at that time the teaching materials were made specifically for the particular region, including its geography and history.

    Nobody ever explained why, if our ancestors were tall, blond and blue-eyed, the majority of French people are of medium height, have brown or black hair, and few of them have blue eyes.

  148. Stefan Holm says:

    Hey y’all – leave the shallowness behind! Genetically it’s a fact that the difference between me and my own mother is bigger than the difference between me and any other human male on this planet. Superficial differences such as skin colour, shape of your nose or whatever might have had an evolutionary benefit for the human race during the days our genes were formed (the 200,000 years or so, when we all lived in small tribes as hunter-gatherers). But in today’s shrinked world – forget all about it! There is a rational reason why the US Constitution, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and numerous other official documents around the globe state that All men are born equal.

    Or alternatively expressed – there is no future in acting otherwise than (within the EU) Germany and Sweden: open your borders, minds and hearts!

  149. marie-lucie says:

    About the Dumas genealogy: General Dumas was not 100% black: his father was a French planter, and his mother a slave, who might not have been 100% black either.

    Alexandre Dumas père earned a lot of money and spent it freely, joyously bankrupting himself. Among other things he had a small castle built at great expense, not far from Paris, but only lived there for two years before he had to give it away to pay his debts . The castle, known as le château de Monte-Cristo, still exists, in the middle of a nice forested park on the side of a hill overlooking the Seine, I visited it this past summer, thanks to my sister who is a member of the Amis d’Alexandre Dumas association which prevented it from being demolished a few years ago and now cares for the property as a museum. The original contents are gone but the inside is being lovingly restored, similar furniture and objects have been brought in, as well as many pictures, original editions and other things related to the writer and his life. A very nice place to spend an afternoon, especially if you are interested in Dumas.

  150. marie-lucie says:

    (Sorry, I have not totally mastered the new method of doing italics).

  151. J. W. Brewer says:

    SFReader: that 20% figure is a commonly-heard one for the U.S. black population (although it’s probably at best an average of something where there’s a considerable range), but I would not necessarily expect the same average to hold in the West Indies where the historical/demographic factors are rather different. But it may not matter because you would only need the median “black” resident of Martinique to have had a single white French ancestor circa the 18th century (possibly less than 1% of their total ancestry) and then add the overwhelming probability that any Frenchman of that era had one-or-more blond/blue-eyed ancestors if you go back far enough.

    There are quite a substantial number of non-Hispanic white Americans with essentially zero English ancestry although I couldn’t give you an exact figure. The comparative strength of taboos against marriages between Protestants and Catholics until a few decades ago was probably the largest barrier to statistically-random mating among the white population and thus the largest driver of this phenomenon. If most of your family has been in the U.S. for, say, 4+ generations and most of your ancestors were Protestant in at least an ethnocultural sense, your odds of having a non-zero amount of English ancestry are probably pretty good. I’ve never seen a plausible estimate of what percentage of the non-Hispanic white population has >50% English ancestry (or even “British” ancestry if you lump together all the other options that aren’t Irish Catholic*), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s substantially below 50%.

  152. Sorry, I have not totally mastered the new method of doing italics

    Don’t worry, it happens to everybody, even John Cowan. The only reason it doesn’t happen to me is that as Grand Poobah of the site I have access to edit buttons that automatically make things bold or italic or add links without my having to worry about closing the HTML code. (N.b.: When I see somebody has forgotten to close an ital tag, I go in and do it — no need to make a special request.)

  153. @Stefan Holm: It’s the U.S. Declaration of Independence that says, “[a]ll men are created equal.”

  154. —Nobody ever explained why, if our ancestors were tall, blond and blue-eyed, the majority of French people are of medium height, have brown or black hair, and few of them have blue eyes.

    That’s because only some French ancestors were tall, blonde and blue-eyed!

    Judging by complete displacement of Gaulish by Latin, immigration from Roman Italy was very substantial, so probably the current appearance of the French is a sign that most of their ancestors were actually Romans.

  155. — I’ve never seen a plausible estimate of what percentage of the non-Hispanic white population has >50% English ancestry

    Me too, but I would like to see a study if there is one somewhere.

  156. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: the current appearance of the French is a sign that most of their ancestors were actually Romans.

    A gross oversimplification!

  157. marie-lucie says:

    what percentage of the non-Hispanic white population has >50% English ancestry

    Read articles on American politics which mentions names of elected representatives and people at high levels of government, and you find names originating in most European countries, as well as some from Asia and even a few from Africa, in addition to English and Spanish names, Of course you also see this about ordinary people, but if people have been elected it means that they are not at the bottom end of the social scale and their ethnic origin (or that of their male ancestors) is not being held against them English names are not necessarily an indication of English origin: most black people in the US have English names.

  158. “I’ve never seen a plausible estimate of what percentage of the non-Hispanic white population has >50% English ancestry”

    One problem with answering this is the effect of the ‘one-drop rule.’ Historically, one drop of a minority blood and the person was, by definition, not ‘white.’

  159. -most black people in the US have English names

    It’s true for surnames, but not for first names. There are now quite a lot of distinctly black first names.

    For some reason, a lot of black names are either of French origin or have been invented to resemble French – like Monique, Chantal, André, Jermaine, La Toya, etc.

  160. marie-lucie says:

    -most black people in the US have English names’

    Of course I meant last names, the ones that get passed on in the paternal line and therefore can indicate the origins of male ancestors. For the descendants of former slaves the name is often that of a former master.

    For public figures such as politicians whose names show up in the media, the last name is the one mentioned most often, and even if the first name is mentioned the person may prefer to be known by a nickname, as in “Ted Cruz” rather than the official “Rafael Cruz”.

  161. SFR, Marie-Lucie: it isn’t a “gross oversimplification” to claim, as SFR did, that most of the inhabitants of France have Roman ancestry: it is utterly untrue. Genetically the inhabitants of Northern France, for instance, are genetically far closer to their German, Dutch/Flemish or English neighbors than to the inhabitants of Central Italy. And within Romance-speaking Europe, in turn, there is no distinctive genetic profile setting off Romance speakers from their non-Romance-speaking neighbors. Indeed, conversely, some Romance-speaking parts of Europe (Sardinia, for instance) are genetically very unlike their (equally Romance-speaking!) neighbors. Plainly, the spread of Latin within the Empire was a matter of large-scale language shift (and there is good evidence that it took place quite slowly and gradually), NOT a matter of demographic displacement.

  162. David Marjanovic says:

    One problem with answering this is the effect of the ‘one-drop rule.’ Historically, one drop of a minority blood and the person was, by definition, not ‘white.’

    Except that the mythical “Cherokee princess” among one’s ancestors doesn’t make people not white. “Indian blood”, it seems, can be “redeemed”. It once made cruel sense in a socioeconomic way.

    and there is good evidence that it took place quite slowly and gradually

    Example.

  163. By the same token, for a long time white “blood” could be lost: Indian was as Indian did.

  164. J.W. Brewer says:

    Because of generations of intermarriage in the U.S. between the ur-English settlers and other ethnic groups, surnames don’t tell you very much, because there is no reason to think that the paternal-line ethnicity implied by the surname is reflective of the percentage majority of ancestry. So e.g. Martin Van Buren was one of two U.S. Presidents to date to have no English ancestors at all (the other was John Kennedy – President Obama’s mother I believe had a pretty high percentage of English ancestry so his is <50% but not that much below), but both Presidents surnamed Roosevelt had substantially more English ancestry than Dutch despite their paternal-line ancestry being Dutch, because they were younger than Van Buren and because the Dutch and English settlers had intermarried more thoroughly down around New York city (where the Roosevelts lived) at an earlier point in time than had been the case further up the Hudson where the Van Burens lived. Indeed, my own surname is probably likewise Dutch (probably originally spelled Brouwer), but I am probably 50% English by ancestry and probably >75% British once you add the Scottish and Scotch-Irish. It can work the other way around — the former governor of New Mexico, US ambassador the UN, etc etc Bill Richardson (William Blaine Richardson III, to be precise) was once touted as a potential first Hispanic president of the U.S. and indeed while his paternal grandfather was as WASPy as the name suggests his other three grandparents were all Mexican.

  165. J.W. Brewer says:

    was the missing part that likewise failed to post in the first attempted correction, immediately after “his is.” Not sure what’s going wrong technically or how to get it all into one unified comment.

  166. I think you forgot to use & lt ; instead of the angle bracket <. Anyway, I’ve fixed it (I hope).

  167. — Genetically the inhabitants of Northern France, for instance, are genetically far closer to their German, Dutch/Flemish or English neighbors than to the inhabitants of Central Italy.

    Inhabitants of Northern France are largely descendands of Franks, so it is not surprising that they are similar to Dutch/Flemish cousins who also happen to descend from Franks.

  168. @Pancho:

    I’ve never, ever come across a person in Real Life that used the version with an e

    That’s where corpora come in handy.

    The Diccionario Usual de la Real Academia Española is a disgraceful shambles, but the RAE also maintains a couple of pretty decent corpora of Spanish (one historical, one contemporary). Looking at CREA, the contemporary one, citations of cacahuete appear in texts from Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and above all Spain; for the South American and Caribbean countries, the synonym maní (< Taíno) is far more frequent.Cacahuate has citations from Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Honduras, but above all from Mexico, which probably explains your intuition of it as the dominant form.

  169. That’s where corpora come in handy.

    Hooray for corpora!

    …for the South American and Caribbean countries, the synonym maní (< Taíno) is far more frequent.

    One does hear “maní” used from time to time on Spanish language television because of the large number of Hispanics from the Caribbean. I’m sure I’d hear it a lot more if I lived in Florida or the Northeastern U.S.

    The word is used in one of the most famous of all Cuban songs, “El Manisero”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Peanut_Vendor

    …above all from Mexico, which probably explains your intuition of it as the dominant form.

    It was really experience rather than intuition. I’m Mexican-American and a native bilingual speaker in Spanish and English so it makes sense that, other than maní, I’ve really only encountered “cacahuate”. While I’ve known a few Spaniards in my time and at least one Argentinean, we’ve never had the chance to sit down and discuss peanuts :-).

  170. Some decades ago a Spanish professor I knew, an Anglo married to a Spaniard, was at a Spanish-speaking party and happened to use the word “cacahuete.” “Cacahuate!” he was immediately and lioudly corrected by a young Mexican woman. “Well,” he said, “it’s ‘cacahuate’ in Mexico and ‘cacahuete’ in Spain.” At which the young Mexicana retorted, “Why yes, of course you Spanish are always right and we Mexicans are always wrong.” And she went to the other side of the room and never spoke to him again.

    I’m surprised it hasn’t come up, unless I missed it, that the form cacahuete is said to have been influenced by alcahuete ‘prostitute’.

  171. At which the young Mexicana retorted, “Why yes, of course you Spanish are always right and we Mexicans are always wrong.” And she went to the other side of the room and never spoke to him again.

    What a great anecdote! Multum in parvo.

  172. At about the time Brown et al. connected Chitimacha and Totonaco, David Kaufman, a graduate student working on languages of the Gulf Coast, came up with a similar idea, here and here. It’s one of these coincidences which happen in academia, all too often.

  173. cacahuate

    On reflection, my sympathies are entirely with the professor. It was not he who was aggressively corrected in his use of Spanish; he made a clarifying distinction; he had to suffer being told that he was a Spaniard when he was not. If she never spoke to him again, he was the better for it, I think.

  174. Sorry, it was he who was corrected; it was not he who did the correcting.

  175. David Marjanović says:

    At about the time Brown et al. connected Chitimacha and Totonaco, David Kaufman, a graduate student working on languages of the Gulf Coast, came up with a similar idea, here and here.

    Interesting indeed; but while many of the proposed loanwords are appropriately cultural, some seem very basic, like “come”.

  176. marie-lucie says:

    David: I agree with you. It is much more likely that Totonacan is related to Mayan languages.

  177. marie-lucie says:

    … and/or to Mixe-Zoque.

  178. a language family is either obvious etc. etc.

    I have now read the original letter from which this quotation comes (sci-hub.cc is my friend). I do not believe that in context obvious means ‘prospectively obvious’, since the letter describes Algic as a “hard fact”, and certainly Algic was not obvious in advance, unlike Romance and other first-order families.

    In fact, the letter is mostly an attack on treating Greenberg’s Amerind as a hard fact of the same kind, or even a plausible hypothesis (and so say all of us). Rather, I believe the author is saying that established language families are retrospectively obvious: that is, confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent (the formulation is due to Gould).

    It’s true that one paragraph also attacks Radin, Swadesh, Haas, Whorf, and Voegelin for wasting so much time on trying to establish macro-family hypotheses, but I attribute this to mere grumpiness: nothing ventured, nothing gained, plainly enough.

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