Hamitic Elements.

From the October 16, 2020, TLS letters column:

In his letter of October 9, Leo Carr mentions the “strong Hamitic elements” of Jibbali, an indigenous Semitic language of Oman. The term “Hamitic” was coined in the nineteenth century to refer to a putative language family including Berber, Ancient Egyptian, and the Cushitic languages, which in turn was thought to be part of a larger family including the Semitic languages. The enormously influential linguist Friedrich Müller named this larger family “Hamito-Semitic” in 1876. These names were taken from the sons of Noah, Ham and Shem, in the book of Genesis, and the linguistic classification was often tied to speculations about race and culture. In fact, the inclusion of a wide variety of African languages in the Hamitic family was posited by leading figures in African linguistics (such as Carl Meinhof) on the basis of characteristics such as skin colour, stereotypical facial features, and subsistence type. In his Races of Africa (1930), Charles Gabriel Seligman provides a representative example of this style: “the incoming Hamites were pastoral Caucasoids – arriving wave after wave – better armed as well as quicker-witted than the dark agricultural Negroes”.

From 1950 onwards, Joseph Greenberg, one of the fathers of contemporary linguistics, demonstrated again and again that “Hamitic” does not itself constitute a valid linguistic family (ie, there is no special relationship between Berber, Cushitic and Egyptian, as opposed to Semitic or Chadic), and suggested adopting the geographically-based name “Afroasiatic”, proposed earlier by Maurice Delafosse (1914). Beyond establishing the linguistic facts, Greenberg advocated against race-based classifications of language, which was a major achievement for modern linguistics.

By common reckoning today, Afroasiatic, also known by a handful of other names that are not widely adopted in Anglophone linguistics, is thought to be a macro-family (or “phylum” or “stock” in the jargon of linguistics) that includes the Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian, Omotic and Semitic families. Afroasiatic is the fourth largest family in the world in terms of number of speakers. Higher-order relationships between these six families are controversial, and while most linguists consider it highly plausible that Afroasiatic does indeed constitute a valid linguistic unit, this has not been demonstrated according to the standards of proof commonly required in historical linguistics.

It is not clear what Mr Carr intended by “strong Hamitic elements”, but according to Aaron Rubin’s excellent The Jibbali (Shahri) Language of Oman (2014), the main languages that have influenced Jibbali are the poorly-described local Arabic varieties and other indigenous languages of the area, such as Mehri. In other words, both in terms of inherited lexicon and grammatical structure, as well as later influences, Jibbali’s “elements” are strongly Semitic. The term “Hamitic” has not had a place in modern linguistics or anthropology for the past seventy years, and invoking it is akin to referring to phlogiston.

Eitan Grossman
Jerusalem

Now, that’s my kind of letter to the editor; I’m glad they featured it. The final letter on the page is relevant to this 2007 LH post:

Pace Laura Thompson, it’s a misuse of the word pace to write, as she does of Agatha Christie, “Pace her use of exotic settings … the village is her natural backdrop” (October 2). Pace (ablative of the Latin pax, “peace”) in effect means “with due deference to”, and takes as its object the person (not a state of affairs or action) towards whom one is expressing respectful disagreement. It’s not a synonym for “despite”. As in Dame Agatha’s elegant country houses, one expects to find such niceties observed in the pages of the TLS.

Benjamin Friedman
New York

While Mr. Friedman’s point is correct, I’m less in sympathy with his indignation; “elegant country houses” do not, for me, represent any kind of ideal.

Comments

  1. Elegant country houses are where language is found strangled by its own finery. The respected aristocrat turns out to be the murderer.

  2. Grossman’s letter is spot on but I wish he’d said explicitly that Arabic and Mehri are Semitic as well. Not everyone knows that.

  3. Good point. Write them a letter!

  4. Incidentally, and ironically (since this is a post about mistakes), I initially mistyped the final word of the post as “idea” and noticed it just before publishing. Elegant country houses do represent a kind of idea, I suppose.

  5. Stu Clayton says

    Key West once represented the idea of order. Briefly but memorably.

  6. Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon!

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    Curious that someone who has actually even heard of Jibbali, and apparently knows something about it (enough to encourage him to pronounce on its character in this way, at any rate) should make this kind of error. I wonder what Leo Carr’s background is?

    Also, Wallace Stevens does not get enough love.

  8. And why is Ramon pale in Key West, of all places? Further investigation is needed.

  9. J.W. Brewer says

    Can anyone provide a non-paywalled link to Mr. Carr’s offending-in-at-least-this-regard letter so we can see more context? It might have been good form for the responding letter to have had a hyperlink to the original letter inserted by the TLS website folks, but no such luck.

    To David E.’s question, there are certainly Britons of a certain age who might have had practical on-the-ground exposure to the relevant part of Oman and plausibly picked up along the way some “information” about the local language situation that was already decades-or-more out of date in some relevant academic community. If, to give a speculative but not unrealistic example, you had been serving in the SAS and been tasked to assist the Sultan in squelching the Dhofar Liberation Front, it might have been quite relevant to you to know the difference between Jibbali and Arabic, but why should you and your comrades have given a toss about Greenbergian speculation about language macro-families and their proper nomenclature? You were either briefed on the local language situation by someone who was au courant with that sort of thing or by someone who wasn’t, and probably didn’t inquire any further.

  10. Fortunately, the October 9 issue was on the recycle pile but had not yet been recycled, so I found the letter and can reproduce it here:

    Patrick West, in his review of Robert Twigger’s Walking the Great North Line (In Brief, September 25), relates that Twigger concludes that his alignment of prehistoric sites is “a correlation. Nothing more”; this is not a rehash of Alfred Watkin’s The Old Straight Track (1925) and his ley line thesis then. Though Watkins originally saw his alignments as prehistoric trade tracks, later writers – some inspired by the 1960s counter- cultural movement – sought a more mystical explanation and posited the existence of “earth energy lines” that the ancients could tune into somehow and follow.

    There is an intermediate position between coincidental happenstance and “ley lines”, though. Bruce Chatwin described it in The Songlines (1987): Australia’s Aboriginal peoples navigated the vast interior by singing descriptions of the routes, as a means of remembering the way. Other non-literate peoples had similar techniques.

    In Oman, thirty years ago, I stopped and offered a lift to an old Jebali (“mountain dweller”) in Dhofar, whom I met in – to me – the middle of the desert. My driver, who was Dhofari too and spoke Jibbali, the local South Arabian language, with its strong Hamitic as well as Arabic elements, told me, somewhat abashed, that the “Sheba” (“Old Man”) had sung his way across the desert. He seemed embarrassed by this, while I, with my compass and maps – this was pre-SatNav – was astonished and impressed.

    Is it possible, therefore, that, while there are no “earth energy” ley lines to discover in Britain, more’s the pity, Robert Twigger’s “Great North Line” might still have had a song description to guide our ancestors from place to place? And, if not, might some enterprising poet or songwriter not produce one now, to guide, and entertain, us on what still sounds to be a fascinating journey?

    Leo Carr
    Rickmansworth, Herts

    Of course, The Songlines is no longer considered a reliable source, either.

  11. J.W. Brewer says

    To amplify my prior example with an analogous case, I expect there are hundreds if not thousands of getting-to-be-middle-aged American military veterans with no formal background in academic linguistics who know more interesting and useful things about one or more of the Kurdish languages than 99.9% of Anglophone linguistics professors. I suspect that many of those veterans also “know” things about Kurdish that were widely believed in academic circles 100 years ago and thus made their way into popularizing secondary sources but are now universally considered debunked or discredited within the niche community of academic Kurdologists.

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    I appreciate hat’s attention to my request! Okay, so Mr. Carr was not in Dhofar so far back as to have likely been engaged in counterinsurgency, but it still was not a standard tourist destination. But an adventuresome tourist with no specialized interest in linguistics scholarship is at considerable statistical risk of having read old popularizing reference books which passed on ideas about linguistics that had already been debunked in specialist circles at the time of publication. I daresay any 21st-century Briton who is unusually interested in Hungary is at greater-than-average risk of having a) been exposed to the idea that Hungarian and Japanese are related to each other as “Uralo-Altaic”* languages; without b) having been exposed to the fact that virtually no currently-living academic specialist thinks that a) is an accurate description.

    *”Turanian” would be even better, but probably less likely to have made it into outdated English-language secondary sources.

  13. Link.

    What is “Sheba”? The Jibbali word for ‘old man’ is šáxǝr.

  14. J.W. Brewer says

    And, whoa dude, ley lines. Takes me back to my Seventies childhood and reading paperbacks about “pyramid power” (and the “megalithic inch” etc etc ) that had somehow ended up in the school library after presumably having been purchased with taxpayer money.

  15. Never mind, I found it. It’s Dhofari Arabic šéyba (surely cognate with Hebrew śāb).

  16. Thanks for finding that!

  17. David Marjanović says

    How widespread is pace, BTW? We biologists express our disagreements without explicit respect and use contra instead.

    (We also don’t write “any remaining errors are, of course, my own” in the acknowledgments, coming to think of it. In historical linguistics it seems to be absolutely required.)

    Watkins originally saw his alignments as prehistoric trade tracks

    Oh! That would actually make sense as long as you didn’t know that ley was a word with a meaning not that long ago.

  18. Stu Clayton says

    >i>And why is Ramon pale in Key West, of all places? Further investigation is needed.

    Will speculation do instead ?

    Apparent, problematic, possible, would likely, would understandably… I say: put up or shut up.

    #
    A well-known French literary critic and author at the time Stevens wrote the poem was named Ramon Fernandez (1894-1944, his name is Spanish because his father was Spanish). His criticism stressed how the author’s consciousness imposes order on his materials. Stevens admitted in two letters that he knew who Fernandez was and had read him, but said he did not have him in mind when he composed the poem and had just picked two common names at random. However, given the apparent relevance of Fernandez’s ideas to the poem, this is a problematic claim. A possible explanation is that Fernandez became a fascist and collaborated with the Nazis when they conquered France. Had he not died of a pulmonary embolism, he would likely have been put on trial after the war. Stevens would understandably have not wanted to associate his poem with fascism.
    #

  19. Well, that certainly explains his pallor.

  20. “Never mind, I found it. ”

    O!. The same book where the author ‘who used Muḥammad as an informant for the Arabic dialect of the Dhofar, complained about him at length (Rhodokanakis 1908: v-vi). He called him, among other things, a bad explainer (“ein schlechter Erklärer”), impatient (“ungeduldig”), and arrogant (“hochmütig”). On this informant, see also Davey (2013: 29–32).‘ (quoting Rubin’s grammar which I am slowly reading since January. I loved that idea: complaining at informants at length…).

    P.S., not the same, it is Rhodokanakis 1911 actually.

  21. Here you go: “Ein schlechter Erklärer war er immer…”

  22. David Eddyshaw says

    I was rather afraid that the supposed “Hamitic element” might have something to with Ancient African Wisdom (the sort of thing that annoys me no end, right up there with Celtic Twilight bullshit, and for much the same reason. Stonehenge, ley lines, Dogon Sirius … natural rhythm …) Seems I was right.

  23. J.W. Brewer says

    Google tells me: ‘No results found for “hamitic twilight”. Clearly a vacuum waiting to be filled.

  24. David Eddyshaw says

    The same book where the author ‘who used Muḥammad as an informant for the Arabic dialect of the Dhofar, complained about him at length

    Gladys Reichard, in her (not very good) Navaho Grammar, when not slagging off all other attempts to describe Navajo than her own, also finds the time to tell us that one of her (named) informants has a “devious mind.” Admittedly, she seems to mean this as a compliment …

  25. We can’t go on together
    With devious minds (devious minds)
    And we can’t build our grammar
    On devious minds…

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    Ein schlechter Erklärer war er immer…

    And quite right too. It’s not the informant’s job to do the idle field linguist’s work for him.

    (This reminds me of the words that one finds sometimes in medical casenotes: “Poor historian” [meaning the patient.] As I have frequently pointed out to trainees, the correct interpretation of these words is “I failed to take a proper history from the patient.”)

  27. Oh, if only we knew what that Muḥammad was saying about Rhodokanakis…

  28. Yes indeed!

  29. People (including people who you would think ought to know better, such as Ruth Rendell) tend to lay into Agatha Christie for dealing in stereotypes, such as portraying the rural aristocracy as most estimable and genteel. In fact, Christie’s country estates range from the sedate and well managed, with benevolent squire and lady, to failing, flailing, and full of tactless backbiting. For every great house that runs smoothly, there is one where the owner is a sociopath who gets murdered because he can’t get along with anyone among his family or his staff; and for every estate that is holding lovely parties for the best set, all with the best manners, there is one where the owners can’t even afford to put on a proper English breakfast for their neglected houseguests.

  30. languagehat: I though I was going to get caught in a trap, and checked carefully, and it’s not Elvis, but a cover of his of Mark James. What can I say, I have a suspicious mind.

  31. Here is Reichard’s work. I find her introduction admirable, giving a detailed background to her sources of information, rather than presenting all informants as homogeneous and perfect sources (which many fieldworkers did and do). Her evaluations are fair and not condescending. That one evaluation is respectful, in context, as well:

    He has a devious mind and I learned much from him because his reasoning was always indirect. Indirection is almost a Navaho (if not an Indian) tenet, and I consider it in many cases an infallible check on certain problems that defy formulation and direct questioning.

    Here devious does not mean ‘scheming’, as in today’s language, but ‘circuitous’.

  32. Max Miller (guy with a historical cooking youtube channel, pretty good) misinterpreted a medieval recipe where the meaning of “artificial” meant “made with artifice”, (putting a whole bulb of garlic in the cavity of a duck when roasting it, making the garlic palatable) as something negative in a similar way. EDIT: His channel is great, otherwise, and I recommend it. He had a collaboration with Ken Albala of Serious Eats recently.

  33. About Old Men, Rubin:

    The language nowadays usually called Jibbali has been known to scholars by a variety of names. Fresnel, who first brought the language to the attention of Europeans (see above, §1.1) called it Eḥkili. This is based on the word əḥklí (pl. əḥkló), the native name used to designate tribal speakers of this language. The term əḥklí contrasts with śḥɛrí (pl. śḥɛró), which refers to non-tribal speakers, who in former times were relegated to a subservient social status.[23] The low status of the śḥɛró can be seen in the comment of Fresnel, who says that əḥklí is the name of “la race noble qui parle … cet idiome”, but that śḥɛrí is the “nom générique des vilains qui parlent la même langue”.[24] Thomas (1937: 7–8) recounts the local tradition (still widely known) that the śḥɛró were the original inhabitants of the area, who later came under the subjugation of the əḥkló.[25]

    Thomas used the name Shahari (= Šaḥri), which is an Arabized form of native Śḥɛri. The variant Šiḥri has also been used by some scholars. Johnstone also used the name Śḥɛri in his earlier publications. The name Śḥɛri and its Arabized variants are legitimate and appropriate designations, as many native speakers use or have used the term śḥərɛ̄t for their language,[26] and one of the local Arabic names is aš-šaḥriyyah. [27] In fact, most of my informants still prefer this designation. However, since śḥɛrí is an ethnonym referring to only some speakers, and since the term has connotations pertaining to a lowly social status, one could argue that Śḥɛri is not an ideal choice as a name for the language.

    The publications that came out of the Viennese South Arabian Expedition used the name Šḫauri, which is a peculiar name that was possibly a creation of Müller’s lone informant, Muḥammad bin Selim (see §1.1). Some have taken Šḫauri to be an erroneous form of śḥɛrí. [28] In fact, the name probably reflects the root šxr, which can have the sense of ‘weak, poor’ (cf. šáxər ‘old man’).[29] The Arabic cognate root sxr is connected to the idea of subjugation (e.g., Arabic saxxara ‘subjugate, make subservient’, suxrat- ‘forced labor’). Müller (1907: vii) explains that his informant defined Šḫauri as ‘poor, weak’, in opposition to ḳabíli ‘tribal’ (since the tribes subjugated the nontribal Dhofaris).[30] Perhaps Muḥammad was providing a folk etymology for śḥɛrí, conflating its root with the somewhat similar root šxr. See below on the actual etymology

    [23] The adjective śḥɛrí is sometimes also contrasted with ḳīli (< *ḳabíli) ‘tribal’ or ḳūli (var. ḳūźi) ‘tribesman’; cf. Müller (1907: vii; 120, n. 2).
    [24] Fresnel (1838b: 79, n. 2). Fresnel also discusses these two names elsewhere (1838a: 554).

    [26] The name, mentioned by Johnstone (1981: xi, 250), is recorded already by Glaser (1890: 96), though he transcribed it Šeḥrât.
    [30] Elsewhere, śḥɛrí is contrasted with ḳīli. See also above, n. 23.

    Sorry for no italics. It is the same Muḥammad and the Fresnel in quiestion is a brother of the one familiar to Brett.

  34. I liked Leo Carr’s letter.

    He is more accurate about linguistics than I can expect: he noted that it is not Arabic and that it has an Arabic element.

    And it is indeed very interesting how people in desert share and memorize their ways…

  35. If you need a modern example: “от Облучья до Читы дороги не увидишь ты”, I heard it in 90s. It mentions two cities where the road between Siberia and Russian Far East disappears. There was not a good road from Moscow to the Far East. Chita is a large city, Obluch’ye is a small town in the Jewish Autonomous Region (Yiddish was still spoken there and they published newspapers etc and I really really wanted to visit it, but now since the road was built the only Jew there is their governor (almost)).

    But a desert is a different matter: you can’t memorize the way as a sequence of named places where you can ask your fellow travellers for the directions…

  36. How is Jibbali šxr cognate with Arabic cognate sxr?

  37. David Marjanović says

    Ah, Semiticist transcription. ś is [ɬ], ḳ is ejective this time…

  38. “It mentions two cities where …”
    I mean, the good road disppeared in the interval Chita—Obluch’ye. There was a road from Moscow to Chita and from Obluch’ye to the Pacific Ocean.

  39. How is Jibbali šxr cognate with Arabic cognate sxr?

    the correspondence *s₁ “Hebrew /ʃ/, Arabic /s/, MSA /ʃ/ or /h/” ?

    P.S. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Semitic_language#Fricatives

  40. Hm. Thanks. I’d somehow thought *š stayed so in Arabic.

  41. @drasvi: Amusingly, that brother was named Fulgence Fresnel, whereas the brother who designed the famous lighthouse lenses had the more pedestrian name of Augustin-Jean.

  42. Speaking of, the OED (based on the 1989) shows no sign of devious meaning anything other than ‘circuitous’, unless, again, I can’t read.

  43. @Y: It has, “3. figurative. Deviating or swerving from the straight way; erring, straying,” which is at least some sign—although the entry is clearly in need up updating. For sense 3, there are just three attestations from the mid-seventeenth century, along with one from Longfellow that seems to pretty modern in meaning: “1847 H. W. Longfellow Evangeline ii. iii. 143 Like the sweet thoughts of love on a darkened and devious spirit.”

  44. Brett, oh, I did not realize what “Fulgence” means at first.

    And Prosper Mérimée was their cousin (I thought about him recently in the context of LH’s comment here).

    “devious”
    …and vilains as distinct from la race noble are not villains either:) Just peasants…
    I do not know how the shift happened, villains in novels and comic books look more like my Cossack ataman great-great-grandfather (who my great-grandfather ran away from after scandals about wasting candles*) than like my church serf great-great-great-grandfather who bought himself from serfdom right before they abolished it…

    * he (the great-great-) has a beard like this, and a dagger like this. And I liked the word “candlewaster” when I learned it

  45. On outdated information in popular books:
    “Hamito-Semitisch” was still used in the maps of language families of Europe, Africa, and Asia in the Diercke Weltatlas we used at school in the late 70s.
    And when I began to be interested in Indo-European linguistics in the early 80s, the reference books I could find in bookstores and afford were mostly introductory text books foor students like Krahe-Meid that were reprints basically unchanged since the 60s. So I entered university thinking that the laryngeal theory was a kooky fringe theory and discovered to my surprise that it was the established prevailing academic theory.

  46. David Eddyshaw says

    I’m impressed that you even had maps showing the language families of the world in your schoolbooks. I don’t remember anything like that in ours (and I’m fairly sure I would have noticed.)

  47. Hamitic is still used in compounds Hamito-Semitic and Semito-Hamitic.

    It is a name, not a theory: it is not understood as “they all are either Hamitic or Semitic” any more than “Indogermanic” is understood as … etc.

  48. Except those terms aren’t used any more. If you google “Hamito-Semitic” you get “former term for Afro-Asiatic.”

  49. Our linguistical education is limited to marking suffixes in words with… with..
    Fuck. I do not remember how we marked suffixes:(

  50. “Except those terms aren’t used any more. ”

    ????????

    Try Google Books or any database that reflects usage instead of making claims about it.

  51. David Marjanović says

    It’s used a lot more in Russian than in English these days.

  52. DM, that is true. (Semito-Hamitic, though, Hamito-Semitic is instinctively foreign)

  53. It is also true that scientific Enlgish is not isolated from scientific Russian and vice versa.
    Purism makes no sense. Fighting against foreign terminology would make some sense if it threatens your native school (and not only foreign, let it be Chomskian or whatever).

  54. David Eddyshaw says

    “Hamito-Semitic” is (whether in common usage or not) an objectively misleading and incorrect term that should no longer be used. Like “Indogermanic.”* It’s not a question of it being a foreign usage. It’s wrong in English and equally wrong in Russian.

    * The correct name is “Indo-Welsh.” (I’m also pushing for “Congo-Kusaalic.”)

  55. ????????

    Try Google Books or any database that reflects usage instead of making claims about it.

    ????????

    Try listening to people who know what they’re talking about instead of reflexively sticking to your guns. Whatever they may say in Russian, English-speaking historical linguists (below retirement age, anyway) don’t talk about “Hamito-Semitic” anymore. It’s an old-fashioned term. If you don’t believe me, believe Google (“former term for Afro-Asiatic”).

    Oh, and here’s a hint: Google Books reflects the entire history of printed books, not current usage.

  56. Or what DE just said.

  57. If the problem is Ham, why not say so:(

  58. David Eddyshaw says

    “Ham” is a problem, as supposed descent from Ham was weaponised by the ancient Israelites to justify their position over against the “Canaanites”, whose Semitic (!) language they actually shared, and (more pertinently) by European racist imperiailists, and by Christian apologists for slavery in the US and Apartheid in South Africa.

    “Hamitic” is also skunked by association with the theories popular among some more “enlightened” imperialists in the 19th and 20th centuries that some “Hamitic” Africans were a bit more white-iike, and that this genetically predisposed them to rule over other Africans and to be more civilised generally. In West Africa, the Fulɓe were the usual group with the dubious honour of being labelled in this way by the invaders.

    But even if you ignore all that (as you should not), “Hamito-Semitic” is still objectively incorrect, because it implies a primary division into Semitic and The Rest. The facts are clearly otherwise.

    All of this is in Eitan Grossman’s excellent letter, really …

    There are a good many other cases (using less fraught terms) of this sort of thing, all of which need to be addressed in the interests of simple accuracy (“Western Oti-Volta” is still sometimes called “Mole-Dagbani”, which is no doubt fine if you happen to be Mossi or Dagomba …)

  59. J.W. Brewer says

    Google books advises me that the proceedings of the Third Hamito-Semitic Conference were published in 1984 (the conference itself having taken place in 1978 in London), the proceedings of the Fourth International Hamito-Semitic Congress were published in 1987 (the conference itself having taken place in 1983 in Marburg) and the proceedings of the Fifth International Hamito-Semitic Congress were published in 1990 or perhaps 1991 (the conference itself having taken place in 1987 in Vienna). That doesn’t strike as all that long ago, and these are not popularizing secondary sources that one might expect to be lagging behind changed terminological usage among specialists. Perhaps the change of jargon occurred earlier and more completely in some parts of the Anglophone academic world than others?

    When it comes to Noachide terminology, the great Rasmus Rask supposedly proposed “japetisk” (= “Japhetic”) for what we now call in English Indo-European, long before the not-so-great N.Y. Marr used Japhetic (яфетическая, I think) to mean a different hypothesized language macro-family less consonant with mainstream scholarly conventional wisdom.

  60. @DE, then lets think of them as two different problems.

    So that we do not invest our fierce support of some ethical idea in a technical problem, because we thought that discussing ethical issues may lead to complications and we can easily resolve them by making technical claims instead.

  61. David Eddyshaw says

    Two different problems, each of them a good enough reason not to use the term “Hamito-Semitic” …

    They are not, in fact, wholly distinct. The term “Hamito-Semitic” reflects European ethnocentrism, as even antisemitic European scholars* tended to feel that “Semites” were not quite as untermenschlich as Africans.

    Incidentally, there is no realm of pure intellectual scholarship** where we can afford to airily set all ethical questions aside as unworthy of our attention; nor will resolving all “technical” issues lead to peace on earth …

    * I have a (rather good) grammar of Fulfulde by an actual (ex-)Nazi within hand’s reach at this moment.

    ** Maths? Plato says no …

  62. J.W. Brewer says

    Looking at the n-gram viewer for the google books corpus, “Afroasiatic” first became more common than “Hamito-Semitic” in 1973 but the problem is that (a) if you lump together “Afro-Asiatic” with “Afroasiatic” the trendlines cross somewhat earlier, but (b) “Afro-Asiatic” is also sometimes used with referents other than the language family, such as the “Afro-Asiatic desert” or the “Afro-Asiatic Solidarity Committee.”

  63. David Marjanović says

    Like “Indogermanic.”

    That one actually works splendidly if you retcon the original intent of mentioning the westernmost (…Celtic) and easternmost (Tocharian) extent to the northernmost and southernmost. “Indo-European” leaves the Tocharians and even most of the Iranians out. 🙂

    …and while trying to look up “Japhetic”, I just learned: “In German literature, Indoeuropäisch was used by Franz Bopp since 1835, while the term Indogermanisch had already been introduced by Julius von Klapproth in 1823, intending to include the northernmost and the southernmost of the family’s branches, as it were as an abbreviation of the full listing of involved languages that had been common in earlier literature. Indo-Germanisch became established by the works of August Friedrich Pott, who understood it to include the easternmost and the westernmost branches, opening the doors to ensuing fruitless discussions whether it should not be Indo-Celtic, or even Tocharo-Celtic.”

    Too bad Pott was the monosyllabic one.

  64. Two different problems, each of them a good enough reason not to use the term “Hamito-Semitic” …

    @DE I just do not want ideas like “disrespect to children is bad” to affect our views on claims like “2+2=4”.

    These two can even be related, but if we falsely assume that 2+2=5 and that this Truth somehow improves livelyhoods of our children (and especially if we think that people around care about arithmetics but do NOT care about children!) we may find ourself caught in an idiotic debate fiercely defending an iditiotic idea.
    And all of this possibly against a similarly motivated (even like-minded) person who just as fiercely believes that convincing everyone that 2+2=7 solves all the world’s problems.

  65. In Russian:
    мухи отдельно, котлеты отдельно.

    That is: serve steaks and flies separtely, please.

    (or burgers. I used “steaks” because “côtelette” is hardly the most common name for the beef in your plate in English).

  66. David Eddyshaw says

    Tell it to the flies …

    (And the anti-vaxers, and the climate change “sceptics”, and to Michael Gove, who feels that the People have had enough of experts; Magna est Veritas, et praevalebit … in the end. Meantime, the Big Lady could do with our active help. As fly-swatters …)

  67. J.W. Brewer says

    Does “Indo-European” imply a primary division between Indic and The Rest (all of which is “European”)? Apparently there is an unresolved controversy about whether Sino-Tibetan does or does not have a first order division between Sino- and the rest (and treating Tibetan as shorthand for “the rest” might be thought insulting to non-Tibetans even if “the rest” is a valid node), but are we just waiting to revise the name of the family depending on how that controversy shakes out? Admittedly the lack of current belief in a coherent “Hamitic” node or subgrouping is an issue, but that could be fixed with e.g. Cusho-Semitic, which would keep the Biblical-name theme consistent. (Cush has the advantage of being one of the sons of Ham who *didn’t* get explicitly cursed.)

  68. J.W. Brewer says

    I’m separately puzzled by the notion that the traditional (pre-1492 etc) range of Celtic extends further west than that of Germanic. Is the idea that the settlement of Iceland is too late to count toward the baseline, or is it that Irish monks got to Iceland before Norse-speakers and that somehow counts even though they never really established a self-perpetuating Celtic speech community there while the Norse-speakers did? But if that sort of transient presence counts, maybe Germanic should get credit for making it to Vinland?

  69. David Eddyshaw says

    Indeed. This is why the group should really be called Tarim-Baal

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuuk#Geography

    which also has a pleasingly Biblical ring to it.

    Altermatively, as (to avoid unseemly political squabbles) language groups should ideally be named after a poorly documented extinct member of the family: the Macro-Phrygian languages.

  70. Just for precision. The Russian line is literally: “flies separately/apart, côtelettes separately/apart” (the same sort of contrast as in “X here, Y there”). Côtelettes is a word that sounds funny (just like kolbasa “sausage”) and already provokes humour, but we eat them very often. The (remembered and implied) context is a complaint / preferences / request of a customer/eater. I just made it explicit.

  71. J.W. Brewer says

    And now I’m also puzzled by the notion that Indic is not the (pre-1492) easternmost bit of IE. The easternmost bits of the traditional range of Assamese seem a little further east of the Greenwich Meridian than the hypothesized dwellings of the Tocharians. Did the (Iranic-speaking) Sogdians get any further east than that? (As an organized locally-dominant community – I don’t doubt that Sogdian-speaking traders made it all the way to the shore of the East China Sea but I daresay so did some Indic-speaking monks.) Or had Assamese not yet made it quite as far east as it later did when Sogdian and Tocharian were still around?

  72. Tarim-Liffey (DE) works for me.
    But it is because of peculiarities of my education (partly shared with others).

    Tocharian is what you normally hear in Indo-European comparativist context so I associate it closely with “IE” and I associate Tarim with Tocharian too. So “Tarim” triggers the right association, the image of Indo-European family, and is a good pars pro toto for me.

    Liffey is Dublin is Ireland, pars pro toto again. Now I studied [or maybe “studied” is too strong a word. Read Meillet etc. would be more accurate] IE comparativistics as a part of Celtic comparativistics which was too extension of my interest to Old Irish [no, I do not know it really]. Also it is one of the Westernmost points (this is what DE meant), but what is important it also leads me to right associations.

  73. David Eddyshaw says

    The easternmost bits of the traditional range of Assamese seem a little further east of the Greenwich Meridian than the hypothesized dwellings of the Tocharians

    OK: the Gangetobaalic family, then.

    As islands are ultimately unimportant, perhaps just Ganges-Atlantic. Seems to cover most of it …

  74. Arcto-Adriatic (Slavic).

  75. David Eddyshaw says

    Excellent name!

  76. J.W. Brewer says

    No, the Ganges goes off in the wrong direction as you head upstream. You want the Brahmaputratlantic.

  77. I just learned that the term “Semitic” had to be defended, in 1795, for including the language of Hamitic Canaanites. Eichhorn, who authored that defense, grouped under Semitic all “Oriental” languages written with an alphabet or syllabary. Since the benighted Canaanites had adopted the system, their language earned being called Semitic as well. That was fitting for a place and time where one had to keep one foot firmly in observation and the other firmly in biblical authority, even as the two were moving apart.

    Perhaps Eichhorn would not have gone so far if he’d been aware of the linguistic affinities of the Ethiopian Semitic languages (and the Ethiopic script). In the secular 1830s and 1840s the Ethiopian languages were attached to Semitic, the label being kept with no great fanfare. Ethiopic languages were subgrouped with Arabic for a while, this keeping nobler Orientals (Hebrews, Phoenicians, Babylonians) apart from the swarthier ones.

    In the long view what I am getting to is that “Hamitic” certainly carries old racist baggage, and good riddance to it, but “Semitic” is not innocuous, for quite the same reasons. Not that I have a good substitute (“Akkado-Zway” is the worst one I can come up with at this moment.)

  78. David Eddyshaw says

    Brahmaputratlantic

    Sounds like one of those Modern Dances. Too energetic for me, I expect.

    Semitic

    certainly is problematic as the name for the language group, but (as with “Indo-European”, and probably even “Sino-Tibetan”) it’s surely too late to do anything about it. Whereas “Hamito-Semitic” can still be Firmly Dealt With.

    Now I think of it, “Nostratic” is pretty Eurasiocentric. It should be changed to “Illorumic” (or, for the truly hardcore, “Istorumic.”)

  79. David Eddyshaw says

    Semitic

    The Awash-Tigridic Langages.
    No?

  80. Just for precision, the Russian word котлеты does not refer either to what the English think of as “cutlets” or what the French think of as “côtelettes”; they are meat patties more similar to what my parents’ generation called Salisbury steak (does anyone still use that term?).

  81. Yes.
    Ground meat, onion, some add bread soaked in water or milk to make them softer.
    And fry them on a pan.
    I do not like this “bread soaked…” thing.
    Smaller kotlety made from ground meat, more onion and some pepper without additions were called lyulya-kebab in USSR and that is what I eat.

  82. In TV dinners. Maybe in hospitals, too.

  83. Could be worse. Much worse.

  84. Speaking about Turkic vocabulary:

    In any Moscow shop in the meat section (if it has such a section) apart of different sorts of beef they also have azu and gulyash (chopped to appropriate size). You do not know what part they used for this though, so if you are going to buy it, you need to know where it is good.

  85. @Y: Please tell me that that is something out of a Monty Python sketch. “You asked for it”, indeed.

  86. @LH, about HS: old-fashioned or getting old-fashioned. Yes.

    Less so than языкознание in Russian. It is not productive: there are departments – a certain kind of departments as opposed to лингвистика – journals etc. and maybe new departments of the same kind are getting named so – but not many people will say they are “doing” языкознание.
    But it remains in our active vocabulary.

  87. @Hans: It’s real. I’ll leave it for the British in residence to own or disown it.

  88. @drasvi: I’d just like to point out that, canonically, the false belief that 2 + 2 = 5 is not adopted because it is believed that doing so will make this better for humanity, but precisely because it will make things worse.

    Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement.

  89. David Eddyshaw says

    2 + 2 = 5

    As I have remarked before, the point about the scientific method (and the thing that my schismatic brethren in the US* consistently refuse to understand) is that it is based on a moral principle: be prepared to admit that you may be mistaken, and take reasonable steps to find out if you are mistaken. Opposition to this principle is unethical (and therefore unChristian, my brothers …)

    As I also said (just now) there is no realm of empyrean Truth devoid of moral consequences. It should hardly be necessary to say this in a world where the God-damned Right has moved from perfectly truthful appeals to greed, self-interest and fear of others to outright denial of Holy Fact** as its preferred mode.

    * OK, not just the US. But they make the most noise about it.
    ** © Charles Williams, about 1935. Significantly.

  90. Maxwell Martin says

    If for any reason the glottonym Semito-Hamitic is to be deprecated in favor of Afro-Asiatic, how is one to refer succinctly to, say, the Semitic languages?

  91. 2 + 2 = 5

    This allows me to recite an old Soviet joke.

    A meeting in a factory where the speaker presents the decisions of the latest party congress.
    Speaker: Comrades! Before this year’s party congress we thought that 2 + 2 = 8, but now due to bold leadership of the Central Committee and comrade Secretary General we know that 2 + 2 = 7. Some people even clamoring to declare that 2 + 2 = 6, but we must reject these revisionists claims.
    From the audience: And why not to say that 2 + 2 = 5?
    Speaker: Too close to 4.

  92. Oh, I am giggling (which is unusual) I think I heard it once many years ago, but forgot it utterly)

  93. David Eddyshaw says

    If for any reason the glottonym Semito-Hamitic is to be deprecated in favor of Afro-Asiatic, how is one to refer succinctly to, say, the Semitic languages?

    As “Semitic languages.” Not calling Indo-European “Indo-Germanic” does not stop you talking about “Germanic languages.” Why should it?

    The name “Semitic languages” is itself not ideal, but that has nothing to do with the objections to “Hamito-Semitic.”

  94. @David Eddyshaw: If, Be prepared to admit that you may be mistaken, is truly a moral principle, then would not a deity who did not claim to know for certain which souls are to be saved be a more moral god than one who did?

  95. David Eddyshaw says

    Sure, if he were bound by time, as we are.

  96. David Marjanović says

    (or burgers. I used “steaks” because “côtelette” is hardly the most common name for the beef in your plate in English).

    I was about to suggest “meatloaf”.

    Did the (Iranic-speaking) Sogdians get any further east than that?

    Yes; they were all over Liáoníng in the early 8th century.

    Or had Assamese not yet made it quite as far east as it later did when Sogdian and Tocharian were still around?

    I think so. But of course it wouldn’t be the first case of truthiness in an academic setting.

    Does “Indo-European” imply a primary division between Indic and The Rest (all of which is “European”)?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it originally was. Precisely such a division was widely, perhaps universally, taken for granted in the 19th century.

    Apparently there is an unresolved controversy about whether Sino-Tibetan does or does not have a first order division between Sino- and the rest (and treating Tibetan as shorthand for “the rest” might be thought insulting to non-Tibetans even if “the rest” is a valid node), but are we just waiting to revise the name of the family depending on how that controversy shakes out?

    Some people active in that field have actually come up with Transhimalayan (trans as in “all across”, not “on the other side”) so they can ignore this controversy. It seems to be spreading very slowly.

    “Tibetan” in “Sino-Tibetan” is short for “Tibeto-Burman”, the supposed non-Sinitic branch, which is named after the two languages that have achieved Classical status.

    Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?

    “Dystopia Justifies the Means” is a TV Trope, just saying. 🙂

  97. Maybe the best alternative for the hopelessly “problematic” IE is something akin to David E.’s Macro-Phrygian. I do think, however, that it would be good to have a modest number of living speakers of the reference language, not too strongly affiliated with any overly large political faction, plus the fact that historical Phrygia is currently submerged under Turkic-speaking occupation might make it awkward to have scholarly conferences there. (Maybe maybe not – whether the Erdogan regime be happy to hype the pre-Turkish cultures of Anatolia if there is money to be made from tourists seems something that could go either way.)

    So I think the obvious entirely problem-free new name for the language family is Macro-Shqipic. As soon as we can get the search engines to stop asking impertinently if we meant “macroscopic.” And of course since the prehistory of Shqip is hopelessly confused due to lack of early written texts plus interplay between “genetic” effects and areal/Sprachbund effects, tracing its exact connection to any other Macro-Shqipic tongue will enable the historical/comparative philologist to deploy the full range of skills and methodologies.

  98. @David M.: And how do you think the Burmese feel about “Tibetan” being considered the obvious short-form synonym for “Tibeto-Burman”?

  99. Both groups have enough other problems these days that scholarly linguistic terms are doubtless too far down on their list of priorities to be seen with the naked eye.

  100. Maybe there are two kinds of problematic?

    1. does not comply to my rule
    2. known to cause practical issues.

    There is
    3. I have a theory that can predict practical issues. It has been tested (or proven).

    But it is problematic.

  101. 1980s TV ad for Mr Brain’s product.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYscVj9MMlE

    The Mr was added to the brand name in the 1990s after BSE to avoid the impression that the product contained grey matter.

  102. David Marjanović says

    So I think the obvious entirely problem-free new name for the language family is Macro-Shqipic.

    I can feel the Kosovo and surroundings exploding again… 🙂

    On “Berber” as the name of a language family and related matters.

  103. @D.O. Same as dravsi: I think I’ve heard before, but I don’t remember, and also giggling, which is also unusual.

    @J.W. Brewer They are happy to with regards to archaeology. My archaeologist ex experienced it when working at Çatalhöyük.

  104. @mollymooly: I didn’t think it could be even worse. Thank you.

    The meatloaf variety I grew up with was Klops, which Wiktionary says is Low German, “probably borrowed from Swedish kalops (‘stewed meat’), from Old Swedish kollops (‘slices of beef stew’), ultimately related to klopfen (‘to beat’). Cognate to English collop (‘slice of meat, bacon, rasher’).” I’d never heard of collop before.
    The Klops I am familiar with has a hard-boiled egg in its interior, like a Scotch egg but with much more meat than egg.

  105. @Y the variety I am familiar with also has pickles and boiled carrots with the egg, in the middle.

  106. The Russians about to attack Ukraine is giving me Serbians attacking Kosovo and the Russians attacking, well, all of the places they attacked. Including Bulgaria vibes. Did not announce. Rude.

  107. А Запад, как видим, настроен воинственно. Трусливо, но воинственно. В всяком случае, по словам Козака, Франция (советник президента Франции Эммануэль Бонн) и Германия (советник канцлера Йенс Плетнер) фактически отказались влиять на Ермака, который отказывался даже цитировать «Минск-2» в части, где шлось об особом статусе Донбасса — ключевой теме и этих переговоров, и вообще мирного урегулирования.

  108. @Y: To me collop is a more general (and seemingly more commonly used*) term than rasher (which specific to bacon and very similar meat products). In fact, one could argue that rasher is a singulative of the mass noun bacon.

    * I could have sworn that I had used the word collop in one of my attempts to write fiction, but if I did I cannot locate it.

  109. I thought collop must be UK, because I’ve never said or heard it, and if I’ve seen it I don’t remember it; I certainly couldn’t have told you what it meant. But none of my dictionaries mark it UK, so I don’t know what to think.

  110. J.W. Brewer says

    “Collop” definitely feels a bit foreign and/or archaic to me, but here’s a 1966 Sports Illustrated piece describing the very non-British “All-Star Athletes Cook Book,” which includes a recipe for “Rocky Marciano’s flaming beef collops” along with, e.g. “Blanton Collier’s Kentucky burgoo and Don Meredith’s prairie jackrabbit.” Cain’t get more Mur’can than that, no way no how.

    https://vault.si.com/vault/1966/01/24/people

  111. Collop is probably more common in British English, but I would expect the same for rasher. Both are certainly used in North America, albeit sparingly.

  112. A random (English) artcile by Meinhof. If I understand right, he is basically telling: “people who connect Nama with Bushmen languages do so mostly because of clicks (that is on typological grounds). But I see evidence of possible borrowing of clicks and I think gender (typological grounds) is more archaic. In this respect they are more similar to AA and IE.”

    He complains:

    It is unfortunate that our knowledge of the northern click languages is quite insufficient at present. We have therefore to endeavour to find analogies for these two groups of idioms amongst the well-known languages of Central and North Africa. It is here that we discover the remarkable fact that the Sudan languages, e.g. the Ewe, are not agglutinative, but isolating, just as Bushman.

    Note a typological argument again.

    Unfortunately the faucal sounds of Hottentot have been insufficiently recorded; but, according to the statements of Bleek and the points noticed by Wallmann, sounds are authenticated which recall the Hebraic ע and the Arabic ع .

    I cannot enter into a comparison of the vocabulary, as a few apparent similarities serve no purpose,[1] and because extensive preliminary studies are still required for an exact comparison.

    So “long-range comparisons based on typology in absence of good reconstructions” is what Greenberg was agianst?

  113. also

    It has never been doubted, to the best of my knowledge, that the grammatical gender of the Hamitic languages is somehow connected with the same phenomenon in the Semitic and Indo-Germanic languages. Against the contention that Hottentot belongs to this group of languages, it has been repeatedly held that the grammatical gender is not permanent with them, but that one and the same thing is, according to the requirements of the case, sometimes masculine (when big, long), sometimes feminine (when small, broad).
    This is certainly a distinct difference, but, as it appears to me, only of the living from the dead idiom. Whereas the Hottentot knows why he designates one object as masculine or as feminine, the European cannot give, as a rule, any explanation on this point.
    The same thing occurs in Masai as well as in Nama,[1] and in Bedauye [2] ; also in Bilin, [3] and in Chamir.[4].

  114. David Eddyshaw says

    The fans of “Hamitic” made a big thing about gender of the masculine/feminine sort, which was regarded as a marker of superiority of intellect to the horrid Bantu sort. Some of the languages they got excited about actually were Afroasiatic; others were Eastern Nilotic. The supposed common thread was that these were (they imagined) all spoken by pastoralists, who were genetically better than mere cultivators, and destined to rule them.

    However, the loathsome Meinhof himself thought that Fulfulde was “die vermutlich ältesten uns zugängliche Form einer Hamitensprache” despite the fact that Fulfulde does not in fact distinguish masculine/feminine grammatically; in this case the “justification” was its elaborate system of initial consonant mutations*, which Meinhof decided was really much the same thing, along with the fact that the paler sort of Fulɓe are pastoralists, and that the Fulɓe had set up some rather impressive Emirates, thus proving to the satisfaction of the sort of people who think like Carl Meinhof that they were in some way nearly European, almost.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Meinhof

    * One Pullo, two Fulɓe! Some of them speak Fulfulde, others speak Pulaar …

  115. In 1912, Carl Meinhof published Die Sprachen der Hamiten (The Languages of the Hamites). He used the term Hamitic. Meinhof’s system of classification of the Hamitic languages was based on a belief that “speakers of Hamitic became largely coterminous with cattle herding peoples with essentially Caucasian origins, intrinsically different from and superior to the ‘Negroes of Africa’.”[1]

    [1] Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History, CRC Press, 2005, p.797

    This Encyclopedia is in Google Books. I checked it in hope that it has a quotation or page number in Meinhof’s book. It does not. And styling a quote from Shillington in such a way that some readers will think it is a quote from Meinhof is a bad kung-fu.

    P.S. I grumble because I hoped to find that page number. I think nothing about Meinhof:) I just do not enjoy reading in WP theories about Meinhof by people who likely never read Meinhof.

  116. PlasticPaddy says

    @drasvi
    Die alten Ägypter hatten zwar schon sehr früh den Gegensatz erkannt, der sie von allen ihren Nachbarn trennte…; aber in den späteren Jahrtausenden hörte man wieder auf, sich der großen Unterschiede bewußt zu sein, die zwischen den eigentlichen „Negern” und den schlichthaarigen Nordafrikanern bestehen. So konnte noch 1879 Robert Hartmann, der damals als ein ganz besonders guter Kenner von Afrika galt, in aller Form versichern, daß der von Kairo nilaufwärts reisende Beobachter nicht wahrnehmen könne, wo der helle Ägypter aufhöre und wo der „Neger” anfinge.

    from “Völker, rassen, sprachen” by Felix von Luschan.
    This is not Meinhof, but he contributed the illustrations of Hamitic physical type to Meinhof’s 1912 book.
    Here von Luschan seems to identify with the “light-skinned” [hell] Egyptians, who understood their profound difference [Gegensatz] to their neighbours and to deplore the view of an old Africa hand, who said in all seriousness [aller Form] that an observer traveling up the Nile could not perceive where the Egyptian ended and the Negro began.

  117. Women of the past were aware of the great differences that existed between them and eigentliche men, but no later than last Friday Miss Mary Yesemchuk…
    Cats of the past were aware of the great differences that existed between them and humans, but.
    O tempora.

    Potatoes too behaved themselves.

  118. David Eddyshaw says

    Genetic evidence does not appear to support the thesis that the difference between Egyptians and other Africans is comparable to that between cats and human beings, or even, indeed, to that between men and women.

    But are we not all, in the final analysis, potatoes?

    (There would be something to be said, on the “Hamito-Semitic” principle, for calling the Eukaryotes “the Potato Kingdom.”)

  119. The ancient Egyptians would have been appalled at the suggestion that they had the same skin colour as their neighbours to the north or south. They knew perfectly well what colour they were: red. (The men, at least.)

  120. David Eddyshaw says

    The legendary (and probably also real) founder of the polity which eventually gave rise to the Mossi-Dagomba states is called (in Kusaal) Tɔn’ɔs Zin’a “the Red Hunter.”* Sadly, there seems to be no good reason to suppose that he was Egyptian. Lots of people are red (southern Ghanaians are, for example.)

    * Possibly his true name was not pronounceable in our Earthling languages. Or maybe he was just trying to throw the police off his trail. You know how it is with these conqueror types.

  121. Possibly his true name was not pronounceable in our Earthling languages

    Was he from Sirius B by any chance?

  122. David Eddyshaw says

    May well have been …

  123. DE, ‘X is greatly different and has a predetermined place in the world’. Whether there is genetic evidence for “different” or not and whether this place is above or below, it is still better to just be nice to X and base your relationship on X’s own preferences and character.

  124. Gendered colour happens in modern North Africa.
    I am not sure if it helps to reconstruct Egyptian views on the same.

    If all that future archaelogists will have is photographs of naked wersterners with tan lines, I am looking forward to reading about a taboo on brown buttocks (monkey cult?)

  125. David Eddyshaw says

    it is still better to just be nice to X and base your relationship on X’s own preferences and character

    An admirable sentiment …

    However, these are cases where X is not greatly different, and does not have a predetermined place in the world, so condescending acceptance is not the appropriate response.

  126. I agree. (Cue Big-enders and Little-enders.)

  127. @DE, I mean, I object to the predetermined place stuff.

    You can be a woman, have breasts, periods, different endocrine system, moods after all. Different identity.
    It does not prevent me from developing my own line of behaviour based on who we two are.

  128. I object to the predetermined place stuff.

    I don’t follow; you’re the one who started talking about “predetermined place.” And I don’t see what women and cats have to do with Egyptians and other Africans.

  129. @LH, I am disagreeing with Felix von Luschan.

    I read the passage. All that he wrote can be true: colour borders between populations appear (when a population migrates) and get blurre (as they mix). Social interpretation of colour (not limited to what we understand as racism) can appear and disappear too. I simply do not know if Egyptians were less or more racist 4000 ago than they are now.

    But I did not like “great difference”.

  130. I ironized about it, thus potatoes.

  131. I enjoyed the potatoes.

  132. David Eddyshaw says

    I thought you were ironising (and have myself occasionally got into trouble for such things), but I can never resist a good potato.

    I think (though) that there are two rather different (honourable) responses to genetic determinism of the kind favoured by the Meinhofs of this sad world:

    (a) well, that may be so, but that is nevertheless not a good reason for treating people badly
    (b) your alleged facts are not factual; you have concocted them or at best, indulged in gross cherry-picking, to justify your own attitude to groups you disapprove of (or want to disempower) for quite other reasons

    Lay people (IMHO) are far too prone to go for (a) (which does them credit, morally – up to a point) when they should be going for (b), which is almost always a hell of a lot nearer the truth.

  133. PlasticPaddy says

    @drasvi
    You can also translate Gegensatz as “contrast” or “basic/obvious difference”, if you want to be neutral. I think von Luschan did not want to be neutral, because he accepted some of a number of related ideas centring around the existence of or need for pure races and the necessary consequences of uncontrolled human breeding among “lesser” races (or between “lesser” races and others), coupled with the removal of former population controls like war, famine, and pestilence.

  134. David Eddyshaw says

    Von Luschan seems (if WP’s report of his attitude as expressed in his works is correct) to have been a genuine adherent of my alternative (a), believing that there were very significant genetic differences between “races” but that they were all “equal” … in some sense. This (of course) still meant that all measures necessary should be taken to Purify the Nordic Race.

    In fairness, it’s easy to ignore just how mainstream this was in that time – internationally; nor did WW2 put an end to it, as one might naively have hoped:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galton_Institute#1942_to_1989

    They never really go away, do they?

  135. David Marjanović says

    “Opposition”, “contrast”. Felt as related to Gegenteil “opposite”; sometimes it’s even synonymous.

  136. David Marjanović says

    believing that there were very significant genetic differences between “races” but that they were all “equal” … in some sense.

    Ah, a racialist in late-20th-century American terms. (A short-lived self-designation.)

  137. J.W. Brewer says

    It’s never too late to rule out the potential resurgence of war, famine and pestilence as factors affecting the demographics of the near future! And von Luschan himself was 60 years old in 1914 when the supposedly-civilized white folks of Europe demonstrated their extraordinary technological capacity for reducing the population of neighboring countries of similar skin color. (He did get an interesting-sounding wartime gig surveying the variousness of languages spoken by POW’s who had fallen into the custody of the Kaiser, but I don’t know if he got any publications out of it.)

  138. @PP, I meant großen Unterschiede.

    Does it refer to striking difference in colour (that doubtlessly exists between a stereotypical Swede and Klingon) or to some profound difference with serious implications?

    “Women” appear because the difference does exist and if someone is missing the fact that a woman and a man can beget someone, it is maybe better to inform this person about it. But apart of that “…and what”?

  139. The idea si that : I do not know what genetics says about races (and I do not need to know, really), but I can’t apply the same line of defence to women, men, children, autists, schizophrenics, people without hands, gays, lesbians, straight people, cultures and different gender identities.

    “And what?” is much more universal.

  140. David Eddyshaw says

    Most children do not seem to significantly differ genetically from adults. People from other cultures seem rarely to owe this feature to their genes … nor do most of those without hands …

    Your other examples seem – heterogeneous …

    The best case for genetic determinism I know of is the overwhelmingly strong association between a particular very common chromosome defect and a propensity for violent crime. The obvious eugenic response seems to have attracted surprisingly little interest, though I recall one or two stories by James Tiptree Jr bearing on the matter …

  141. @dravsi nobody seriously uses the words “schizophrenics” and “autists” any more. They don’t refer to anything concrete. That’s 1930s – 1970s nonsense.

  142. When you try to identify what was wrong with that 19th century crowd, can you really blame them for

    – studying phenotypes (instead of DNA like clever people do)?
    Phenotypes tell a lot. It is my phenotype that lets you see today that I am the same guy as drasvi who you saw yesterday. You can recognize someone’s relative sometimes and you usaully can recognize people from certain regions.
    – that they studied humans at all?
    – that they tried to connect races and behaviour? Scientific or not, dogs and cats are different, men and women are differnet why not races?

    It smells like “they were just Dumb, and thus immoral. But I am clever and have fucking science behind – I won’t make any mistakes”. They were not dumb.
    When I step on this rake, it won’t be the very same rake.

    So I am trying to figure ourt what was wrong, and at the moment I do not like that they were not sayign “…and what?”.

  143. So I am trying to figure out what was wrong

    That they were trying to prove other races were inferior? And please don’t tell me that was a straightforward inference from the data available to them.

  144. That they were trying to prove other races were inferior? And please don’t tell me that was a straightforward inference from the data available to them.

    That most certainly was wrong. But there is no other reason to criticize guys from 200 years ago for me (less so for you maybe*) than to learn not to repeat the mistake. And we are not going to repeat the same mistake. No, I won’t call other races “inferior”.


    *Russia was not too interested in racial theories in 19th and 20th centuries.

  145. @LH, yes, I have no better way not to be an asshole than just “not be an asshole”. It works well when you really try. So it seems I just trust my feelings.

    But if I am analyzing those dudes, I will at least try to identify what bothers me and come up with some generalizations. “Racists” is too obvious, “used ‘Semito-Hamitic’ instead of ‘Afro-Asiatic'” is false.

    And please don’t tell me that was a straightforward inference from the data available to them.
    Intuitive for many who grow up in a racist context.

  146. J.W. Brewer says

    V either has an idiosyncratic meaning for “nobody” or an idiosyncratic meaning for “1970s” because it is pretty easy to find professional publications from the 21st century written in turgid academic/medical jargon which use “schizophrenic(s)” as a noun. If the word has become tabooed or been ground beneath the gears of the euphemism treadmill in social circles with which V is familiar (which may well be the case), that is not (thus far) the case universally. And this is without regard to whether drasvi should be given additional slack for the use of archaic English lexemes on account of not being an L1 Anglophone and having acquired an English lexicon through no doubt haphazard means.

    One methodological difficulty in matching up genetics with behavior (when comparing different ethnic or regional subpopulations of humans) is of course the general historical failure of pristinely endogamous gene pools to keep the data clean by avoiding behavioral interaction (military or otherwise) with other pristinely endogamous gene pools. So, to take an example from the current headlines the recent coup d’etat in Burkina Faso does not necessarily show that the locals are genetically predisposed to political instability when it is equally likely that they are merely suffering the regrettable aftereffects of having been colonially dominated by the French, who may well themselves be genetically predisposed to political instability. Or maybe there’s no genetic component at all and it is simply exposure to the bizarre conceptual schema of French grammar and/or culture that correlates suspiciously well with political instability.

  147. J.W. Brewer : in professional circles the term “schizophrenic” is all but meaningless. It does not identify any cluster of neurodivergent phenomena. It’s like “hysterical” for women in the 19th century. There is a thing that could be called scizophenic, but it is so far from what it is portrayed in the popular imagination that it might as well be called something else.

  148. @V, I used Russian words. I know that in English nouns sound rude.

    The reason for ignoring rules is that I am particularly angered at what the generalized group of people “with mental conditions” is facing in many places.

    I was referring to the stigma.

  149. Studying phenotypes is fine. People (e.g. the resident palaeontologist) still do it when DNA is unavailable.

    Trying to connect race and behavior is on the face of it not absurd. Nor is phrenology. Ultimately connecting race and behavior had to rely on handwaving and non-scientific methodology, but it still found a willing audience, which sustained it for a long time. Phrenology is equally unsupported, but since people were not attached to it, it was abandoned much sooner.

  150. David Eddyshaw says

    I was referring to the stigma

    The stigma of mental illness indeed remains enormous. I recall (who could forget?) from my neurosurgery days patients who were relieved to be told that they had a brain tumour: “Thank God! I thought I was going mad!” (Though I also think this is not purely a question of stigma: a brain tumour, though horrifying, can at least be more readily thought of as separate from one’s real self.)

    I get the impression that this is something that is (all too slowly) improving, though.

  151. @Y: Trying to connect race and behavior is on the face of it not absurd.

    As long as you recognize your behaviour is shaped by the ones around you, which is shaped by their expectations of your behaviour, which is shaped by their upbringing’s expectations of you behaviour.

  152. J.W. Brewer says

    V: again your “professional circles” would seem to exclude the sort of well-credentialed-on-paper research scientists who within the last few months have been publishing scholarly journal articles with titles like “A Pilot Study on Early-Onset Schizophrenia Reveals the Implication of Wnt, Cadherin and Cholecystokinin Receptor Signaling in Its Pathophysiology” and the editors of the journals that publish those articles. I don’t even know what a “cadherin” is, so I can’t referee this dispute. But I can assess that there is, at a minimum, an unresolved controversy among professionals and I just don’t believe anyone who assures me that their preferred faction’s position has already triumphed among all Serious and Right-Thinking People. Unless your position is that “schizophrenia” is still an okay word that describes a real referent but “schizophrenic” is not?

    Whether there is a significant popular misunderstanding of “schizophrenia/ic” that does not reflect the current beliefs of researchers and clinicians who use the word and whether those researchers and clinicians should at least consider using a different set of words that doesn’t have that potentially misleading baggage are different questions.

    I am open to the possibility that a hundred years from now 95%+ of today’s published scholarship will seem as wrong as von Luschen and perhaps will seem wrong due to the obvious-in-hindsight moral defects and unsavory ulterior motives of the purported scientists who published it. But I’m not entirely sure I can identify which 95% that is.

    I remember the 1970’s well enough, for what it’s worth, to associate the rhetoric of “there’s no such thing as schizophrenia, actually” (associated in turn with dudes who smoked a lot of dope and told you to read R.D. Laing) with the practical policy consequence of “let’s save money by closing down the old-timey residential institutions which are frankly pretty awful and just dump everyone out on the street to fend for themselves, I mean, liberate them to live their True Authentic Lives without being negatively judged.” Not sure how well that one has aged.

  153. David Eddyshaw says

    Pretty sure that was done in thumping bad faith at the time. There was never any intention of providing the very considerable extra resources needed to do it safely and effectively.

  154. David Eddyshaw: Too tired to talk about that, but it’s not what you ranted about.
    “I remember the 1970’s well enough, for what it’s worth, to associate the rhetoric of “there’s no such thing as schizophrenia, actually” — nope, but it was severely misunderstood. My former therapist’s sister has a form of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is not a sinle condition, nether is autism.

  155. J.W. BREWER says

    Doctor E.: but what I find interesting (not that what I find interesting is the only thing that matters …) is the protective political cover the thumping-bad-faith penny-pinchers got at the time from invoking the rhetoric of the groovy-idealistic-hippie reformers, not least from getting the self-proclaimed advocates of the population in question temporarily on board. (Maybe they got stampeded into thinking let’s do “deinstitutionalization” this year and then we can always do “adequate budget provision for post-institutionalization support” next year?) There’s a parable or two to be drawn from that, if we could find the right itinerant-and-uncredentialed rabbi to be telling us parables.

  156. J.W. BREWER : shit, I’m sorry, call me if you want to.

  157. J.W. Brewer says

    V: I COULD ASK THE SAME OF YOU. (but the actual answer is that I inattentively mouse-clicked in a suboptimal place when the software decided to help me fill up some fields with various guesses as to where I might be going?)

  158. J.W. Brewer: Poppycock. I don’t know? Call me? Although I don’t know to give my number safely.

  159. The hamitic hypothesis; its origin and functions in time perspecive,
    Edith R. Sanders, 1969, sci-hub

    As I understand, it is about the same for anti-Hamitism (criticism of “Hamitic”) as Said’s “Orientalism” for anti-exoticism, anti-Orientalism etc.

  160. David Eddyshaw says

    I think the various manifestations of the Hamitic Hypothesis (to give it a name it hardly deserves) are rather more radically wrong than what Said complained of, though that peculiar slanted interpretation of “the Orient”, to be sure, could lead to radical misinterpretation due to highly selective reading of the evidence and to outright factual errors, and also had its ideological role in justifying western imperialism.

    But the idea that the more “civilised” sort of Africans all spoke related languages and were more closely akin to Europeans than their genetically inferior neighbours was never in accordance with the actual evidence, but from the outset was a bad-faith construct the entire purpose of which was to bolster a foul racist ideology and to justify European invasion and exploitation of Africa. It is an ineradicable blot on the record of a capable scholar like Meinhof that he should have prostituted his undoubted gifts in this way. That fact that he evidently believed all this crap himself is no justification at all: he had no business believing it. He was in a position to know better: none more so than he. Instead, he chose the path he did.

    One hopes that he is stuck for eternity in Linguist Hell with Nikolai Marr, where there is nothing to study but Minimalism, forever

  161. Hear, hear!

  162. @DE, I have serious reservations about the impact of Said’s book (I distinguish Said and the impact – the “impact” is sometimes idiotic).
    But many things Sanders is writing about here are obviously evil.

  163. Schizophrenia, autism, and other common mental dysfunctions may be best thought of a basins of attraction in the space of mental functionality. When the brain is not functioning typically, whatever the underlying neurological mechanism that moves the neural function out of the nominal basin is, the brain function often ends up in one of those other basins, each of which has its characteristic symptoms. So it makes sense to say there is no single medical condition that is schizophrenia, since many underlying cellular-level problems can led to the schizophrenic syndrome of symptoms.

    However, there is also a flip side that makes this a somewhat sticky point. If mental disturbances are being caused by something like a brain tumor, then there are good reasons to treat the tumor that are entirely separate from whatever psychiatric symptoms it may be causing right now. However, when you are dealing with something like schizophrenia, the fact is that regardless of the underlying (or “medical”) condition, the only thing that actually demands treatment is the psychiatric symptoms. So if there is useful set of therapeutic interventions that can be used whenever a patient’s function is caught up in the schizophrenic basin of attraction, then it does not actually matter what “caused” the schizophrenia; treating the symptoms is enough.

    Of course, there are not universal treatments that work for everyone witch schizophrenia, or autism, or bipolar disorder, or other psychiatric syndromes. So it is still important to get a better understanding of how different conditions can underlie these syndromes. That just doesn’t mean that two different underlying conditions necessarily need to be treated differently, if their psychiatric symptoms can be handled by the same means.

  164. David Marjanović says

    Phrenology is equally unsupported, but since people were not attached to it, it was abandoned much sooner.

    Not before passing into popular culture. I’ve never heard it used, so it may be extinct now, but I’ve very often read that someone particularly naughty hat es faustdick hinter den Ohren, lit. “has it fist-thick behind the ears”. It turns out there’s at least one phrenological chart where the “senses” of robbery and murder are located behind the ears.

  165. David Eddyshaw says

    I have serious reservations about the impact of Said’s book

    Me too: and about the book itself, too. He’s got a point, but he llkes to pick his data to fit his agenda.

  166. I agree, though he’s not as bad as Martin Bernal, who also had a point.

  167. I am intrigued by the point in the abstract of the “Hamitic hypothesis” piece drasvi linked to that the “Hamitic” category that arose in the 19th century and continued into the 20th was radically incompatible with previous categorization which had treated common-or-garden West Africans of the sort that were sold by their neighbors/overlords into the Atlantic slave trade as the prototypical descendants of Ham (although presumably not descended via Canaan, thus requiring some more creative exegesis of Genesis than a literal reading would give you).

  168. David Eddyshaw says

    The beauty of pseudoscience is that it imposes no awkward requirements for self-consistency …

    I’m not sure how most Africans ended up demoted even below the descendents of Ham. I imagine this was partly nineteenth century scientific “we don’t believe in all that Biblical literalism any more” stuff.

    However: FWIW, the sons of Ham in Genesis are given as Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan*, which is not a terrible fit for “Hamitic” in the later sense, especially if you interpret “Put” as Sudan and/or Ethiopia. FW Taylor, in his Grammar of the Adamawa Dialect of the Fulani Language** duly identifies the Fulɓe with Put. Taylor, bless him, in the preface to the second edition (of 1953!), specifically finds time to rubbish Greenberg’s classification, shortly after telling us that implosive stops are impossible and that phonetics therefore has no claim to be regarded as a science. There’s just no helping some people …

    * “Canaan” probably fit the bill nicely for antisemitic Bible scholars of the kind that liked to tell us that Jesus was Aryan, not like those (Hamitic) Jews at all.

    ** D W Arnott, who seems to have been a man so altogether nice as to have had no enemies even in Academia, hints at his opinion of this work in the introduction to his own superb The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula:

    The only recent grammars written in English are the 1953 reprint, with some revision, of Taylor’s 1921 grammar of the Adamawa dialect, and Lloyd Swifts’s recent pedagogic Basic Course …There is a place, therefore, for a reference grammar in English …

  169. David Eddyshaw says

    This

    http://rosenlake.net/fw/Reisman-Darktongues.html

    makes a spirited attempt to convince us that James Joyce drew on Taylor’s Fulfulde work in Finnegans Wake.
    It shows the sort of linguistic misunderstandings you’d expect.

  170. Boy, immersion in the Wake does drive people batty:

    Putting these facts together, we might read “Vulgariano” as “Ful in the gari, Ah no!”

    Ah no. But setting aside overenthusiasm, do you think he’s right that Joyce probably had Fulfulde in mind?

  171. I recall (who could forget?) from my neurosurgery days patients who were relieved to be told that they had a brain tumour: “Thank God! I thought I was going mad!”

    On yet a different tangent, how I wish that C. S. Lewis had twigged to the fact that the schoolmaster who made his life hell as a youngster was obviously suffering from a brain tumor (or some such physical disorder) that destroyed his ability to process anger.

  172. David Eddyshaw says

    do you think he’s right that Joyce probably had Fulfulde in mind?

    I’d love to think so (and I’m sure that Fulfulde would have appealed to Joyce), but Reisman’s evidence seems to be pretty much all in his own mind. You could work the same trick with pretty much any language and Finnegans Wake, I think. A fact which itself would no doubt have pleased Joyce …

  173. Yes indeed (to both points).

  174. J.W. Brewer says

    The traditional identification of the scriptural Put FitzHam with what the Egyptians called the Land of Punt just changes the problem to the somewhat disputed location of that land, but if you think present-day Puntland is at least close to at least part of ancient Punt you then have the interesting fact that what they speak there is … Cushitic. They just can’t keep those brethren straight, apparently.

    Ethiopia and Ethiopians turn up with some frequency in the Old Testament and Jeremiah 13:23 suggests that the Ethiopian was already the paradigmatic-for-proverbial-purposes dark-skinned human. But apparently (I have not dug very deep into this) the real-world ancient referent(s) of the Hebrew word(s) thus translated is thought perhaps not to correspond particularly well with our modern (as of the last 16 centuries or so) sense of what region and people are so designated but instead might be better understood as “Nubia(n)” or “Cush[ite].” There is of course then the difficulty that even Old Nubian is not thought to have been a Cushitic language or indeed an Afroasiatic one at all (even though written with a script borrowed from Coptic-speakers). The genetic affinities of the even more ancient Meroitic tongue, spoken in what is reckoned to have been the center of Cushite (or Kushite) political power are apparently disputed.

  175. David Eddyshaw says

    Old Nubian (which, confusingly, actually is ancestral to modern Nubian*) is lumped in with Nilo-Saharan (if you believe in that); more specifically, it belongs in Eastern Sudanic, which, though hardly a proven entity (according to me, anyway) is at any rate not as far-fetched as “Nilo-Saharan.” That would make it (very distantly) related to the Eastern Nilotic languages with masculine/feminine gender systems that the Hamiticists were so keen on; given that the Nubians had three mediaeval Christian kingdoms and knew Greek, they would doubtless fit the Hamiticists’ pretty-pattern preconceptions nicely.

    * Are the people who thought up these names not familiar with Old South Arabian and Modern South Arabian? That’s the way to do it!

  176. J.W. Brewer says

    I see that the paternal-side ancestral language of former Pres. Obama (who AFAIK never knew Greek, showing the depths to which Western elites had descended by his school days) is “Western Nilotic,” which is supposedly the only sort of Nilotic that Meinhof didn’t put into his “Hamito-Nilotic” category, meaning I guess that he thought Western Nilotic free of any beneficial Hamitic influence. Which seems rather a shame since you’d think Pres. Obama would be the nice sort of fellow the Hamiticists would be keen on.

  177. David Eddyshaw says

    Taylor actually reproduces a traditional account by no less a person than Abdullahi, younger brother of Usman ɗan Fodio himself, who says (in Fulfulde):

    Their [the descendants of Uqba ibn Nafi, traditional ancestor of Usman’s own clan] originating the language is beyond the bound of feasibility, and is meaningless. What is neighbouring on the truth is that they spoke the language of their mother. The Toro people had no original language except Fulani. God is the one who knows.

    Taylor then airily sets aside these sensible words in favour of his personal misconstrual of the Bible. He goes on: “Fulani is not a ‘Negro’ language” … “from its structure, its wealth of vocabulary, its sonorous diction, and the delicate shades of meaning it can express, I certainly do not think it it belongs to the Sudanic family (Yoruba, Ibo etc.)” … “Today, the generally accepted characteristics of the Fulani are a light skin, clean-cut features, and straight hair” …

    It’s encouraging that his defensive 1953 preface must at least mean that by then plenty of people had been pointing out that this was all bollocks.

  178. David Eddyshaw says

    the only sort of Nilotic that Meinhof didn’t put into his “Hamito-Nilotic” category

    No grammatical gender, you see. (Mind you, neither does Kalenjin, really, though it does have something like it in personal names, as we discussed a while back. Presumably that was enough to save the Kalenjin from being complete Untermenschen.)

  179. J.W. Brewer says

    Perhaps Meinhof needed a rival born somewhat southeast of Vienna who would have been happy to promote the ungendered Luo as “the Magyars of East Africa.”

  180. …thus translated is thought perhaps not to correspond particularly well with our modern (as of the last 16 centuries or so) sense of what region and people are so designated but instead might be better understood as “Nubia(n)” or “Cush[ite].”

    – the kingdom to the south of Upper Egypt (apparently as old as Egypt and always a part of Egyptian world, once lended a dynasty to Egypt, sumberged in Lake Nasser, known mostly from hurried excavations right before it was submerged)
    – guys to the south of it contacted by land or the Nile.
    – guys on the African Red Sea.

    All three were known in the ancient world.

  181. Their [the descendants of Uqba ibn Nafi, traditional ancestor of Usman’s own clan] originating the language is beyond the bound of feasibility, and is meaningless. What is neighbouring on the truth is that they spoke the language of their mother. The Toro people had no original language except Fulani. God is the one who knows.

    If that passage wasn’t first written in Arabic, I’ll eat my hat. Or at least some vaguely hat-shaped dish. It wouldn’t look out of place in one of the more supercilious passages of Ibn Hazm or Ibn Khaldun.

  182. “the Magyars of East Africa.”
    How the?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magyarab_people

  183. David Eddyshaw says

    Perhaps Meinhof needed a rival born somewhat southeast of Vienna who would have been happy to promote the ungendered Luo as “the Magyars of East Africa.”

    The other Magyars of East Africa …
    [ninja’d by drasvi]

    If that passage wasn’t first written in Arabic, I’ll eat my hat.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised; Abdullahi knew Arabic, of course, and writing anything in a language other than Arabic, apart from poetry, was a sort of tour de force in those days (though there are plenty of annals in Hausa, for a start.) Taylor does give a Fulfulde version, though.

  184. I presume stock phrases like اللهُ اَعْلَم were sprinkled throughout pious documents in any language in the Islamicate world, and Arabic prose style would be imitated as well (much as Latinate prose was common in the West).

  185. David Marjanović says

    was radically incompatible with previous categorization which had treated common-or-garden West Africans of the sort that were sold by their neighbors/overlords into the Atlantic slave trade as the prototypical descendants of Ham

    I don’t know if that categorization is previous or American. (I’ve never encountered it outside of very specifically American contexts, FWTW.)

    By the time Germans started to encounter black people one way or another, they had in any case Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions and were reading The Bible As History, so “Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan” it is.

    Fulɓe […] shortly after telling us that implosive stops are impossible and that phonetics therefore has no claim to be regarded as a science.

    I must say I’m impressed. That man was not believing his lying ears or anyone else’s.

  186. David Eddyshaw says

    The refocusing of the curse on Canaan onto other victims antedates American justifications for slavery:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_Ham#Early_Judaism_and_Islam

    et seq.
    American slaveowners do seem to have run with it particularly, though.

    I think I was wrong in supposing that it was a big thing for the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, though. The dynamic of that seems to have been more (a) We Boers are a Chosen People (b) God really, really likes separation: Genesis 1:4 …

  187. J.W. Brewer says

    I don’t think those Magyarab folks are located in what most people would consider “East Africa” although as with many such geographical expressions there are of course disputes about the outer boundaries of the region so named.

  188. @JWB, Ehtiopia and Sudan are not “Middle East”, “Maghreb”, “East / West / South” while “Sudan” or “Sahel” for the belt south of North are less well known today. So you put Sudan in “ME” (because Arabs – but what about, say, Kordofan?) or NA (because next to Egypt – but then NA is normally “Maghreb”) or East Africa because it is in the east.
    We can say North East Africa, though.

  189. David Eddyshaw says

    I would certainly call Sudan “East Africa” myself, and I don’t seem to be alone in this:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_the_African_Union

    It probably rather depends on where your mental starting-point is. No prizes for guessing mine; I daresay some Arabic-speakers from Khartoum might be very keen to be regarded as “Middle Eastern”, but while one might respect their preferences, it wouldn’t change mine.

    However

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_geoscheme_for_Africa

    Fortunately, as we have already established, all of us are in any case potatoes in the final analysis.

  190. J.W. Brewer says

    drasvi, I would say that the secession and independence of “South Sudan” from the now-rump Sudan proper made it easier to say that the latter is not part of “East Africa” even on a broad-scope definition that includes the former therein. And also makes it less awkward to lump rump Sudan in with “MENA.” Similarly, South Sudan is clearly part of “Sub-Saharan Africa,” rump Sudan not so much. Pretty convenient change to the map if you ask me although not worth such a sanguinary and long-running civil war just for that convenience.

  191. A friend of mine was a fan of Ethiopia and Kenya when he was a child. I still have Amharic and Swahili inscriptions on walls here and there. He once dated a girl from Uganda (in Uganda).
    So I guess this is my prototype.

  192. David Eddyshaw says

    The latest HiPhiLangSci podcast happens to be about “linguistics under National Socialism”, though it doesn’t really bear on any of the issues we’ve been talking about. It’s mostly about the double-edged character of support for language minorities, which got weaponised.

    https://hiphilangsci.net/2022/02/01/podcast-episode-22/

  193. I would doubt to call south Sudan middle eastern. Also, Stalin weaponized language creation by encouraging Tito to create Macedonian among other languages and creative drawing of borders in Central Asia, especially between Turkmenistan, Kyrgizstan and Uzbekistan.

  194. J.W. Brewer says

    The Sudan was outside the geographical range in which the East African Shilling was ever used as currency, which had a sufficiently capacious sense of “East Africa” to include not only all of the Horn (except Djibouti) but a big chunk of what is now Yemen. Q.E.D. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_African_shilling Updating that a bit, the current East African Community (economic heirs to the core of of the old Shilling Zone) promptly extended membership to South Sudan once it was a thing of its own but as best as I can tell the rump northern bit of Sudan neither wants to join nor is wanted by the others. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_African_Community

  195. David Eddyshaw says

    You say potatoes, I say potatoes.

  196. J.W. Brewer says

    I am pleased to learn from the piece linked by David E. that while no one is yet prepared to call Franz Boas an actual Nazi, his political situation is more “complicated” than one might have naively supposed. Perhaps there can be a follow-up piece, but I was a bit disappointed that they never moved on from the Third-Reich-era German Celticists to the German Sanskritists and Indologists etc of the same era, who had varying degrees of connection with the Nazi-occultist fascination with Exotic India and its unsullied-by-Semites ancient Aryan wisdom.

    I spent some time on the internet last year trying to sort out without complete success (not least because I was not trying to actually find and read sources in German) the actual political views and/or affiliations of Hanns Oertel (1868-1952) during that period. He was clearly a German nationalist and gave up his tenured gig at Yale (where he had succeeded his teacher William Dwight Whitney as Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology) during WW1 to adhere to the Vaterland. He certainly did not go into voluntary exile in 1933 and when he retired from his chair at the University of Munich in 1935 he was succeeded by his own former student Walther Wüst, who most definitely was a full-blown Nazi. But in 1945 he was brought out of retirement for a few years because the university apparently needed a not-obviously-and-unequivocally-Nazi Indologist to fill the gap created by the overt Nazis like Wüst having been removed from the faculty.

  197. David Eddyshaw says

    I was very struck when googling “Franz Boas” to find a great many hits identifying him as a particular hate figure among US Neofascists. While I am confident that few of these intellectuals are actually familiar with his work as such in any way, he has evidently become a meme to them.

    I bought a book of his from one of his grandchildren* once. I am Very Satisfied with the purchase. Would Use This Dealer Again.

    * Possibly grandnephew.

  198. J.W. Brewer says

    Dr. Eddyshaw is obviously out of step with The Young People who are producing podcasts and whatnot if he cannot fathom why they might consider Boas “complicated,” if not yet actually “problematic.” Although “disliked by Bad People” is as good a defensive strategy for Boas’ reputation as any.

    Back in 1925, FWIW, Boas was an expert witness in a federal court case addressing the vexed question of whether Armenian immigrants were “white person(s)” within the meaning of the laws then governing eligibility to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Boas testified in support of the “yes they are indeed white” side, and Judge Wolverton (who ruled in favor of that position) appears to have been favorably impressed by him. https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/F2/6/919/1551454/

    I imagine that an academic witness testifying that “actually there’s no such thing as a ‘white race’ from an objective scientific standpoint and it’s all just an arbitrary-to-unsavory social construct” would not have been practically helpful to the Armenian cause as of 1925.

  199. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, evidently Boas was in fact an evil man, and evidently a Nazi already by 1925.
    Thank you for enlightening me, JWB.

    Curiously, I was aware of the case to which you allude already. Still, none so blind …

    It is a pity that you are unsound on the location of Sudan when you are so wise in other respects. But non omnia possumus omnes.

  200. J.W. Brewer says

    I would say a man of his own time, no more no less. If one is getting away from his specifically linguistic work, which is not what his status as historical Hero or Villain rests on because no one whose opinion matters cares about weird stuff like that.

  201. ” I was aware of the case” – me too.

  202. “Boas himself counts as a liberal, although there is a more complicated story here”.
    Sounds fine (unless “liberal” means “not an asshole” (let’s do not discuss whether I am an asshole, because there is a complicated story here))

  203. David Eddyshaw says

    Hey, you’re right, JWB. They’re all the same!

    Have you considered a future in Gnosticism? (No connection of thought there. Just wondering. It’s a thing I ask people from time to time. Kind of straw poll.)

  204. David Eddyshaw says

    unless “liberal” means “not an asshole”

    Would that it were so simple! Many of the good guys have been arseholes. I dare say some of the bad guys are kind to animals and small children, too.

  205. I once turned on Al-Jazeera English and in a talk show the host quoted Tutu and an Israeli guy said “Desmond Tutu is problematic” (with a smile) and the host said what? he is flawless (no quotemarks here, I do not remember) and the guy repeated “he is problematic” (italics his) and then quoted something rather flawed about Israel. This is how I learned to use this word, usually I pick them from printed text and miss the tone. I have been looking for an opportunity to use it for years, but haven’t had any.

  206. David Eddyshaw says

    Seems to be one of those useful words you could put in pretty much anywhere, to lend an air to your speech that you know more than you are letting on. And who doesn’t want to lend an air to his speech that he knows more than he is letting on?

    There are surely tips for advanced learners of English here …

  207. Well, if one wants to draw fine distinctions among the dead rather than leave them in peace, one might note that Boas never quite antagonized the Powers-That-Were to the point of actually losing his academic position, unlike one of his very prominent social-science contemporaries on the same university’s faculty.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_McKeen_Cattell

  208. David Eddyshaw says

    You are right, of course. Nobody can have any kind of moral standing who has not been dismissed from his academic position for his beliefs. Time-servers! Odious hypocrites!

    (Actually, I was once dismissed from an academic position for my beliefs. Long story* …)

    * And boring, and curiously anticlimactic.

  209. Surely only a heretical Arminian (not to be confused with a heretical Armenian) would think that anyone could have any kind of moral standing in the first place? As if their own puny human efforts mattered in the grander scheme of things. But maybe this is a generational thing. You Baby Boomers were mad for Lulu or maybe the New Seekers and maybe Dr. Boas falls into that sort of category.

  210. David Eddyshaw says

    You seem to have misunderstood the Calvinist position, but I do not think that you can be blamed, as you were (of course) predestined never to understand it.

    On the other hand, I suspect that you are correct that Lulu (a fellow Glaswegian, though born in Lennoxtown) is the Key. I have little doubt but that Boas would have been a fan*, had he had the opportunity to be so (an opportunity denied him by an inscrutable Providence; but we can but trust that it was for the best.)

    There presumably are some Calvinist Armenians.

    * According to WP, he was tone deaf.

  211. It is certainly possible that I am hopelessly ignorant due to the dictates of inscrutable Providence but I am now alarmed by the thought of how alarmed I would be as a patient if were aware that either of my own eye-specialist physicians (the cataracts guy and the retina guy, respectively) had been awake past 3 am local time arguing about obscure stuff on the internet, so I urge Dr. Eddyshaw to get some well-deserved sleep.

    Edited to Add: Come to think of it, one of the great extremist wackadoodles of late 20th-century American ecclesio-political life was, in fact, a Calvinist Armenian. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._J._Rushdoony (Was he a proper Calvinist, or No True Scotsman? I’m not in a position to say.)

  212. David Eddyshaw says

    Ah, yes. Not a great advertisement for Calvinist Armenianism, alas.
    I used to describe my late father-in-law (an academic theologian) as a notorious Armenian. For some reason, this annoyed my wife, and I’ve stopped now.

    I am (be reassured) not working tomorrow; yet your advice is good. Nos dawch.

  213. I have great respect for Boas but he seemed to have a curious blind spot around the Slavs. I would be happy to be wrong about this.

  214. Well, her mind not being suited for more demanding tasks, a Slav can find herself in arts, science and football… [maybe I should have said “administration”, but that’s evil]

  215. the Nazi-occultist fascination with Exotic India and its unsullied-by-Semites ancient Aryan wisdom.

    I think “occultist” is doing more of the work in that phrase than “Nazi”. Theosophy exemplifies that fascination – which arose in the context of British colonisation of India – better than any Nazi I can think of offhand… (Whorf was its most famous linguist adherent.)

  216. As for Abdullahi dan Fodio’s quote above, after a bit of fishing around I’m pretty sure it must be from his Kitab un-Nasab, but to my surprise I can’t find any copies of that book online, so the original will have to remain a mystery for now. But this quote from the book, posted in several forums, gives an idea of his style.

    واعلم أن قبيلتنا التي تسمى توربِّ الذين جاءوا من فوتَ ، فيما نسمع، هم إخوان جميع الفولانيين… كان عقبة بن عامر المجاهد الذي فتح بلاد الغرب زمن عمرو بن العاص في مصر ووصل إليهم، وهم من قبائل الروم. فأسلم ملكهم من غير قتال وتزوج عقبة ابنة ملكهم اسمها بجُّ منغَ ، فولد الفولانيين جميعاً. هذا ما تواتر عندنا وأخذناه من الثقاة الذين يخرجون من بلاد فوت… وقد علمت أن الروم هو عيص بن إسحاق بن إبراهيم عليهما السلام.

    Know that our tribe, which is called Torobbe, who came from Futa, according to what we hear, are brothers to all the Fulani… Uqba ibn Nafi` was the mujahid who opened up the West in the time of Amr ibn al-`As in Egypt; he reached them when they were Roman tribes. Their king became Muslim without battle, and Uqba married their king’s daughter, whose name was Bajjo Manga, and sired all the Fulani. This is what has been generally transmitted among us, which we have taken from trustworthy people from the land of Futa… And I have learned that the Romans are from Esau son of Isaac son of Abraham, upon him be peace.

  217. (Had a second comment which mysteriously disappeared; suffice it to say I think the passage by Abdullahi dan Fodio discussed above came from his Kitāb un-Nasab, which I unfortunately can’t find a copy of online.)

  218. David Eddyshaw says

    Interesting that there is a Fulfulde version, though on reflection, translating improving works into Hausa and Fulfulde was a settled policy thing for Usman. Hearts and minds …

    Taylor does not give a source, but he says that the passage was written in AH 1239/AD 1824.
    I’ve been a bit mean about his grammar, but it’s not bad for its type, really. It’s not remotely on a level with Arnott’s, but that is a high mark to aim at: the man out-Bloomfields Bloomfield. Taylor did a lot of valuable work; his regrettable attitudes were presumably pretty middle-of-the-road in 1921; by 1953 I imagine he was getting too old to learn new tricks.

  219. Had a second comment which mysteriously disappeared

    Rescued from the spam bin! Do let me know when these things happen; I can usually do something about it.

  220. Oh, this second comment is interesting.

  221. David Eddyshaw says

    Spot on, Lameen!

    It’s evidently from the very same passage: the full text of Taylor’s English version goes:

    Ukbatu Bi Amiru the warrior opened up the countries of the west in the time of Umaru Bi Asi who was in Egypt. He and his people, who were one of the Rum tribes, came to Malle, and the king of Malle submitted and embraced Islam without a fight. Ukbatu married the kings’s daughter (called Bajjomaggu), and from her begat all the Fulani. This is what has been handed down to us, and we have received it from those who can be trusted who came from Futa; they are the teachers. The children (descendants) of Bajjomaggu spoke the language of their mother, which was Fulani, because they did not know the language of their father, which was Arabic, because those who spoke Arabic were few there in those days, since Ukbatu had returned to Egypt. But to say that the descendants of Ukbatu originated the Fulani language is foolish, because all languages originated from the prophet Adam. Their originating the language is beyond the bounds of feasibility, and is meaningless. What is neighbouring on the truth is that they spoke the language of their mother. The Toro people had no original language except Fulani. God is the one who knows.

    Taylor’s version seems to reflect the Fulfulde accurately, as far as I can judge, so that seems to be something of a paraphrase of the Arabic. In particular, the “Roman” character of Bajjomaggu’s people pre-conquest seems to have got transferred to Uqba himself (and she seems to have got moved to Mali …)

    Although Taylor sets this up as in opposition to his sons-of-Put theory, there actually isn’t any contradiction, of course, as it says nothing specific about the origin of Fulfulde at all; what has misled him is that it is a story about the racial origin of the Fulɓe, and for him, unlike the more enlightened Abdullahi, this is really exactly the same thing as the origin of the Fulfulde language.

    (The mother-tongue thing is familiar; in the area where I lived, ethnic group membership is patrilineal, but you grow up speaking your mother’s language. The many Mamprussi in the Bawku area mostly speak Kusaal, and can’t speak Mampruli at all; it was a Mamprussi colleague who gave me my copy of the 1976 Kusaal New Testament.)

  222. to say that the descendants of Ukbatu originated the Fulani language is foolish, because all languages originated from the prophet Adam

    The Sultanate of Sokoto endorses the proto-World hypothesis!

    what has misled him is that it is a story about the racial origin of the Fulɓe, and for him, unlike the more enlightened Abdullahi, this is really exactly the same thing as the origin of the Fulfulde language.

    For the former, the Hamitic hypothesis may not be entirely dead; I think Abdullahi dan Fodio would feel slightly vindicated by quotes like these, manifestly simplistic though they are:

    Working toward a synthesis of archaeological, linguistic, and genetic data for inferring African population history (2010)

    Whereas previous work on mtDNA (92) is consistent with a West African origin for the Fulani (consistent with other Bantu speakers [sic]), the NRY data reveal that the Fulani share recent ancestry with Nilo-Saharan and Afroasiatic speaking populations (40). As in other cases where the maternal and paternal patterns of population history are not in agreement, this result could reflect differential patterns of Fulani male and female migration and gene flow, or it could reflect the influence of genetic drift or some combination of the two.”

    African evolutionary history inferred from whole genome sequence data of 44 indigenous African populations (2019)

    The Fulani in our study, sampled from Cameroon, clustered with the Afroasiatic-speaking populations in East Africa in the phylogenetic analysis, indicating a potential language replacement from Afroasiatic to Niger-Congo in this population (Fig. 2). Prior studies suggest a complex history of the Fulani; analyses of Y chromosome variation suggest a shared ancestry with Nilo-Saharan and Afroasiatic populations [24], whereas mtDNA indicates a West African origin [26]. An analysis based on autosomal markers found traces of West Eurasian-related ancestry in this population [4], which suggests a North African or East African origin (as North and East Africans also have such ancestry likely related to expansions of farmers and herders from the Near East) and is consistent with the presence at moderate frequency of the −13,910T variant associated with lactose tolerance in European populations [15, 16].

    Note the convenience of strict patrilineal descent for Abdullahi’s purposes, by the way; the one true male-line founding ancestor of the Fulani can be Arab, and hence all Fulani people can be Arabs, even if every last one of their other ancestors of the same period was “local”.

  223. David Eddyshaw says

    Note the convenience of strict patrilineal descent for Abdullahi’s purposes

    The Swahili adopt the same strategy.

  224. Incidentally, the details of why Fulani is definitely not a “Hamitic” language have been much better worked out recently, with Pozdniakov’s reconstruction of Proto-Fula-Sereer. Proto-Atlantic, sadly, if it ever existed, seems a long way away yet…

  225. There is a logical mistake here. If all languages originated from Adam, it does not mean that humans can’t create a lanauage. Esperanto, sign languages – or a hypothetical spoken language of people born in a village populated by users of a sign langauge.

  226. David Eddyshaw says

    Ooh! I missed that one. Thanks, Lameen.

    I was reading a recent study of the supposed Atlantic grouping lately, but I can’t remember where … the main takeaway I got from it was that there is no good reason to suppose that Wolof and Fulfulde/Serer actually form a node. They also implied that some parts of “Atlantic” are closer to Volta-Congo than others, which is something that struck me on seeing Guillaume Segerer’s nice Bijogo grammar; I’m agnostic about Atlantic as a whole being related to Volta-Congo, but there was a lot of familiar stuff in Bijogo.

    [Ah. Of course. It was Segerer’s study that I was trying to remember.
    http://www.guillaumesegerer.fr/Ling/Documents/Pub/Segerer-ACAL47-final.ppsx ]

  227. If geneologies began with “once upon a time a conlang geek–errant from Arabia met a Roman princess and stayed in her palace to devise an artificial language…”…

  228. And when they finished their work he said:

    “Look, we have a language, but we have not a people to speak it. And if we do not find such a people, all our work is wasted.”.

  229. Pozdniakov’s reconstruction of Proto-Fula-Sereer

    Very nice — and freely accessible! I particularly recommend Table 10.1: The most transparent resemblances Sereer ~ Fula in Swadesh-100 (p. 309); they’re nice and transparent.

  230. David Eddyshaw says

    @drasvi:

    This may be where Zamenhof went wrong. It’s no use trying to convert people to the use of your conlang. You have to get on and make your own native speakers.

  231. Geek-errant calques странствующий шейх “sheikh-errant” which either calques some Muslim sourse (what source?) or странствующий рыцарь “knight-errant”, that calques the same phrase as knight-errant.

    I was surprised once to find this phrase.

  232. David Eddyshaw says

    I’m not persuaded by their supposed Niger-Congo cognates for the noun classes. If you have noun classes at all, there are inevitably going to be recurrent patterns of grouping by semantics; the fact that class languages share some such meaning groupings sometimes is surely of little significance unless you can demonstrate some convincing correlations with actual form as well.

    And they do the usual thing of taking Bantu as a proxy for all of Niger-Congo.* Now, Oti-Volta is quite certainly more closely related to Bantu than any part of Atlantic is; and many of the proposed correlations between meaning groups and noun classes they point to between Fulfulde/Serer and Bantu most definitely do not work in Oti-Volta. While it’s logically possible that Bantu and Atlantic (a group which they themselves describe as a “macrofamily”, estimating a time depth of 4000 yrs even for the Fulfulde-Serer twiglet) have preserved a pristine system from getting on for ten thousand years ago which Oti-Volta has lost, I must say that this looks pretty odd to me.

    * You can see why, in view of the accessibility of the material. But there is high-quality stuff out there on “Gur” noun class systems, incuding two (very) thick volumes in the Gur Monographs series from the Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, edited by Gudrun Miehe, Brigitte Reineke and Kerstin Winkelmann. Given that the “Gur” material for Volta-Congo noun classes is much the most copious outside Bantu, there’s no good excuse for ignoring it.

  233. Gur Monographs series from the Rüdiger Köppe Verlag
    Oh, I did not know there is a series!

  234. David Eddyshaw says

    [Apologies to Konstantin Pozdniakov for rudely pluralising him throughout. And it’s still a very interesting book despite my all-too-predictable moanings.]

    I did not know there is a series!

    You betcha.

    https://www.koeppe.de/reihe_gur-monographs-monographies-voltaiques

    Not cheap, alas. But then, what else is new?
    (The late) Stefan Elders’ Kulango grammar is a particular work of art*, but in general there’s a lot of good stuff in there. I’ve mentioned Coffi Sambiéni’s monograph elsewhere.

    *It’s only a pity that Kulango is so distantly related to Oti-Volta …

  235. No, that was a polite plural…

  236. David Marjanović says

    I think “occultist” is doing more of the work in that phrase than “Nazi”. Theosophy exemplifies that fascination – which arose in the context of British colonisation of India – better than any Nazi I can think of offhand…

    That is where a good chunk of Nazi ideology comes from, though – culminating (pun unintended) in the Nazi expedition to Tibet to check if the Aryan race had perhaps come from the top of the world (pun intended) in terms of altitude rather than latitude.

    and creative drawing of borders in Central Asia, especially between Turkmenistan, Kyrgizstan and Uzbekistan.

    The borders in the Fergana Valley are a work of surrealist art.

  237. . In the Sudan languages the genitive always stands before the word which governs it, and the subject before the verb…..

    ….It is a matter of course to the Sudan negro that he should say, ” The boy’s cap,” since the boy must be in existence before he can be said to have a cap. In the same way he says, ” The boy calls,” for the boy exists first and then the action of calling. The North African attaches no importance to the order in which things take place, but — as might be expected from a kinsman of our own — his first pre- occupation is with the most important thing spoken of. Thus, if he is thinking chiefly of the cap and not of the boy, he begins with the former and says, ” The cap of the boy.” In the same way, if he relates the fact of the boy’s calling some one, the calling is the prominent idea in his mind, and he says, (” There) calls the boy.” This is the general scheme, which is especially clear in Berber.

    :/ Meinhof.
    But what about German and especially English?:-/

  238. All right, he can explain presence of both “A’s B” and “B of A” in English as a means of making distinction between (A, B) and (B, A).

    But German is still “ich liebe dich”, not “liebe dich ich”.

  239. Lars Mathiesen says

    The Guardian (I think) on the occasion of his passing transmitted an anecdote about Desmond Tutu addressing some Jewish society about the end of apartheid in South Africa, and ending on a sincere wish that the same might soon happen in Israel in regard to the Palestinians. Tableau!. Maybe that was the problematic part.

  240. It is a matter of course to the Sudan negro that he should say, ” The boy’s cap,” since the boy must be in existence before he can be said to have a cap. In the same way he says, ” The boy calls,” for the boy exists first and then the action of calling.

    Likewise, the Englishman or Frenchman is an inveterate Platonist; his first preoccupation is with the quantity of an object, which he sees as much more prominent and important than its identity. It is thus a matter of course that he should say “Three lions” – and never “Lions three”, an order which, privileging identity over quantity, is simply unthinkable for the true European.

  241. David Eddyshaw says

    In the Sudan languages the genitive always stands before the word which governs it

    Already simply false: Ewe awa vi ɔ tɔn “the child’s arm” (arm child the GEN), Yoruba fila Akande “Akande’s cap.” It’s false in Fulfulde too: puccu laamiiɗo “the king’s horse” (horse king), though of course Meinhof would take that as confirming the false generalisation his deliberately chosen ignorance and bigotry has led him to, because the Fulɓe are Herrenvolk, just like him.

    No need to waste brainspace on the horrid man.

  242. And Russians are the humblest of people, putting я at the very end of their alphabet.

  243. D.E you _do_ know that that the borders in the Fergana valley were deliberately carved that way by Stalin, right?

  244. J.W. Brewer says

    The counterexamples David E. offers to Meinhof’s generalization about genitive order are all apparently what would or could have been called (in a previous taxonomic era) Westsudanischen Sprachen (and/or westlichen Sudansprachen). The important Ost/West division of Sudansprachen was apparently pointed out by Meinhof’s student/successor/reviser Westermann as early as 1911. In the fuller context of Meinhof’s quote would he have been talking about Sudensprachen in general, or just the “Ost” subset? Although I don’t know whether to infer from David’s counterexamples that Meinhof’s generalization would be true if limited to the “Ost” subset. FWIW the German wiki article on Sudansprachen has a paragraph on Klingenheben demonstrating in den 1930er Jahren that Fulfulde did not properly belong in the Familie der hamitischen Sprachen, so it wasn’t as if the ball wasn’t being advanced before Greenberg parachuted in and proposed a mega-lumper schema that differed from Meinhof’s in various regards.

  245. David Eddyshaw says

    Both “East” and “West Sudanic” have languages with possessor-possessum order and possessum-possessor; for “East Sudanic”, e.g. Lango bad daktal “the doctor’s arm”, but Kunuz Nubian id-na ka “the man’s house” (man-GEN house.) There is really no way to make Meinhof’s assertion come out as true.

    The fact that the vile Meinhof talks about “the Negro” suggests that he principally means “West Sudanic” in the passage cited, though. These lovely people thought that “Negroes” were archetypically the peoples of the West African Guinea zone. Even “Bantu peoples” were thought to be a different “race”, “not true Negroes.” (Even Guthrie was infected by this to some extent.)

    Klingenheben’s Die Sprache der Ful (1962) points out Meinhof’s classification error in the preface, but it is not clear from there when he came to that conclusion. (He had himself been an active Nazi, and would presumably have been reluctant to acknowledge the findings of Jewish Science.)

    The essential major correction (which Greenberg indeed was not the first to suggest) was the realisation that most of “West Sudanic” and Bantu were in fact related (and that “Sudanic” was therefore not a thing at all.) Guthrie, Mr Bantu himself, resisted this; he too was infected by the notion that the Bantu languages, with all their lovely complicated European-style morphology, were far too sophisticated to be related to horrible isolating languages like Yoruba (not a lot was known about “Gur” in those days, and Fulfulde was routinely misclassified.) I think the afterimage lingers to this day, in the assumption that the complex Bantu morphology must represent the original Niger-Congo form from which the West African languages have degenerated …

    Your last assertion is right, though: on an intellectual level (as well as moral), Meinhof was a bad scholar. The data were already there to make his race-based language classification scheme scientifically untenable, and he had to ignore, for example, the fairly obvious relationships between East Nilotic and the rest of Nilotic to make it work. People noticed this at the time.

  246. David Eddyshaw says

    I omitted to give “West Sudanic” examples which do conform to Meinhof’s pseudorule; Kusaal is one, along with the rest of Oti-Volta: biribiŋ la zupibig “the boy’s hat” (boy the hat.) As I say, both orders are amply attested in both zones.

  247. David Eddyshaw is quite right about Meinhof being a poor scholar, who should have realized, on the basis of data available to him and to any competent linguist at the time, that his race-based essentialism made no sense. Tellingly, contemporary scholars (and to my mind better ones), such as Edward Sapir, Leonard Bloomfield or Antoine Meillet, each repeatedly trashed the entire notion of a connection between race and language typology in their writings, on the basis, tellingly, of abundant linguistic data.

    Indeed, this utter lack of any connection between race and language type also meant that any notion of a natural racial hierarchy was something none of them seems to have taken seriously, in connection to any racial group: this certainly made them quite radical scholars for their time.

  248. Still, I myself do believe the boy must be in existence before he can be said to have a cap.

  249. Truly, neither the boy nor the cap can be said to be in existence, nor can you or I, nor can existence itself.

  250. David Eddyshaw says

    Pilleum habeo, ergo sum.

  251. The sentence* I saw on German wikipedia about what Klingenheben was up to in the Thirties footnotes the claim to the same Sixties-published book DE mentioned. So I don’t know if he did fieldwork decades earlier but didn’t write up the results until much later (by which time his analysis might have changed) or perhaps published journal articles in the Thirties that were ultimately subsumed in his book or what.

    Greenberg himself of course, when not confidently lumping languages together, is or was (or was as of my long-ago undergraduate years) best known for his interest in the patterning of oppositions like possessor-possessum v. possessum-possessor word order and trying to assess what they correlated to. I’m not sure how his specific speculations in that regard have aged (I found the topic fascinating myself circa 1986 but frankly have not kept up with the literature), but since he *wasn’t* as best as I recall trying to find a correlation with skin color or cranial shape I guess if he was wrong he was not malignly so.

    *August Klingenheben befasste sich in den 1930er Jahren mit Fulfulde. Durch seine umfassende Beschreibung des Lautbestandes und des komplizierten Systems der Präfix- und Suffixklassen löst er das Fulfulde aus der Familie der hamitischen Sprachen und ordnet es in die Gruppe der westatlantischen Sprachen ein

  252. David Eddyshaw says

    Here we do not countenance agnosticism regarding the existence of Hats. It is trivial to demonstrate that denying the existence of Hats leads to self-contradiction. QED.

  253. Perhaps the simplest assumption is that God Himself, even if not literally wearing a Hat, is at all times thinking of one or more Hats (among many many other things, but we assume infinite divine bandwidth) which as demonstrated by Bishop Berkeley ought to be sufficient to make us confident in the ontological status of Hats.

  254. David Eddyshaw says

    This is Big G’s original list:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenberg's_linguistic_universals

    The one’s with “always” in are just asking for trouble, and I don’t know what he was thinking with #2. Most of them do express very strong tendencies, though, which presumably mean something.

    I’d misremembered one of them as a correlation between possessor-possessum order and SOV, but I see it doesn’t actually figure in this list. It does in some others, but of course counterexamples abound.

    The “logic” of Meinhof’s word-order fantasy above would seem to suggest that VSO languages are intellectually superior to all others. As it happens, this is perfectly true, of course (o bydded i’r hen iaith barhau!), but one wonders whether M had quite thought through the implications of this statement.

  255. If you can’t answer my questions nine, you’re not the Lord’s, but you’ve got a rhyme.

  256. The data were already there to make his race-based language classification scheme

    @DE, the reason why I began reading him :

    Joseph Greenberg demonstrated that many of his theories were false and relied more on pseudoscientific biological evidence than linguistic proof (Greenberg, 1966).” (Encyclopedia of Languages and Linguistics. Sara Pugach, an historian who published several books about him)

    In fact, the inclusion of a wide variety of African languages in the Hamitic family was posited by leading figures in African linguistics (such as Carl Meinhof) on the basis of characteristics such as skin colour, stereotypical facial features, and subsistence type.” (Here)

    The same in WP. It is bullshit.
    When you say that he acted in bad faith it is different.

  257. Greenberg’s list was set forth no later than 55 years ago. It was 35-ish years ago that I first encountered it. Even when most of the principles are understood as claiming “strong statistical tendencies” rather than “ironclad exceptionless laws” I’m genuinely curious as to whether there are some of them where the number of counterexamples is now thought be rather meaningfully larger than was generally believed in 1966 or 1986, to the point of casting doubt on whether the statistical tendency (for that individual claim) is indeed so strong that it Must Mean Something. The fact (according to wikipedia) that Greenberg largely intuited these from a sample set of 30 languages means that his choice of his sample set was rather important and a potential source of serious error if he were unlucky in his choices, but I also would assume that there are lots of potential-counterexample languages that are better documented now than they were back then.

  258. David Eddyshaw says

    When you say that he acted in bad faith it is different

    Meinhof was a highly capable scholar who had access to all the information which contemporaries found to be incompatible with his race-based fantasy. Sure, he believed it himself. But he had the information and the intellect necessary not to believe it. Seems like “bad faith” to me. Believing the crap yourself is not enough to escape that charge. Examples, sadly, abound, both then and now.

    Perhaps more cogently, the actual facts he presents are so grotesquely cherry-picked that if that doesn’t count as “bad faith”, I’m not sure what does. (Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s Yoruba Grammar dates from 1852. My counterexamples disproving Meinhof’s lies are not something that has only come to light since his day. The information was always there.)

  259. @DE, I mean, what encyclopedias write about him is wrong. I do not know if you are right or wrong, but you are speaking about something very different, and I see no problem with you comments (this is what I wanted to emphasize, but I am sleepy).

    Meanwhile several encyclopedias are simply fooling readers (apparently just copying each other), so maybe we should be more careful with words “race-based”. “Connected Europeans and Hottentots based on presence of grammatical gender” is not what people think about when they read “race-based classification”. It is the exact opposite of what people think! His arguments are massively typological and this is what Greenberg objected to (archive).

    You are, in turn, speaking about why he even wanted to do that.

  260. From Christina Riggs’ LRB review (archived) of Toby Wilkinson’s A World beneath the Sands: Adventurers and Archaeologists in the Golden Age of Egyptology (which sounds like a dreadful book: Europeans are heroes, Egyptians are largely ignored, and words like “oriental” and “native” are used freely and unironically):

    In An Appeal to the Antiquaries of Europe on the Destruction of the Monuments of Egypt (1841), America’s vice-consul in Cairo, George Gliddon, blamed Muhammad Ali for the wanton neglect and devastation of ancient sites, and urged Western powers to intervene to assure their preservation. Gliddon’s concerns didn’t stop him shipping mummies’ heads to Philadelphia, where Samuel Morton was devising his theories of racial difference based on cranial shape and size. His books Crania Americana (1839) and Crania Aegyptiaca (1844) laid the groundwork for scientific racism in America. Gliddon and the Alabama slave-owner Josiah Nott honoured Morton’s memory in Types of Mankind, an apologia for slavery that went into eight reprintings (Wilkinson doesn’t mention any of this). Using ancient art, chimpanzees and, of course, the mummies’ skulls, it argued that the ancient Egyptians were light-skinned Caucasians and black Africans their slaves. Gliddon’s Appeal had praised Champollion ‘for delivering antiquities “out of the house of bondage”’ – that is, Muhammad Ali’s Egypt. Human beings in actual bondage mattered less.

  261. More from the review:

    Petrie changed archaeology with his Victorian eye for manufacturing techniques and craft, lending significance to objects that had been overlooked, like pottery and textiles. He had a Victorian racism as well, which Wilkinson glides over. Not only did he attribute prehistory in Egypt to a ‘new race’ arriving from the north to invigorate the sluggish south, but he also continued the habit of feeding mummies to the endless appetites of racial science. His wife, Hilda, was content to sleep with eighty skulls around the bed, all destined for London, where their measurements would be added to the imperial archive of presumed white superiority. Petrie’s closest friend and colleague at UCL was Francis Galton, the ‘father’ of eugenics.

    His rascally contemporary Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge went from Cambridge to the British Museum, where he rose to be keeper of Egyptian antiquities. Budge’s background was as murky as his methods for acquiring antiquities. Without a father who could be publicly identified, Budge used his mother’s surname. Wilkinson notes, as others have, the unusual interest that Gladstone took in his education. To keep the British Museum’s collection cutting edge, Budge made several trips to Egypt, described in a memoir published in 1920 near the end of his career. Budge was a man of ‘red-blooded confidence’, Wilkinson says, quoting a description of the Giza pyramids as ‘a pair of twin breasts against the red light of the western sun’. He wrote in tabloid headlines, and there is much duping of the French, the ‘natives’ and even Cromer to get antiquities to England, ‘a place of safety where they could be properly conserved and studied’. Officials tried to enforce Egyptian law, but Budge felt himself above it. He smuggled sheets of papyrus between glass photographic plates, dug tunnels to avoid the Antiquities Service’s guards, and bragged of bribing customs and police officials. In this way the British Museum increased its Egyptian holdings, acquiring such star pieces as the Papyrus of Ani. Wilkinson acknowledges that Budge’s reputation among his peers was ‘decidedly mixed’ but offers no judgment, unless you count the book’s dedication, ‘with deepest gratitude’, to Budge’s memory. Budge endowed two funds for Egyptology, one at Cambridge and one at Oxford.

    I like that “rascally.”

  262. David Eddyshaw says

    @drasvi:

    Yes, there are conceptually separate issues there; typologically based classifications, though scientifically invalid if they are meant to reflect language history, need not necessarily be also race-based. Quite a lot of now-debunked classifications were based pretty much on typology alone in the past; the fact that they sometimes got hijacked by racists is not the important thing that is wrong with them.

    In fact, in my view, this is what is going on with “Niger-Congo” when interpreted in its maximalist Greenbergian sense, and that certainly has nothing to do with racism; it’s pure methodological confusion. (Say I.)

    So you might try to argue that Meinhof was following what is now clearly seen to be an erroneous method of language classification that just so happened to produce a classification in accord with his racist ideology. I don’t think that will really wash, though. He cherry-picked his methods, just as he cherry-picked his data, to support his “conclusions.” Apart from anything else, it’s not as if the comparative method was unknown in Germany at that time … If (as he seems to have done to some extent) he was talking not so much about inheritance but diffusion, the actual facts still do not support his views at all, and could only be made to do so by bad science. If he had not actually been capable of good science, one might charitably attribute this to simple incompetence. But it’s not so …

    I must admit to a certain unwillingness to give the benefit of the doubt to a Nazi, but I suppose if I were a better Vulcan it would not cloud my judgment. I blame my human mother.

  263. David Eddyshaw says

    Wilkinson seems to be a pukkah Egyptologist, who has even written a book about how ancient Egypt was not created by any master race of invaders from the East, but by refugees from the drying Sahara (though it sounds compatible with the pastoralist-bringers-of-civilisation thing. But then, nobody has to maintain that pastoralists can never bring civilisation …)

    I suppose Egyptologists have to pay their bills like the rest of us.

  264. Yes, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt was excellent (I wrote about it a couple of years ago: 1, 2, 3), but he should have stuck with the ancient world, apparently.

  265. J.W. Brewer says

    For Riggs to insinuate that Budge was a Bad Person (or at least a “murky” person) because he had chanced to be born out of wedlock (with his father’s identity never confirmed) rather raises the question of who is being the stereotypically moralistic “Victorian” in a pejorative sense here. Budge’s life arc actually speaks well to social mobility in those supposedly benighted times in class-ridden Albion. A bastard who left school to work full-time at age 12, he dedicated himself to learning dead languages because he found it interesting, and was supposedly noticed by the organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral sitting quietly in the pews during his lunch break studying Assyrian, which led the organist to chat up some of his posh friends (including Gladstone) about this promising lad, which posh friends then ponied up enough money to send him off to study dead languages more formally at Cambridge. And in the fullness of time George V knighted him without holding the circumstances of his birth against him.

    No doubt his methods of acquiring items for his museum were out of step with 21st century best practices although very much in step with the custom of his own day, and he had potentially kooky views about religion and the occult. FWIW, he very much disagreed with Petrie about the “new race from the North” thing and to the contrary thought that ancient Egyptian religion had a common origin with the traditional religions (as still extant into modern times) of the darker-skinned people farther south.

    By doing the first English translation of the Kebra Negast, Budge also (one expects unwittingly?) turned himself into an important figure in the pre-history of Rastafarianism.

  266. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes, I thought I detected an insinuation there that Budge was actually Gladstone‘s illegitimate son, which seems – improbable.

  267. For Riggs to insinuate that Budge was a Bad Person (or at least a “murky” person)

    She’s not doing either, and you seem to be reading with a prosecutorial eye. She’s saying his background was murky, which seems a reasonable enough description of someone with no known father. And frankly, your “out of step with 21st century best practices although very much in step with the custom of his own day” sounds like you join Wilkinson in his jovially understanding attitude towards wholesale theft.

  268. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s reasonable to say that a person is less morally culpable as an individual if they are merely going with the flow, though not much comfort to those on the receiving end.

    To be more Polyanna-ish, I suppose that we should be celebrating all the more those who didn’t go with the flow, like the excellently not antisemitic Joyce, who emerged from an environment in which antisemitism was perfectly mainstream and respectable.

    If the would-be sanitisers of our own UK imperial past were more rational (or indeed interested in rationality at all) they would be playing up how rotten the general moral atmosphere was in those days, as a way of playing down the individual responsibility of their favourite role models. I suppose they’re inhibited from this by their characteristic Great Men of History mindset.

  269. J.W. Brewer says

    She’s suggesting a relationship, which the reader is supposed to find unsurprising, between the “murkiness” of his background and that of his methods. She clearly means “murky” to be pejorative as applied to the methods, so she must be suggesting the same about his background. I suppose it’s all terribly witty in a snotty British sort of way. But de gustibus etc. (Dr. Riggs is apparently of American origins, but has been Over There for several decades now.)

    But I would still be more interested in any information as to which of Greenberg’s postulated Universals have either notably stronger or notably weaker empirical support than they were thought to as of 35 or 55 years ago.

  270. David Eddyshaw says

    I suppose it’s all terribly witty in a snotty British sort of way

    Wait, there’s another way?

  271. David Marjanović says

    But what about German and especially English?:-/

    Maybe he plainly forgot about English. In his day and line of work that might still have been possible.

    In German, however, the “the boy’s cap” construction was only dying out in academic prose in his lifetime. It’s the most prestigious option, in other words – not the least. The default for written German nowadays is “the cap the boy’s”. Spoken German goes largely for “the cap of the boy” (largely kept out of writing), regionally also “the-boy-his cap” (strictly kept out of writing, so one wonders what the prescriptivists that hate on it are even on about).

    D.E you _do_ know that that the borders in the Fergana valley were deliberately carved that way by Stalin, right?

    I do. They’re a work of surrealist art with real impact on people, not l’art pour l’art. Basically a gerrymander, only unfettered by even the few rules of American redistricting.

    *August Klingenheben befasste sich in den 1930er Jahren mit Fulfulde. Durch seine umfassende Beschreibung des Lautbestandes und des komplizierten Systems der Präfix- und Suffixklassen löst er das Fulfulde aus der Familie der hamitischen Sprachen und ordnet es in die Gruppe der westatlantischen Sprachen ein

    “occupied himself with Fulfulde in the 1930s. By his comprehensive description of the sound inventory and the complicated system of the prefix and suffix classes he removes [present tense] Fulfulde from the family of Hamitic languages and classifies it [present again] in the group of the West Atlantic languages”

    I thought I detected an insinuation there that Budge was actually Gladstone’s illegitimate son

    That’s how I took it. I wonder if the whole text was drastically shortened in a hurry.

    No doubt his methods of acquiring items for his museum were out of step with 21st century best practices although very much in step with the custom of his own day

    I wonder about that “decidedly mixed” reputation.

  272. J.W. Brewer says

    I do suppose it would be an ironic sort of accomplishment if Budge had risen via pluck and various strokes of good fortune from a humble (baseborn,* I suppose would be the more pejorative way to put it) origin to end up displaying exactly the characteristic vices and prejudices that one would have expected from a member of the British elite of his generation who had been lucky enough to have been born into the elite, no more and no less. Except that helping to inspire Rastafarianism (not to mention whatever sort of godawful occultists of Hat’s own generation were still grooving on his Book-of-the-Dead translation) probably still makes Budge an outlier of sorts. Also he wrote a biography of a cat.

    *A word I learned from Yeats, who was in his own way a terrible snob as well as a kook and a crackpot and an intermittently very great artist.

  273. Suggesting that Cultural Figure A was secretly the son* of Cultural Figure B is a very longstanding way of trying to elevate people or, inversely, of casting aspersions. It can be found even in many instances where there is little doubt of Cultural Figure A‘s parentage. Perhaps the strangest example I have come across was a (not really meant seriously, I don’t think) claim that Abraham Lincoln was actually the illegitimate son of John C. Calhoun.

    I associate the word baseborn with The Horse and His Boy, although that’s not where I first encountered it. Aravis uses the word to describe the grand vizier, whom she hates; she is running away to avoid marrying him. When he appears in the story, the vizier does turn out to be a simpering slime. However, the way Aravis describes him is an important indication that she is, initially, a collosal aristocratic snob.** When she tells the story of her past and why she is on the run, she starts with a formal list of her antecedents: great lords, kings, and all the way back to Satan.

    * There may must be instances with daughters, but I can’t think of any. The reasons that these kind of discussions have historically been limited almost exclusively to males are fairly obvious.

    ** Aslan literally scrapes her up with his claws to punish her for her assholish behavior.

  274. Spoken German goes largely for

    @DM, yes, but: The North African attaches no importance to the order in which things take place, but — as might be expected from a kinsman of our own — his first preoccupation is with the most important thing spoken of. Thus, if he is thinking chiefly of the cap and not of the boy, he begins with the former and says, ” The cap of the boy.”

    A kinsman of his own clearly should base her word order on the information structure.
    —–
    And then the famous quote form Sapir: “it is nevertheless a crime…” – does it refer to an Uralic girl who eloped with a Turkic boy (the assumption being that West Europeans are so primitive that the couple would not even consider enslaving them)?

  275. Whatever Budge’s imperialist deficiencies, it must be said that he was something of an embryonic Afrocentrist as far as Egypt was concerned, placing a great emphasis on cultural and linguistic similarities with the peoples to its south. Of course, one might argue that that was simply another way to separate the actually existing Egyptian population from its Pharaonic heritage…

  276. I don’t consider Afrocentrism much of a plus. The germ of truth in it is overwhelmed by the counterfactual lengths to which it is pushed for ideological purposes. Actual African history is impressive enough I don’t see the need to promote bullshit like Black Cleopatra.

  277. David Eddyshaw says

    Absolutely. In fact, the fantasy devalues the reality; it is deeply patronising to imply that Africa is important primarily because of the degree to which a small part of it is said to have influenced Europe; just another manifestation of Eurocentrism. Slanting the facts to support this wholly superfluous thesis compounds the offence.

    I suppose the intention is essentially apologetic, to defend against ignorant and malicious allegations of barbarism; but the idea that Africans should not feel culturally inferior because Europeans got their culture from Africa strikes me as about the worst possible reason you could adduce for why contemporary Africans should not feel culturally inferior; when you then fabricate in order to support your position, you are effectively insulting real-life Africans even more. Nobody’s real value depends on fantasy.

  278. J.W. Brewer says

    To Brett’s point re a recurrent historical pattern of dubious claims of interesting-if-true paternity, here’s a recent example, purportedly debunked by this 2018 article but back in circulation on the internet in 2022 due to current events. https://apnews.com/article/latin-america-canada-cuba-suicides-fidel-castro-0e6f0ac0a5cc41bb83832267a9d42560

    Separately, one can obviously always romantically speculate that an absent/unknown father of an out-of-wedlock child is someone posh and important (just like the observation that believers in reincarnation seem more likely to be reincarnations of Cleopatra than of Cleopatra’s scullery maid), but I daresay that if we had good empirical data it would turn out that the vast majority of such children in Victorian England had been fathered by men of sufficiently humble and/or chaotic personal financial circumstances and social position that it was simply not worth anyone’s while to chase them and try to compel them to acknowledge paternity.

  279. Herrenvolk

    @DE, there is a very Inspired chapter about Slavs, children of marshes, by T. Peisker, Ph.D., Privatdocent and Librarian, Graz.
    (The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 3, archive)

    The oldest written history of the Slavs can be shortly summarised — myriads of slave-hunts and the enthralment of entire peoples. The Slav was the most prized of human goods. With increased strength outside his marshy land of origin, hardened to the utmost against all privation, industrious, content with little, good-humoured, and cheerful…


    I do not want to be here when they start popularizing this mtDNA/Y-chromosome thing discussed here sometimes.

  280. The Polesian is very much in the dark about the godhead itself : ” God knows how many gods there are.

    He also wrote about Ferghana, in volume 1.

    But the Kirghiz of Ferghana in their short but high wanderings on the Pamir and Alai high above the last agricultural settlements, which only extend to 4600 feet, carry on an extensive agriculture (summer-wheat, millet, barley) by means of slaves and labourers at a height of 8500 feet, while they themselves climb with their herds to a height of 15,800 feet, and partly winter in the valleys which are free from snow in winter.[3]
    ….

    A typical land in this respect is Ferghana, the former Khanate of Khokand, on the southern border of the Great Kirghiz horde. The indigenous inhabitants of this country, the entirely vegetarian Tadjiks and Sarts, from immemorial times passed from the hands of one nomad people to another in the most frightful servitude. In the sweat of their brows they dug canals for irrigation, cultivated fields, and put into practice a hundred arts, only to pay the lion’s share to their oppressors who, in the full consciousness of their boundless power, indulged the most bestial appetites. But the majority of the dominant horde could not turn from their innate and uncontrollable impulse to wander ; in the spring they were drawn irresistibly to the free air of the high-lying steppes, and only a part of them returned to winter among the enslaved peasantry. This hopeless state of affairs continued to the Russian conquest in 1876, for the directly adjoining deserts always poured forth wild hordes afresh, who nipped in the bud any humaner intercourse of herdsmen and peasants. For rapine and slavery were inevitable wherever the nomads of the vast steppes and deserts made their abode in the immediate neighbourhood of more civilized lands. What their own niggardly soil denied them, they took by force from the fruitful lands of their neighbours. And because the plundered husbandman could not pursue the fleet mounted nomad into the trackless desert, he remained unpro- tected. The fertile districts on the edge of the Sahara and the Arabian desert were also in this frightful position, and Iran felt this calamity all the harder, because the adjoining deserts of Turan are the most extensive and terrible, and their inhabitants the wildest of all the nomads of the world.
    ….
    In certain districts of East Europe therefore vegetarianism was permanent among the peasant folk, who for more than two thousand years had been visited by the Altaians with rapine and murder ; this can be proved from original sources to have been the case from the fourth century B.C. to the tenth century A.D. — that is, for 1400 years ! It is exactly the same state of things as in Ferghana in modern times

  281. David Eddyshaw says

    myriads of slave-hunts and the enthralment of entire peoples

    Page 271 of KIlngenheben’s (actually quite good) Die Sprache der Ful begins:

    Übersetzung der Übungen.

    1. Übung.
    a) Der alte Häuptling. Schwartze Sklaven.

    I mean, I’m not sure if i would have chosen that phrase for the second of my exercises in the entire book …

  282. I fear that the etymology of “enthrall” and “enthrallment” is quite opaque to modern Anglophones (due to the relevant sense of the noun “thrall” being archaic/obsolete), such that the derived words are not thought of as particularly negative.

  283. Well, for heaven’s sake put it out there on Facebook, Twitter, and all other social media — you’ll start a whole new wave of excited denunciations.

  284. PlasticPaddy says

    @de
    Latin: “Stulti sunt romani sapienti sunt paioari modica est sapientia in romana plus habent stultitia quam sapientia.”
    Old High German: “Tole sint uualha, spahe sint peigira; luzic ist spahe in uualhum mera hapent tolaheiti denne spahi.”
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kassel_conversations

  285. David Eddyshaw says

    One detects, I think, a certain insecurity regarding Bavarian intellectual prowess …

  286. PlasticPaddy says

    @de
    Likewise wrt African intellectual, physical, musical, conversational, terpsichorical, and last but not least sexual prowess. In fact Meinhof etc. may be rather to be pitied, as the psychoanalytic techniques that may have helped them cope better with what was not yet (ot only recently) known as Minderwertigkeitskomplex were not known to them

  287. J.W. Brewer says

    Thinking about famous persons with interests in both the Third Reich and Africa, I of course free-associated to Leni Riefenstahl, who some decades after her famous Nazi-themed movies became fascinated with the natives of the Nuba mountains and published some lavishly-photographed volumes about them. So naturally I became curious about whether the Nuba or their languages had ever been considered hamitische by the Wrong Sort of Africanist. One problem is that the Nuba mountains are very linguistically diverse, with not all of the languages related to each other,* and I could not quickly google up details about the specific languages spoken by the two groups (one per book) Riefenstahl spent the most time with. I was interested, however, to find a claim that the linguistic diversity of the area had first been noted in a 1911 piece by Brenda Seligmann published in a scholarly journal with the impressive name Zeitschrift für Kolonialsprachen. It transpires, however, that Mrs. Seligmann** was an (Ashkenazic) Englishwoman, whose husband and fieldwork collaborator Dr. C.G. Seligmann got a publication of his own out of the same trip titled “Some Aspects of the Hamitic Problem in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.” But the copy of that I found is paywalled (despite the fact that it ought to be in the public domain), so it well may not speak to the Nuba at all since I doubt the Seligmanns’ itinerary was limited to that mountain range.

    *So diverse that Greenberg’s lumping proposal of a “Kordofanian” group of languages is described in English wikipedia as not taken seriously by anyone serious anymore, although the German wikipedia on Kordofanische Sprachen is more pro-Greenberg although I think it may have revised the grouping to eliminate the one(s) now thought to be Nilo-Saharan, and says rather sniffily “Der von Joseph Greenberg 1949 eingeführte Name „Kordofanisch“ ist nicht besonders glücklich gewählt, da die Nuba-Berge nicht zur historischen Region Kordofan (Kurdufan) gehören, sondern nur daran angrenzen.”

    **Consistent with a phenomenon noted recently on another thread, Dr. and Mrs. Seligmann respelled their surname as “Seligman” beginning in 1914, in an apparent effort to look less threateningly Teutonic.

  288. It’s funny, I do parse Seligmann as German and Seligman as Jewish for some reason.

  289. David Eddyshaw says

    Greenberg’s justification for putting “Kordofanian” as part of his (Macro-)Niger-Congo was pretty explicitly a typological similarity, viz that some of the groups have systems of paired noun-class prefixes. He thought this was so exceptional cross-linguistically that it effectively constituted proof of genetic relationship all by itself. There’s pretty much zero in the way of lexical evidence, and supposed similarities in verbal morphology in reality reduce (as with “Atlantic”) to “there are a number of verb-deriving suffixes with alveolar consonants in.”

    Attempts that I have seen to make out that the class affixes are demonstrably cognate with those of Volta-Congo show a characteristic combination of acceptance of any vague similarity* that helps, along with an absence of any consideration of how likely it is that any similarity of such (very short) morphemes could be simply due to chance.

    Even the true-believer lumpers no longer regard all of the Kordofanian groups as likely relations of Volta-Congo, or think that those that are candidates for membership form a single branch of Niger-Congo, and (interestingly) they even seem to countenance the idea that the iconic noun-class prefix system has been borrowed in at least some cases.

    There are some good descriptions coming along of Kordofanian languages now, though (typically from working with refugees from that unhappy part of the world.) Helena Smits’ grammar of Lumun is really excellent, for example. (And freely downloadable, IIRC.)

    * Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse’s African Languages unblushingly equates a “Kordofanian” prefix gu- for “trees” with a “Gur” suffix -u/-ŋu; the actual Proto-Oti-Volta suffix is quite certainly *-bu, but no matter … vowel’s the same …

  290. David Marjanović says

    the idea that Africans should not feel culturally inferior because Europeans got their culture from Africa

    Also, has anything good ever come from putting all of one’s supposed value in the distant past?

    “Der von Joseph Greenberg 1949 eingeführte Name „Kordofanisch“ ist nicht besonders glücklich gewählt, da die Nuba-Berge nicht zur historischen Region Kordofan (Kurdufan) gehören, sondern nur daran angrenzen.”

    Rectification of Names has a strong tradition in German, and so does Lamentation of Names Without Rectification…

  291. @DE, but is it true that methods of the time were erroneous? When you hear languages for the first time, you of course classify them typologically. It is not “Meinhof”. But did they have reconstructions (other than Bantu)?

  292. David Eddyshaw says

    Rectification of Names has a strong tradition in German

    In this regard, all we Hatters are German in spirit. Don’t you just hate unrectified names? Why don’t they just get on and rectify them already? I mean, what’s with this “Hamito-Semitic” crap? It’s just wrong

    But did they have reconstructions (other than Bantu)?

    Yes. See “Background” in

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudanic_languages

  293. @DE, I do not understand.

    Meinhof did not classify Sudanic:/

    He said exactly this:

    After I had set to work on these languages, I soon became convinced that some community of structure must sooner or later be discovered in them. But it is a long step from the attainment of such a conviction, which faintly dawns on the imagination, illmninated now and then by flashes of insight, to a full comprehension of the matter. After taking the first steps in this direction, I have transferred the work to the most competent scholar in Germany, Professor Diedrich Westermann, formerly a missionary of the North German Society in Togoland, and now holding an appointment at the Berlin Oriental Seminary. Westermann has successfully carried out the delicate and difficult work of proving that one great linguistic group extends from Upper Guinea right across the continent, traces of it being found even in Abyssinia and Nubia.

  294. “Meinhof’s classification” refers to this passage in “An Introduction to the Study of African Lnaguages” written in German in 1910 and translated by Alice Werner in 1915.

    He DID NOT classify Sudanic. Are we saying that Meinhof made a mistake when praising Westermann’s work, because Westermann’s work was already available?

  295. Or I misunderstood you and you refer to the “Background” as an example of BAD reconstructions?

  296. “After I had set to work on these languages, I soon became convinced that some community of structure must sooner or later be discovered in them.”
    “…proving that one great linguistic group extends…”

    Why bold: these words are written by Alice Werner, the translator in 1915. Alice Werner in 1915 in her own book (The language-families of Africa):

    All languages, then, which, when their structure is examined, show such resemblances as indicate their derivation from a common stock, are called a family and are said to be genetically related. The Aryan languages, just mentioned, are such a family, the Semitic (including Hebrew, Ethiopic, ancient Assyrian, etc.) are another, so are the Bantu tongues of Central and Southern Africa. If there is no evidence of such relationship, the languages which for any reason are classed together, may be termed a group, but not a family. Müller called the class in which he placed Berber, Somali, Galla, etc., the “ Hamitic group,” because he did not consider their relationship to each other sufficiently clear to warrant their being entitled a family. The progress of research, however, has since shown that they are certainly connected, and we have accordingly entered them as the “ Hamitic family.”

  297. David Eddyshaw says

    @drasvi:

    You asked whether there were reconstructions “other than Bantu”; the answer is, Yes.
    Westermann had already come to the essentially correct conclusion, on the basis of his comparative work, that “West Sudanic” is related to Bantu, and not to “East Sudanic”, at the time that Meinhof was pushing his racist ideology dressed up as linguistics.

    I don’t see how much clearer I can make it, really.

  298. David Marjanović says

    But did they have reconstructions (other than Bantu)?

    Yes, “they” did, because Westermann and Baumann made one, says the Wikipedia section: “His [Westermann’s] 1927 collaboration with Hermann Baumann was devoted to the historical reconstruction of the West Sudanic branch.”

  299. @David Eddyshaw, sorry, perhaps I misunderstood you.

    I thought that Westermann’s classification is exactly what you consider Very Bad Practice.

    The reason for this is that “Meinhof’s classification” when it comes for what he calls Sudanic is: “see Westermann”. And I somehow believed that you disagreed with Meinhof’s Sudanic (if you did not, sorry, it was a honest mistake).

  300. And I was speaking about typological classifications in general. I think they are your only option initially.

    But as I understood you, they could do something much better at the time. I think for “much” better one needs decent reconstructions (not available for many families even today, even less in Greenberg’s time etc.). So I asked. But you pointed at Westermann’s work and I believed that we already dismissed it as deeply erroneous.

  301. To put it simply: I thought we are disagreeing with Meinhof here, so I was suprised to see both David Eddyshaw and Meinhof citing Westermann as an example of CORRECT reconstruction.

    Westermann had already come to the essentially correct conclusion, on the basis of his comparative work, that “West Sudanic” is related to Bantu, and not to “East Sudanic”, at the time that Meinhof was pushing his racist ideology dressed up as linguistics..”

    DE, when you say this, I again begin to think that you see some disagreement between them.

  302. David Eddyshaw says

    You may well have seen this classic paper already, drasvi, but if not:

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/3628690

    DE, when you say this, I again begin to think that you see some disagreement between them

    Well, yes. Yes, I do. Why do you take Meinhof at his word in saying he agreed with Westermann? He didn’t. Westermann, understandably though regrettably, somewhat pulled his punches when it came to openly disagreeing with his former teacher; but that is irrelevant to to the question of Meinhof’s intellectual betrayal of linguistic science: it is abundantly clear that he had the information and the intellect not to fabricate a race-based theory and call it linguistics. He’s up there with other Nazi linguists and their fantasies about “Aryan races.” Do you really not see it?

  303. J.W. Brewer says

    I’m confused about the timeline here. Just relying on wikipedia, Westermann first noted the division of die Sudansprachen into significantly-different östliche and westliche subgroups as of 1911 (a year after Meinhof noted that Westermann had demonstrated the basic unity of die Sudansprachen) but it was not until 1935 that “Westermann conclusively established the relationship between Bantu and West Sudanic,” although some French dudes had worked that out somewhat earlier, following through on Westermann’s 1927 reconstruction of Proto-West-Sudanic and drawing the explicit conclusion from comparison to Proto-Bantu that Westermann had apparently left implicit as of then.

    This leaves it unclear to me at what point between 1910 and 1935 Westermann figured out (and/or Meinhof should have concluded if he’d been giving Westermann a fair reading) that there was no genetic connection at all between West Sudanic and East Sudanic and/or that the “East Sudanic” data was inconsistent with any sort of “Hamitic” family and/or “group”, and/oor maybe that the “East Sudanic” group was itself incoherent and needed to be subdivided between languages we would now call Afroasiatic and others we would now call Nilo-Saharan?*

    Meinhof was FWIW still alive in 1935, although I don’t know if he was still actively publishing and ever had occasion to comment on the West-Sudanic-Bantu connection (and/or to write something where failure to mention that connection would be a rather notable omission).

    Separately, I note that David E. keeps talking up Meinhof’s “intellect.” Can he give us an example of *good* (ideally still-considered-valid) linguistic work Meinhof did on some other issue elsewhere in Africa where Meinhof had no racial-politics incentive to do shoddy work?

    *I don’t know if any of the Hamiticists thought in these terms but I would be neither surprised nor inclined to accuse the scholar of unsavory motives if someone were to claim that such-and-such language spoken in or near the former Anglo-Egyptian Sudan appears to be Nilotic by descent but also to exhibit “Hamitic-like” (let’s say “Cushitic-like” to be cleaner?) features due to some sort of areal/Sprachbund historical influence.

  304. So, thanks to Meinhof, we had Hamitic. Greenberg’s refutation of Hamitic bolstered his fourfold classification of African languages and his reputation. And thanks to that reputation we got Amerind to deal with.

    (Not really. Amerind would have happened anyway, in that wild era of American historical linguistics. But it’s nice to blame Meinhof for one more thing.)

  305. David Eddyshaw says

    Can he give us an example of *good* (ideally still-considered-valid) linguistic work Meinhof did on some other issue elsewhere in Africa where Meinhof had no racial-politics incentive to do shoddy work?

    Sure. He can. Meinhof’s work on Bantu.

    Bantu speakers were not thought to be proper “Negroes”, on account of having a good bit of that magic Hamitic blood. While they were (obviously!) not Herrenvolk, this still elevated them to an intellectual level where they were able to put the possessor after the possessed, and other such marks of not being utterly subhuman.

    JWB evidently feels that is is unsporting of me not to give a Nazi a fair break. It’s a point of view.

  306. David Marjanović says

    Perhaps this is a good occasion to mention that I’ve seen a German book from before WWII (possibly also shortly before WWI, maybe not, I forgot) that recognized sixty-six human races. Someone like Meinhof probably despised them to sixty-six different degrees.

  307. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1525/aa.1948.50.1.02a00050

    1. Meinhof 1915 (1910 German) The Introduction in the Study of African Languages.
    2. Meinhof 1912 Die Sprachen der Hamiten
    3. A. Werner 1915, The Language-families of Africa.

    The ONLY classification here is Werner’s. Greenberg says it is a “popular exposition” of Meinhof’s attempt.

    Perhaps it is, but Meinhof 15 and 12 are not classifications of African languages.

    For “Sudan languages” he says
    – that he suggests “Sudan languages” (a geographical term, instead of “Negro” – as Werner says).
    – that he expected “some community of structure”, but such “convincion” is far from “comprehension” and only faintly dawns on imagination.
    – that the most competent scholar in Germany Westermann has proven a group.

    Again, Werner in her book says about genetical relationship: “If there is no evidence of such relationship, the languages which for any reason are classed together, may be termed a group, but not a family.”

  308. J.W. Brewer says

    It’s not so much a question of sportsmanship as of starting from different levels of knowledge about the history of Africanist linguistics. David E. is starting from a position where Meinhof’s positive qualities are assumed to be already known so there is no need to keep mentioning them while inveighing against his negative qualities, but not everyone is in that starting position.

    Did German ex-colonialists really get together back in Berlin post-1918 and commiserate about how the indigenes in Deutsch Ostafrika had been so much classier and more civilized (including those so far in from the coastline that they had not been culturally Arabized or Persicated or whatnot) than those in Togo and Kamerun?

  309. About Fula:

    The great Austrian linguist, Friedrich Miiller, had not yet recognised the connection between Ful and the Hamitic languages (which is clear to us to-day, thanks chiefly to Schleicher’s Somali studies)

  310. David Marjanović says

    You may well have seen this classic paper already, drasvi, but if not:

    I hadn’t, and it starts out with one of history’s great putdowns across the first two pages:

    The problem will then be to determine whether any of the suggested languages possess those specific morphological and vocabulary elements which characterize the generally accepted Hamito-Semitic languages. Thus, it will not be sufficient, after the manner of Meinhof, to operate with such general concepts as Ablaut, polarity, and grammatical gender. I have little doubt that, on this basis, if a Negroid population had been found in Central Africa speaking an Indo-European language, Meinhof would, without further ado, have classified it as Hamitic.

    Then, however, it veers dangerously close to “all linguistic relationships are either immediately obvious or forever unknowable”…

  311. About Masai, now Greenberg:

    19 Professor Robert Lowie has kindly called my attention to a review by Edward Sapir of Meinhof’s Die Sprachen der Hamiten in Current Anthropological Literature, vol. 2, pp. 21-27, 1913. The following quotations are of interest in reference to the subject matter of the present article.

    “I should be inclined to say that Hausa is very probably Hamitic. . . . Hottentot is not Hamitic …. Ful [i.e. Fulani] is certainly not Hamitic. … I should not be surprised if further research demonstrated beyond cavil that Bantu and Fulani are genetically related. [In the first three articles of this series, I tried to show that they are both part of the Niger-Congo family.]
    Sapir is inclined to believe that there may be some relation between Masai and Hamitic. The resemblances noted by Sapir will be accounted for in a later article in this series where I will endeavor to prove that there is a possibility of a remote relationship between Hamito-Semitic, as a whole, and East Sudanic, of which Masai is a member. I am naturally gratified to find myself in such complete agreement with one whose remarkable perceptiveness in matters of linguistic relationships has assumed almost legendary status.

  312. David Marjanović says

    The ONLY classification here is Werner’s. […] Meinhof 15 and 12 are not classifications of African languages.

    You asked “did they have reconstructions (other than Bantu)” (my emphasis), not “did Meinhof make a reconstruction”. The answer to that seems to be yes. I think you shifted the goalposts without noticing.

  313. David Eddyshaw says

    About Masai, now Greenberg

    As you may have noticed, I do not subscribe to the doctrine of Greenbergian infallibility (and nor did he.)
    Sapir now … no, on reflection, not even he …

  314. I have little doubt that, on this basis, if a Negroid population had been found in Central Africa speaking an Indo-European language, Meinhof would, without further ado, have classified it as Hamitic.

    Did he read Meinhof at all?

    Meinhof DID compare IE to Hamitic. He expressed hope that if we can’t establish relationship between Semitic and IE, then maybe Hamitic will help, and Fula for him is possible language that has preserved archaic features on periphery that explains how gender has developed.

    Not “Hamitic” gender – he says that it is less likely that gender appered several times independently – gender in general.

    And he DID NOT suggest that Hamitic-Semitic is a primary split and that Hamitic is not just a group of languages having semblance to Semitic found in Africa. Of course he WOULD classify IE as “Hamitic”, without implication that it is closer to Berber that it is to Semitic or anything.

    WTF?

  315. You asked “did they have reconstructions (other than Bantu)” (my emphasis), not “did Meinhof make a reconstruction”. The answer to that seems to be yes. I think you shifted the goalposts without noticing.

    Yes, I asked about them (namely people at that time). I just thought that Westermann’s work had been already disqualified by DE (as an example of how people should NOT treat African languages), and I was surprised that DE cites it as a positive example. Likely, I misunderstood DE.

    As to goalposts, I am angered at people who ascribe to Meinhof things he never said and even things he directly objected to. It is not DE. DE speaks about his motives.

    P.S. WTF comment above is has little to do with what I am angered at. It is quite normal confusion, but yes, under Meinhof’s methodology and definition, IE language in Africa would be first called “Hamitic” on typological grounds.

  316. J.W. Brewer says

    On further reflection, one other thing that’s a bit tricky about this “Hamito-Semitic” nomenclature is that the Tower-of-Babel event which suddenly split Proto-World into a number of different languages with no obvious genetic relationship (according to the “wrathful dispersionism” school of historical linguistics) occurred some significant number of centuries/generations after the Flood and the physical separation of the sons of Noah and their respective descendants as they spread out throughout the post-Flood world. But until that event, we are told, it remained the case that Semites, Hamites, and Japhetites all spoke the same tongue. I guess the traditional way of reconciling this is to postulate that each of the newly-divided languages was providentially assigned to a specific pre-existing (although not previously linguistically-defined) ethnic group that could be identified by where it stood in descent from Noah.

  317. From Paul Theroux’s The Happy Isles of Oceania, on a conversation with some Mormons in Aitutaki:

    I said, “I want to read about the Lost Tribes of Israel sailing into the Pacific.”
    This made Elder Lambert hitch his chair forward and begin pointedly tapping the air with his finger.
       “In the first chapter of Nephi, Lehi went east from Jerusalem. His descendants are in the Pacific. And in the last chapter of Alma — sixty-three — Hagoth and many others built ships and sailed into ‘the Western Sea.’ Those are the very words. The Pacific, in other words. They were Nephites.”
       “Sailed from where?”
       “America. Central America.” Tap-tap-tap went his finger. “‘A narrow neck of land.’”
       “And they made it to Polynesia.”
       “Yes. The Polynesians are descendants of these people.”
    The Maori was beaming. His expression said: Take that!
       “What about the Melanesians?”
       “Sons of Ham.”
       “What about the Micronesians?”
    Elder Lambert narrowed his eyes at me. He said, “Corrupt defilers.”

    Theroux himself, more than in any other book he wrote, comes off as an unpleasant misanthrope, and far from being race-blind himself. But he sure can write and sure can be entertaining.

  318. David Eddyshaw says

    Did he read Meinhof at all?

    Without a doubt, yes.

    I think it is very unlikely that Meinhof would ever have described the “Aryan” languages as Hamitic; the idea behind all this is rather that “Hamitic” (and “Semitic”) are basically debased forms of what survives in its quintessential Pure Pureness in “Aryan.” They may be related to Indo-European, sure: rather as (and indeed by the same mechanism as) an “Aryan” man would be related to the children that he (regrettably) had had by a woman not so blessed, genetically, as he. His loss, her gain …

  319. Without a doubt, yes.

    Yes. I am just sleepy, and anyway, it is not what I am angry at.

    are basically debased forms of what survives in its quintessential Pure Pureness in “Aryan.”

    No. No debasement. You first invent noun classes (thus displying intellectual judgment, due to whites). Then a class “persons” rises to prominence, and you develop a system ‘person-thing’ associated with distinction “large-small”. Then women go to the thing class because we exchange cattle for women.
    Then you have Semitic masc. -fem. which is actually person.-neuter.

    As for IE, it is more parsimonios to assume that gender was invented just once, so more funding is urgently needed for Africanistics.

  320. David Eddyshaw says

    As for IE, it is more parsimonious to assume that gender was invented just once

    Parsimonious it may be, but it has the drawback of being unequivocally untrue.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad%C3%AD_language#Gender

    More funding for Africanists is nevertheless a worthy cause, as you very rightly say …

  321. David Marjanović says

    About Masai, now Greenberg:

    In context (this is at the very end of the paper, at the bottom of the last page), that’s Greenberg mocking Meinhof (and Sapir).

    Of course he WOULD classify IE as “Hamitic”

    Inconceivable.

  322. Brothers Hamites!!!!!!!

  323. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, I certainly am. Although I am reduced to communicating in a debased Mischsprache here, elsewhere I even put my verbs first, and (of course) put possessors after possessed, as all true Hamites do. I have no concern with whether caps entail heads, not if they are important caps, caps worthy of Heroes.

    And I distinguish masculine and feminine grammatical gender (and, better yet, not neuter. Real Men have no need for more than two genders. That way lies nothing but nameless degeneracy.)

    There can be little doubt about my superior genetics.

  324. Inconceivable.

    Let us say: I do not think that a person for whom

    1. gender, ablaut etc. are sign of Hamitism
    2. who speculates that IE itself could have developed from some common archaic stage (preserved in Fula) and is related to Hottentot (It has never been doubted, to the best of my knowledge, that the grammatical gender of the Hamitic languages is somehow connected with the same phenomenon in the Semitic and Indo-Germanic languages. Against the contention that Hottentot belongs to this group of languages, it has been repeatedly held…) and that it could have happened in North Africa just as well,

    ….when asked “would you classify a langauge sharing all grammatical features of IE as Hamitic if you have found it in Africa?” would have said anything but “yes”. He is quite careful. Cf. “faintly downs”, “some community of structure”.

    The assumption, of course is that IE character of the language is not recognized.

  325. Just published (open access), Sociogeographic correlates of typological variation in northwestern Bantu gender systems, by Verkerk and Di Garbo.

    The conclusions are that contact with non-Bantu languages erode/restructure Bantu gender systems (which I think is an interesting thing to show through rigorous statistics), and that said erosion also correlates with geographic variables like latitude and longitude (which on the face of it makes no sense to investigate, let alone answer).

  326. David Marjanović says

    The assumption, of course is that IE character of the language is not recognized.

    Ah – in Greenberg’s scenario, its IE character is recognized, because to Greenberg it would (quite reasonably) have been too obvious to ignore even in a hypothetical scenario.

  327. … Greenberg mocking Meinhof (and Sapir).

    I do not know. The idea is that there is no need to ascribe him
    – classification of African languages (he never did that)
    – classification of African languages based on race
    – inventing Hamitic Fula and Masai.

    It is not just him. He says “we” today know that Fula is Hamitic, because of Schleicher’s work. Let’s check if “Hamitic Fula” was so popular an opinion back then. If yes, let’s address the arguments that made people believe in it (alongside with his ideas).

    And why not Alice Werner’s classification then? Because she’s a woman or what?

  328. David Eddyshaw says

    @Y:

    Interesting.

    They’ve almost lost me already though, with all this about the “overwhelming stability of gender systems.” Just because Johanna Nichols says it a lot doesn’t make it true …

    Scratch count of distinct noun classes (as measured by agreement, not morphology) in Oti-Volta:

    Waama 12
    Ditammari/Nateni 12 (almost identical to each other, but a different 12 from Waama)
    Byali 8
    Yom 7
    Nawdm 9
    Gulmancéma 9
    Moba 8
    Buli 5
    Boulba 8
    Farefare 8 or 2 depending on dialect
    Talni 5
    Kusaal 2
    Mampruli 2-4 depending on dialect
    Mooré, Dagaare 1 (i.e. zero, effectively: no grammatical gender at all)

    Kusaal (2) is much more closely related to Talni (5) than Mooré (1), and Farefare (8) is much more closely related to Mooré (1) than to Moba (8) …

    And YET AGAIN it is assumed that the Proto-Bantu system is inherited basically “as is” from Proto-Niger-Congo. In the context of a study like this, studying the “edge” of Bantu, that is surely a huge petitio principii

  329. Do you think the more abundant genders in eastern OV languages simply reflect those languages being more conservative in that respect, or is the story more complicated?

  330. “…to Greenberg it would (quite reasonably) have been too obvious to ignore even in a hypothetical scenario.”

    Meinhof actually met IE speakers in Africa, both negroid and white. New levels of complexity must be added to the scenario (like “a principally new IE language, possibly from a new group”, “having no plausible explanation for where they could have learned it”). Also I am not sure if I would be able to quickly recognize IE character of an unknown language.

    And it is pointless. He does think that IE and AA are related, he kept pointing at the very same similarities himself – while Semitic-IE similarities had been already noticed by many others (or so he says). Greenberg is repeating Meinhof’s own argument – this is why my “did he read him at all?”. And Greenberg would have certainly excluded a langauge from any family if he learned that there is an undenieble proof of its relation with another family:-/

  331. David Eddyshaw says

    Basically, the more genders you’ve got, the less stable the system is (unsurprisingly.)

    To say “Gender systems are very stable at the language-family level” as if it were true of “gender” in general is ludicrous.

    Bantu languages are famous for having a lot of genders.
    (At the other extreme, the two-gender system of Afro-Asiatic has indeed proved remarkably durable; but a lot of AA languages have lost it altogether nevertheless, even including many Semitic languages of Africa.)

  332. David Eddyshaw says

    Do you think the more abundant genders in eastern OV languages simply reflect those languages being more conservative in that respect, or is the story more complicated?

    That is an excellent question, to which I do not know the answer (which is a major part of what makes it excellent, of course. And interesting.)

    Most WOV languages have quite definitely lost genders; there’s no doubt that Proto-WOV had a system with eight or nine, like Farefare and Boulba; there are plenty of traces of reduction of a more elaborate system in the reduced-gender languages even if you didn’t have the actual real-live specimens of WOV languages with more genders to prove the point.

    Buli has certainly merged genders, too, as a consequence of phonological changes which have obliterated earlier distinctions; it has actually been left with more distinctions in the plural than the singular (which is against one of the Greenberg universals, IIRC; bad Buli!)

    So there is a definite dynamic of reduction going on.
    However:

    Once you look farther afield, you run up against the fact that classes don’t match across subgroups. You could cheat and multiply the classes in Proto-Oti-Volta so far that all the existing systems could be attributed to mergers of classes, but this looks methodologically unprincipled to say the least. And you run into problems like the fact that only three, closely related and neighbouring Eastern languages, have a “fire” class distinct from the common (indeed Pan-Volta-Congo) “liquid/abstract” class. I mean, it’s logically possible that just these three languages have preserved a proto-language feature unknown to the rest of the group, but it’s odd. And classes can certainly be innovated: Nateni and Ditammari have replaced the inherited *-ka/ga singular suffix with -ta, for example, a development which cannot be explained by phonology.

    It’s striking too that semantic groups seem to be more durable than morphological noun classes. A striking example of this is that the entire “tree” class (sg *-bu in the protolanguage) has been transferred to the *ga class in all WOV languages except Boulba, but that is not an isolated example by any means (it’s this sort of thing that makes me dubious about Podzniakov’s attempts to line up Fufulde/Serer classes with Volta-Congo classes on the basis, primarily, of semantic content: if that’s not stable over the relatively shallow time-depth of Proto-Oti-Volta, it seems a stretch to imagine it being stable over some ten thousand years.) The idea of noun classes is more resistant to change than individual instantiations of it are …

  333. David Eddyshaw says

    Hausa illustrates this phenomenon too, in a sense: in Hausa, all but a handful of feminine nouns end in long /a:/, and the great majority of masculine nouns end in other vowels. This looks nicely familiar if you know Hebrew or Arabic, and the natural response is to go “Yes! amazing continuity over such an enormous time depth!”

    But it’s an illusion: comparative Chadic work has shown that Hausa has developed this state of affairs secondarily from a position where all nouns were indeed masculine or feminine, but this was not marked on the noun itself in any way.

  334. For complex arbitrary systems like African noun gender, my assumption is that they are stable if let let alone: L1 learners, i.e. children, can learn anything. And contrarywise, that they are unstable if subject to language contact or shift: L2 learners can’t retain these complications (or, for that matter, Italian suffix sibilant voicing). So the Verkerk and Di Garbo finding makes sense.

    Now, what happens when two languages meet, both with aboundant noun gender systems, but with little formal or semantic resemblance? Presumably, L2 speakers will still feel it in their bones that they need to have lots of genders. Will they tend to retain their own? Retain old forms with new semantics? Adopt new forms with old semantics? I imagine all of these are possible and attested.

  335. David Eddyshaw says

    The “latitude” etc in the paper seems to be a surrogate for whether the language was likely to be influenced by that old dependable, a hypothetical substrate (pygmy/forest-dweller languages, here) which has left no other traces than the feature it was invoked to explain, or (I think) the assumption that the more northerly languages were more likely to be in contact with non-Bantu groups exactly because of where they were. They have noticed that Lingala is in fact a creole; I’m not sure how useful it is to mix in undoubted creoles with a more-or-less documented origin history with hypothesised cases of substrate influence and/or foreign contact.

    Interesting, though.

    I’d love to have evidence that the extensive loss of noun-class based grammatical gender in most of Western Oti-Volta, which is certainly areal, whatever else, was due to substrates or large-scale acquisition by adults, but there seems to be no independent supporting evidence for this at all. Moreover, Kusaal, which has lost all grammatical gender, is pretty central in WOV geographically and is by no means highly innovative in any other respect. Apart from the apocope of final short vowels (which on language-internal grounds cannot be very ancient*), it’s actually pretty conservative phonologically: the Proto-Kusaal underlying the two dialects has to have preserved almost all the phonological features of Proto-WOV – more than any other single language. Kusaal also seems to be unique in conserving over sixty members of a minor verb conjugation which is certainly ancient (it’s exactly formally equivalent to a productive Nawdm conjugation) but which has been reduced to single figures of examples in the other WOV languages.. So Kusaal is not a great candidate for a “semi-creole” …

    It seems unlikely, too, that this loss of gender can be anything like old enough to be dated to the period of expansion of the Mossi-Dagomba states. There are too many relics of it still about even in the languages which have lost it.

    * In fact, strictly speaking, it hasn’t even happened yet. The vowels regularly come back again in certain contexts.

  336. David Eddyshaw says

    Elder Lambert narrowed his eyes at me. He said, “Corrupt defilers.”

    “The Corrupt Defilers” is now my second choice for the name of my new band. (“Chadwick and the Neutrons” remains first choice.)

  337. Totally different bands. One is death metal (drop the “The”), the other doo-wop. No reason you can’t have both, if you have that kind of vocal range.

  338. David Eddyshaw says

    Sound advice about the “The”, Y. Thanks.

  339. @DE, one my worst memories is when after grade 1 or 2 I went to a summer pioneer camp, some boy (known as a hooligan because he did not obey the rules) climbed on the roof of a pavilion and others (not me) began thowing pine cones and stones in him. It was at first a funny game, but then he wanted to get down, and they would not let him – and apparently their cones actually injuried him.

    Then adults intervened. And I was perplexed. They designated him as a “hooligan”. WHY now they are so concerned? Did not they want kids to attack him themselves?! I could not understand that.
    First they made him a target and then they behave as if he is a “good boy” and everyone is bad as if they did not want that from everyone themselves.

    It is a bad memory, because I am able to remember the moral state where I felt like that. I did not harm him.

    You asked if I see that M. is racist. I do not care about Meinhof. I have a reflex. Someone writes something unbelievable and outrageous. I check the reference. If no reference, I google for it.

    In this case I found that numerous sources say the same about Meinhof and no one gives the reference. But there are references to Greenberg. So I opened G.’s book. It does not have references, but it is a collection of articles. So I opened G.s articles, and then read Meinhof’s books.

    This mode of action: “I heard he is a racist. I won’t check, but I will lie about him, to portray him as a greater racist. Because lying about racists is fighting racism! Yahoo!!!!” – is evil.

    I do not know if Meinhof was bad, but I have no slightest reason to think that in a slaver society people who do so would not be insulting blacks “because everyone is doing so”.

  340. While Meinhof publicly denied any conjunction between race and language, contemporary critis such as the linguists Hugo Schuchardt and Edward Sapir recognized that…

    When reading this line, no one has a feeling that something is WRONG?

  341. A similar concept (maybe): click functional load diminishes toward the periphery of the area of click-using languages.

  342. They may be related to Indo-European, sure: rather as (and indeed by the same mechanism as) an “Aryan” man would be related to the children that he (regrettably) had had by a woman not so blessed, genetically, as he.

    Haven’t read Meinhof, but a theory of historical linguistics postulating a fundamental difference between true L1 acquisition and acquisition from the masterful father alone sounds not a million miles from some widely held premises of creolistics…

  343. David Eddyshaw says

    @drasvi:

    Indeed. One should not leap to the conclusion that a man who joined the Nazi Party in 1933 was in any way a racist. As he was only 76 years old at the time, this was probably because he was concerned that his career prospects would otherwise suffer.

  344. David Eddyshaw says

    @Lameen:

    Interesting thought. I wonder if the Meinhof (Non-Red-Army) Faction would have run with the idea that Proto-Bantu (say) was some sort of Hamitic creole …

    After all, John McWhorter thinks that the “Kwa” languages are the way they are Because Creole. And that interesting paper that Y linked to invokes pretty similar processes to “explain” loss of gender in Borderlands Bantu …

  345. PlasticPaddy says

    @drasvi
    I think it is clear from his own writing that Meinhof used arguments from a racist theory he had a strong emotional attachment to, in order to support his construction of a Hamitic language family where linguistic evidence did not support such a construction and even where linguistic evidence known to him fairly clearly contradicted the construction, in which case he applied arguments which seem to me to owe much to the ancient method of Procrustes, buttressed by racism.
    He does not disguise the racism; here are some examples (near them you can find for yourself “explanations” of inconvenient facts):

    But the most complete and thorough work done by any linguist was that of the Egyptologist, Leo Reinisch…. I am disposed to value his services very highly, though differing from him as regards the classification of languages, since he does not believe that a definite line can be drawn between the speech of the Sudan negroes and that of the light-coloured North African tribes.

    If, as I think, the Pygmies and Bushmen are the oldest inhabitants of Africa, the dwellers in the lands north of the Sahara are probably the latest immigrants. They are physically quite different from all other Africans. Their hair is not woolly, but curly, like that of Europeans, and in conformation of skull and body they resemble Europeans and Arabs, not negroes. According to the old popular scheme of classification, we should say: “They belong to the white Caucasian race,” though in some cases their skins have become darker in colour through an admixture of Negro blood.

    We call this whole group, in contrast to the Semitic, ” Hamitic Languages ” ; we must, however, think of them as spoken not by negroes, but by people who, at most, have been exposed to some amount of negro influence.

    We may therefore suppose that there was a dark-skinned, woolly-haired primitive population in Central Africa, while the north was occupied by a light – coloured curly-haired race. These light-coloured herdsmen then drove back, subjugated, and, in many cases, absorbed the dark race.

    Thus this act of intellectual judgment, the dividing of things into groups or classes, would appear to have been due to the white race.

    The Western Sudan possesses in Hausa a language admirably suited to answer this purpose. Its structure is Hamitic, though the people who speak it are not pure Hamites, but mongrels and slaves with a strong infusion of negro blood.

    https://archive.org/details/cu31924026931331

  346. I wonder if the Meinhof (Non-Red-Army) Faction would have run with the idea that Proto-Bantu (say) was some sort of Hamitic creole

    Early Hamitic grammar, but lexified from local langauges. May shed some light on developement of IE, more funding is needed. They say in Nazi times he requalified it as Caucasian but I have not seen the publication and “they” say many things.

  347. David Eddyshaw says

    May shed some light on development of IE, more funding is needed.

    Not a bit. Not remotely. By no stretch of the imagination. See for yourself:

    https://www.persee.fr/doc/aflin_2033-8732_1967_num_3_1_873

    More funding would be good, though …

  348. @David, I repeat, I do not care if he is good or bad.

    I just hate it when 70 people falsely ascribe to one things that he did not say and even objected to.

    It were you who invented what Lameen just quoted. You authored the “regret”, you authored “genetical”.
    You took it from your head and brought it here.

    @PlasticPaddy, I am familiar with every line you quoted.

  349. drasvi, I admire your determination to stick up for the little guy and take the side of someone who’s being attacked, but when you find yourself defending actual Nazis — not the modern “I don’t like his politics” Nazi, but a member of the Party — you might ask yourself whether you’re taking it too far.

    By the way, I sent you an e-mail offering you a book — did you get it? If not, check your spam folder or send me an e-mail I can reply to.

  350. David Eddyshaw says

    In the English version of An Introduction to the Study of African Languages, the great man Meinhof treats us to his views on pitch accent:

    In Ewe, pitch is a prominent feature and an essential part of the word. We are accustomed to express our ideas by means of consonants and vowels, but the Ewe regard musical intonation as equally indispensable. It does not serve to express moods and emotions as with us, but is used, we may say, to produce an accurate sound-picture of the object to be denoted. Our language pronounces judgments, Ewe paints pictures.

    Meinhof earlier refers to Christaller’s grammar of Twi, which describes the tonal system with extraordinary accuracy, including emic downsteps, though the actual terminology would not be invented for a century. There is no excuse for this puerile effusion of Meinhof’s. But there is more:

    To this we may add the observation that pitch is found in Eastern Asia and in Central Africa, among the yellow and the black race, but stress accent among the white race. This race is not distinguished from the others by greater manual dexterity or greater of observation; on the contrary, the others excel in these points; but it is pre-eminent in will and judgment, in the qualities expressed by the stress accent.

    He explains the consequence for us a bit later:

    We must once more remember that the Africans are by no means a homogeneous race, but that they may be reduced, in the main, to two types the black and the white race, the former appearing as slaves and victims, the latter as robbers and masters. So far as the memory of man extends, there have been black slaves among white races, but white slaves among black races have always been exceptions. Thus the rise of trading tribes in Africa is as a rule connected with the presence of the white race.

    This is a book purporting to be about the study of the languages of Africa.
    The passage on Hausa that PP cited continues

    The Western Sudan possesses in Hausa a language admirably suited to answer this purpose [sc as a lingua franca.] Its structure is Hamitic, though the people who speak it are not pure Hamites, but mongrels and slaves with a strong infusion of negro blood. As spoken by them, the language has got rid of all difficult sounds* and combinations of sounds. This does not make it a Sudan language, it has neither monosyllabic roots nor pitch accent**; but the negro can learn it with comparative ease …

    Later, in his section on the value of the study of African languages, he explains to us that it is unwise for colonial authorities to educate their subjects in the language of the conqueror:

    In Togo and Kamerun, English has hitherto been used by German officials in their intercourse with the natives. In the former territory great efforts have been made to substitute German for it, and far more is required of the mission schools in the way of language-teaching than would be expected in the way of language-teaching than would be expected of a German elementary school. There are some grave objections to making the German language universally current among the people. The young will form exaggerated expectations which in later life are doomed to disappointment …

    It is not necessary to know Meinhof’s lamentable biography to damn him as a racist on the evidence of his own words. One just needs to be able to read.

    * Because implosives, ejectives, contrastively labialised and contrastively velarised stops are not difficult, presumably.
    ** False, though he could be forgiven for not knowing that. Simple ignorance is not really his main problem.

  351. >This race is not distinguished from the others by greater manual dexterity or greater of observation; on the contrary, the others excel in these points; but it is pre-eminent in will and judgment, in the qualities expressed by the stress accent.

    The ugliness is clear to me. But the weirdness is what stands out — this idea that judgment need not depend on observation, and that Will might be a value independent of the rest. A Triumphant value, one might say.

    I can see the elements that drasvi thinks could rescue some shred of Meinhof’s moral reputation. I don’t think characterizing a person’s intelligence by race is accurate or useful. But if I did, and I described a race as superior in observation, that would be a high compliment. I would describe a race that was inferior in observation but “superior” in “will and judgment” as a recipe for the very horror show that his nation did in fact achieve a few years later. (Not because they were “superior” in such traits, but because in a historically contingent way, the culture elevated these traits, selecting leaders deficient in more important traits.)

    Meinhof has somehow relegated getting the details clear, doing the math, as the characteristic of a baser sort of person. This seems to play out in his linguistics, where he is more interested in painting with a very broad brush than understanding the details necessary to understand how to classify languages. He seems content to let his superior will lead him to decisive judgments without reference to the benefits that accrue from careful observation.

  352. @DE, PP, Ryan,

    Remember I said:

    No debasement. You first invent noun classes (thus displying intellectual judgment, due to whites). Then a class “persons” rises to prominence

    You think when I object to lies, I like the person. No.

    (@LH, thank you! I see the letter, I do not have time to answer right now, but I will soon)

  353. David Eddyshaw says

    @Ryan:

    He did do the math in the field of Bantu studies (which remains the basis of his lasting reputation as a serious scholar.) So he could do it; in this case, however, you might say that he lacked the Will to do so. (I notice that although he here cites Ewe as an Awful Example of a “Sudanic” language, the actual word order of Ewe, as I noted above, is possessum-possessor. A momentary lapse of attention on his part, no doubt …)

    [I inadvertently missed out a word in my transcription, though not to any great effect on the meaning: it should read “greater powers of observation.”]

  354. PP quoted Meinhof:

    “Thus this act of intellectual judgment, the dividing of things into groups or classes, would appear to have been due to the white race.”

    This is an integral part of his theory. I added this element.

  355. David Eddyshaw says

    In an interesting example of Morphic Resonance, the paper that DM linked to on the evergreen topic of Pirahã and the Recursions

    https://languagehat.com/chomskys-forever-war/#comment-4383717

    actually mentions that prototypically Sudanic language Yoruba (along with Old Georgian) as potentially being too complex syntactically for orthodox Chomskyans to process …

  356. David Eddyshaw says

    A quiet apology to the memory of Meinhof: the word order in Ewe seems to differ from Fongbe (which is where, with characteristic sloppiness, I drew my “Ewe” example upthread from.) Helma Pasch’s Kurtzgrammatik des Ewe has e.g. fia ƒe xɔ “the king’s house” (king POSS house.) So M was right that the Ewe are just untermenschlich all around. The rot presumably sets in somewhere around the Togo-Benin border. I was wrong to accuse M of a lapse of concentration. It is unreasonable to expect him to have actually read any contemporary descriptions of any other “Sudanic” languages when making his profound generalisations about their word order.

  357. it is pre-eminent in will and judgment, in the qualities expressed by the stress accent.

    That is properly hilarious. Presumably he takes stress accent to indicate that the speaker uses his “will and judgment” to will that one and only one syllable shall be paramount, relegating the rest to a well-deserved inferiority? And French’s lack of word stress is the outward sign of a fatal defect in French willpower, justifying Germany’s inevitable reconquest of Alsace? You could dedicate a whole issue of SpecGram just to writing up the logical consequences of this idea…

  358. I will quote that in full then.

    Which is older, pitch accent or stress accent? Till within recent times it was assimied that the latter was the normal and natural thing, and pitch a strange aberration of much later growth. We have already mentioned the remarkable persistency of pitch and the instability of stress. If we consider further that the most important changes in sounds have been produced by the stress accent and that pitch in general tends to preserve sounds, it may be accepted as very probable that the stress accent is by far the later of the two. To this we may add the observation that pitch is found in Eastern Asia and Central Africa, among the yellow and the black race, but stress accent among the white race. This race is not distinguished from the others by greater manual dexterity or greater acuteness of observation—on the contrary, the others excel in these points; but it is pre-eminent in will and judgment, in the qualities expressed by the stress accent. Thus we shall probably have to look upon the rise of the stress accent in a certain sense as making a recent epoch in the history of language, while the pitch languages have preserved for us an older form of speech. These considerations will be of value in connection with the evolution of the African languages.

    The same thing can be observed in the development of every child. The child when learning to speak utters the few words he can pronounce, such as the names of animals, without stress accent but with very marked musical intonation. In learning to read, in repeating poetry, in school recitations, later on, his attention is continually being called to this point. ” You must put the accent in the right place,” is equivalent to saying, ” You must distinguish the important part of the sentence from the unimportant by means of the accent.” This is very difficult for children. They find it easier to repeat verse in a sort of chant suggested by the metre, and prose in a kind of sing-song, which, especially in country schools, has its own established character in each class—the new-comers soon falling into it. We know what patient and persevering efforts every pubhc speaker has to make in learning to modulate his voice rightly, so as to awaken and retain the attention of his hearers. We practise these things to a certain extent unconsciously. Yet we had to take great pains in acquiring them—only we have forgotten this, and do not notice the difference till called on to listen to some untrained speaker who ignores them.

    Hilarious, though I am not sure what he means here: “This is very difficult for children. They find it easier to repeat verse in a sort of chant suggested by the metre, and prose in a kind of sing-song, which, especially in country schools, has its own established character in each class—the new-comers soon falling into it”

  359. Actually it was the very first thing I read from him a few days ago.

    Because I wanted to know why “race-based” and searched for “race”.

  360. David Eddyshaw says

    Coming from the man who actually pioneered the reconstruction of Proto-Bantu by strict comparative methods, this sort of pre-scientific gibberish is frankly embarrassing.

    I just now discovered that Meinhof invented the term “Semi-Bantu”; in his view, “Sudanic” languages which had been influenced by the superior Bantu languages, of course. I had actually not picked up on the racist undertone, on account of my own great purity and general wokeness.
    The WP article

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-Bantu

    though rightly describing the term as “outdated and incorrect”, still attributes the resemblances between these languages and Bantu to their being “influenced” by Bantu. It’s like trying to kill cockroaches …

    If nothing else, this discussion has enhanced my appreciation of Joseph Greenberg …

  361. David Marjanović says

    Meinhof has somehow relegated getting the details clear, doing the math, as the characteristic of a baser sort of person.

    I’m not surprised. Basic fascist ideology is that the fascist hero acts, because action is good and beautiful, while inaction is bad and ugly. Sitting down and thinking things through before acting is actively (…!) discouraged. The fascist hero just acts, and the reality-based community adapts to the new reality he has created or perishes.

    That is properly hilarious.

    Especially when you consider Ancient Greek – and Persian…

    the remarkable persistency of pitch

    Oh dear. One look at Balto-Slavic…

    pitch in general tends to preserve sounds

    China.

    And that’s apart from the fact that phonemic tones very often come from the loss of sounds; that was only figured out a few decades after him.

    Hilarious, though I am not sure what he means here: “This is very difficult for children. They find it easier to repeat verse in a sort of chant suggested by the metre, and prose in a kind of sing-song, which, especially in country schools, has its own established character in each class—the new-comers soon falling into it”

    He thinks he observed that once. Therefore it’s a general fact that he merely needs to remind other people of, and they’ll remember.

    It strikes me as an evidence-free claim not much different from Chomsky’s “poverty of the stimulus”.

  362. David Marjanović says

    The German article on Semi-Bantu is just as short, but much better.

  363. If you think that when he said that Hottentots are “Caucasian”, people (white) did not like that others Africans remain primitive, you are not right.

    I quoted: “While Meinhof publicly denied any conjunction between race and language, contemporary critis such as the linguists Hugo Schuchardt and Edward Sapir recognized that he routinely drew parallels between philological and physical anthropological categories in books such as the 1912 Sprachen der Hamiten, and chasticized him for it [53].…”

    Schuchardt noted that:

    – Hottentots do not look Caucasian.
    – Tutsi are Hamitic type
    – Nubians are Hamitic type “as we have learned from excavations”.

    Bantu and Hottentots are not “Herrenvolk[er]” at all. German South West is Bantu and Hottentots (and Bushmen far away). German East Africa is Bantu and Nilotic (particularly Masai). German Cameroon is much more diverse, yet it much of it is Fula, Bantu, and Semi-Bantu.

    If it is true about Caucasian Bantu (he is said to have called them Caucasians in Nazi times) he included in Caucasians vast majority of “black” people in German colonies and in South Africa. I wonder if his students in South Africa liked it.

  364. David Eddyshaw says

    It occurs to me that some of this Meinhofism probably arises from a sort of bad conscience. About the first fifth of Study of African Languages is devoted to an extended apologia for studying “primitive” [sic, repeatedly] languages at all. I suspect part of this was “Yes, I’m studying African languages; but not, you know, African African …” It’s OK so long as you can convince yourself that you are playing your part in the Plan, and that contrary to what a layman might suppose from your interest in such rebarbative matters, your heart is actually in the right place … It’s clear Meinhof really must, under it all, have had a genuine lively interest in Africa and its peoples. That’s the pity of it …

  365. David Eddyshaw says

    The German article on Semi-Bantu is just as short, but much better.

    True; and (somehow) that is just as it should be …

  366. @DE: Trying to push the objects of one’s interest higher in the Nazi racial hierarchy would not be unheard of. Excepting Jews and Slavs, the Nazis were quite flexible in this. I read the autobiography of a man with a Liberian father and a German mother who grew up in Hamburg during the Nazi era, and while he encountered prejudice and some degree of discrimination, he didn’t encounter actual persecution; at some point German friends made up a back story for him that he was the son of one of Lettow-Vorbeck’s askaris, which made sure to shut up over-eager enforcers out racial purity. I wonder wether the positive image of the askaris contributed to Meinhof’s characterisation of Bantus as a “better” sort of Africans.

  367. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes, they seem to have gone for the “proud warrior race” thing. They’d have been fine with Klingons, I expect. Less so Vulcans. A bit too thinky. Always a suspicious trait …

  368. David Marjanović says

    I read the autobiography of a man with a Liberian father and a German mother who grew up in Hamburg during the Nazi era

    Me too! I forgot the part about the askaris, but I remember that twice he tried – youthful patriotism was still a thing – to join the army. The first time they told him “we’ll never be so desperate as to take someone like you“. The second time, they actually took him – the war was practically over.

  369. J.W. Brewer says

    Re “don’t teach the Togolese German,” I had not realized that favoring the imperial power’s language as the mandatory language of school instruction in subjugated colonies was the anti-racist position. I suppose it is in an older sense, i.e. separating nature and nurture via the assumption that you can make anyone regardless of skin color a proper modern Western person if you get custody of them young enough and control their education and cut them off from their ancestral culture, perhaps via boarding school for the brightest ones.

  370. David Eddyshaw says

    This wasn’t just a German thing, either, by any means; Lugard in Nigeria actively opposed the teaching of English to Nigerians. Apart from the obvious intent to disempower, it chimes with a particular kind of racism: other “races” are perfectly fine in themselves, so long as they stay in lane (preferably in their own faraway countries, of course.) There was a characteristic combination in Lugard of grudging respect for the “warlike” Muslim emirs he’d fought against and a practically unbalanced personal dislike of Africans with a Western education. He wasn’t alone in this at all.

    Moving from a moral vacuum like Lugard* to a much more interesting and sympathetic character, who (alas) also exhibits this phenomenon: I recall reading a horrifying screed by G K Chesterton in which he ingenuously explains that he has nothing against Jews as such at all, but that they should (for example) dress in flowing oriental robes and flaunt their exotic character; what is wrong about them is their pretending to be like the English …

    * One of the Great Bad Men British imperial history threw up so often. He was the chief architect of the British policy of Indirect Rule, in line with his general philosophy. (He destroyed the career of a subordinate who had the temerity to suggest that there might be some problems with the strategy.)
    Whatever you say about the French approach of colonial cultural assimilation, there is at least buried in it a noble idea: there is no reason at all why you cannot be a black Frenchman: being French is a matter of culture (superior to all others, naturally), not genes.

  371. David Marjanović says

    In other words, you can make the Gauls your ancestors.

  372. David Eddyshaw says

    Absolutely!

  373. Whatever you say about the French approach of colonial cultural assimilation, there is at least buried in it a noble idea: there is no reason at all why you cannot be a black Frenchman: being French is a matter of culture (superior to all others, naturally), not genes.

    Yes, the idea is admirable; had they been more like the Romans, allowing (e.g.) Algerians and Senegalese to rule France, they might have made it work. Hélas…

  374. David Marjanović says

    Zemmour is belatedly trying, hélas.

  375. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, Félix Houphouët-Boigny was a French cabinet minister, admittedly with a remit confined to colonial affairs.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%A9lix_Houphou%C3%ABt-Boigny#French_political_career

    Still, it’s impossible to imagine Kwame Nkrumah in a British cabinet (partly, I must admit, because Nkrumah himself would surely have objected vigorously to the idea of being compromised in such a way …)

    Zemmour is belatedly trying, hélas

    The French are so civilised that, not only is foreign origin compatible with becoming a Frenchman, it is compatible with becoming a racist demagogue Frenchman! (Had to correct my spelling a lot there. I was getting so carried away with Francophilia that I was spelling words as if they were French …)

  376. I don’t think the Brits ever even pretended that colonials were equal in the way the French did.

  377. J.W. Brewer says

    What if you didn’t want to be a Frenchman? That seems a perfectly sensible default position. “Anyone regardless of ancestry *can* be French, therefore anyone we are in a position to coerce is going to be French whether they like it or not” is the mindset that led to bad outcomes in recent centuries for speakers of Brezhoneg and Euskara and Occitan etc. back in Le Hexagon. Voluntary immigrants to Le Hexagon are in a fundamentally different situation vis-a-vis cultural assimilation from those who only became subject to French rule due to the fortunes of war.

  378. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, obviously a rosbif cannot be a Frenchman. C’est logique. God himself could not create a sixth Platonic solid.

  379. For quite some time after West Africa’s independence, France put considerable effort into trying to prevent L1-medium education in its former colonies. When they finally relented, they discovered that the effort had ultimately been unnecessary; as long as the language of government remained French, middle-class parents would do their best to ensure their children received a French-language education (ideally a French one tout court). L1-medium education is obviously more effective at, well, educating; but being well-educated counts for little, in worldly terms, if you can’t blend in to the right circles. (And even less if there are hardly any books for you to read.)

  380. J.W. Brewer says

    @Lameen. And yet the language of government in Indonesia is not Dutch. And the language of government in Eritrea (and Libya) is not Italian. I suppose it might be an interesting question which former British colony makes the least use of English in its current government and bureaucracy. I think Burma/Myanmar might be a good candidate as would Cyprus, but perhaps there are others.

    If there is not enough published reading material in a given local African L1 one could sidestep the colonial language by teaching a classical language without the same historical/political baggage (although it might have baggage of its own) – perhaps Greek or Arabic depending on the relative local strength of Christianity v. Islam.

  381. David Eddyshaw says

    I don’t think the Dutch interest in their dominions can be said to have been primarily in disseminating the benefits of Dutch culture. Or the Italian …

    Classical Arabic, though beautiful and the vehicle of a great literature, seems for some reason to have got really quite strongly associated in Africa with Islam. A mystery …
    The great surplus of teachers of classical Greek in the west could be redirected to Africa, but mobilisation will take time.

    So in the meantime: Esperanto it is, then …

  382. @David E.: Call me a cynic if you must, but I don’t actually think the French interest in their dominions was primarily about the supposed mission civilisatrice. Which means I am not inclined to prefer them on those grounds over rival colonial powers who didn’t bother to go through the rhetorical motions of claiming to be motivated by such a mission.

  383. David Eddyshaw says

    You may have leapt too readily to the conclusion that I approve of French colonialism.

    Having said that, it was not always mere rhetoric, for all that even the sincere believers in the civilising mission were notable for a degree of self-deception rather more evident to us than to them (but what else is new?) We’ve been talking about some of the very forms that self-deception could take: to be on a “civilising” mission, it’s necessary for your victims to be uncivilised; that way, conquering them can be represented as a kindness, really; you may bring yourself to genuinely believe it …
    But not all colonialists even from the same country were the same, nor did they all share the same motivations.

    None of the colonial powers was good, and none of the European invasions was justified; but one should not lose sight of the fact that the professions of good faith were not always mere deliberate lies and propaganda, and that some colonialists did a lot more damage than others. Much harm was done through culpable ignorance (the British were particularly good at that); much harm was done because colonial authorities did not give a damn about the people they had conquered, and didn’t even pretend to. The difference might not always matter much to the victims, but it’s not without any significance at all.

    It’s all indefensible. But the history of Senegal (say) is for all that, much less of a stain on Europe than the history of the Congo.

  384. @David E.: Sure, pick on the Belgians. Everyone will concede that they’re outliers and not try to defend them … Not being European, I have no concern about stains on Europe’s reputation tout court (the *real* Dark Continent) and am thus less interested in trying to draw fine distinctions between European Power A and European Power B. Other than to say all glory laud and honor to the Hapsburg regime, which was so preoccupied trying to keep its rickety local multi-ethnic Balkan empire from blowing up that it somehow sat out the whole Scramble for Africa. I guess technically Czarist Russia sat it out as well …

  385. David Eddyshaw says

    There is a reason why Brazzaville is still called Brazzaville

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Savorgnan_de_Brazza

    whereas the name of a criminal is no longer attached to Kinshasa.

  386. I think any fair-minded observer would agree that none of the post-colonial regimes in Congo-Brazzaville, however corrupt or brutal or incompetent, was quite as egocentric/megalomaniac as the Mobotu regime across the river in Zaire. That observation seems rather orthogonal to the question of just how wicked the colonialists on the respective sides of the river had been in the 19th century. (Which is not to say that de Brazza – who I for some random reason read a very hagiographic biography of when I was 11 or 12 although that can’t have been a stock item on the shelves in most American libraries — was not less wicked than Leopold, only that that is not necessarily a causally relevant factor in current toponyms.)

  387. Brazzaville is still called Brazzaville

    But Stanley Pool is no more.

  388. David Eddyshaw says

    And quite right too …

  389. And yet. The terrain seems swampier to me. The West African history recommended to me by none other than DE did portray a few African kingdoms whose customs might have prompted me and perhaps some of you to consider a civilizing mission or two. The most consistent proponents of an expansive British presence in the 19th century were the antislavery societies, who didn’t anticipate that when the slave trade was cut off, the kings would simply continue the kidnapping and sacrifice the captives by the tens of thousands. One can mistake the fin de siecle situation as representative of long-term European control, but in fact the preceding centuries of contact would have to be characterized largely as a time of African autonomy, the outposts of Europe tiny and not infrequently besieged, the slave trade a mutual pact of moral desolation. What is most startling, for someone conditioned by the North American experience, and by both the malingering perspective of white supremacy and dominion and the burgeoning belief in a reckoning with a millennial victimization, is to realize that any significant European presence and mastery in Africa lasted only a few decades.

    I don’t mean at all to defend colonialism. Only to say it is subject to the same impulses as all unrestrained rulership.
    “The horror” definitely existed. Its avatars were white and black. The history of Africa is surely an indictment of Europeans, of Africans, of human nature.

  390. And yet the language of government in Indonesia is not Dutch.

    Quite. They changed the language of government, and the language of education naturally followed suit. Niger kept the government in French and tried to introduce local language primary education.

    But the history of Senegal (say) is for all that, much less of a stain on Europe than the history of the Congo.

    That’s true as far as it goes. But then again, Belgium is very thoroughly out of the colonial game, whereas the same can hardly be said of France. (After all – as a French radio commentator naively said the other day – Niger has “our uranium”…)

  391. David Eddyshaw says

    to realize that any significant European presence and mastery in Africa lasted only a few decades

    If you define “significant” in such a way as to make it true, and if you confine your terms of reference to direct political control.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Coast_(British_colony)

    African kings would have indulged in large scale transatlantic slave trading without any European buyers, just for the evulz. They were uncivilised, after all …
    And nobody, surely, can be blamed for the effects of the Hidden Hand of Economics. These are powers beyond human control.
    Moreover, many Africans have been evil, so nobody has a right to complain about Europeans being evil.

    the outposts of Europe tiny and not infrequently besieged

    The fact that there was resistance means that Europeans were not responsible for what they did, because they didn’t always get their way.

    It is not significant that the European almost-complete takeover of African territory happened long after the end of the slave trade. The altruistic motive was to make sure that it never happened again.

    I think any fair-minded observer would agree that none of the post-colonial regimes in Congo-Brazzaville, however corrupt or brutal or incompetent, was quite as egocentric/megalomaniac as the Mobotu regime across the river in Zaire.

    Say what you like about Leopold, at least he wasn’t eccentric. And his takeover of the Congo prevented Mobutu from seizing power earlier, so it was a Good Thing.

  392. The West African history recommended to me by none other than DE did portray a few African kingdoms whose customs might have prompted me and perhaps some of you to consider a civilizing mission or two.

    This whole approach to world affairs is misguided and has led to untold horrors (most recently in the Middle East — Saddam must go! — but before that in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and pretty much everywhere). “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Civilize thyself, would-be savior, and after a millennium or two you can check back to see how thy brother across the water is doing. The “civilizing mission” is always a pretext for self-enrichment.

  393. David Eddyshaw says

    Belgium is very thoroughly out of the colonial game, whereas the same can hardly be said of France

    Very true.

    The attitudes of France and Britain to their former colonial possessions in West Africa are very different. I’d like patriotically to interpret this as the British at least adopting the tack “Independence means independence” (not a conspicuous feature of the postcolonial French stance), but I am afraid that the correct expression may be more “washing our hands of any further responsibility” ….

  394. The discussion above is an echo of what I read in English books published 100 years ago.

    E.g. this dialogue with the director of the Sadiki College (the collège is still there).

    ” You can have no idea,” he said, ” until you have tried, what an up-hill business it is. The Arabs seem to have inside their heads”—and he tapped his forehead significantly—” a kind of clod which renders them impervious to modern ideas. We may contrive to disturb it a little, so that one or two sensible notions may filter in, but to attempt to dislodge it is hopeless — at any rate in our time. We can but lay the foundations of a work which will take generations to conclude. It is disheartening enough, and at times I am tempted to despair; but then I reflect that civilization, however slow in its operation, is irresistible, and that what I am doing now may some day bring forth fruit, the extent of which it is impossible for us to conceive. Picture to yourself,” he went on, ” the average Arab believes, and has been taught from time immemorial, that the earth is a flat sheet, supported by an elephant, which is supported by a camel, which in its turn is supported by a whole series of fabulous animals. You may prove to him that the earth is round and travels through space round the sun, and he will listen very patiently to all you have to say; but he begins by mistrusting you, and he goes away with precisely the same opinions which he had imbibed with his mother’s milk. You see that it is all a matter of religion with him, and he always suspects you of a covert intention to wean him from his ancient faith. I am far from denying that he possesses many excellent qualities and some high capabilities. But these are so distorted that they are rather an obstacle than a help to his advancement. For instance, there is scarcely one amongst my pupils who is not a wonderful draughtsman. He will produce the most accurate drawings and then spoil everything by giving way to some freak of his fanciful imagination. This is particularly the case when we allow him the use of the colour-box, and he takes an inexpressible delight in the creation of strange monstrosities, such as a blue horse or a scarlet elephant or a man with seven heads. It is all exquisite in its way, and he is unrivalled as a decorator, for all his conceptions are harmonious; but he is not practical, and, most discouraging of all, you can never hope to make him see why or where he is wrong. At present the only result of all our attempts at education is that those who seem to take most kindly to it and profit by it most, turn out the worst rascals and the most fanatical in their adherence to their old habits and customs.”

    ” Then why not leave them alone ?” I asked innocently.

    He looked aghast for a moment, and then replied that, though he admitted the present results were discouraging, the blessings of civilization must undoubtedly make themselves felt in the long run.

    ” Rash man ! ” I exclaimed; ”you little know what you are doing. Here is a noble race which has thriven for centuries on ideas which you are incapable of understanding. You may succeed in destroying what you term the ‘ clod’ in the Arab’s mind, but before you are able to put anything in to replace it, you will let loose upon the world a conscienceless monster, who will not be responsible for his actions and may drift into incalculable mischief. You are seeking to do on a large scale what the mad scoundrels of your own revolution accomplished in a smaller sphere last century, and it will serve your nation right if she be swept away in the cataclysm which will ensue.”

    You would think that the author – an English journalist in Tunisia – is anti-colonialist.
    But that would be an obscene attitude.

    He cries tears that it were the French, not English who took it.
    “They do not know how to colonize!!!! We do!!!”.

  395. For instance, there is scarcely one amongst my pupils who is not a wonderful draughtsman. He will produce the most accurate drawings and then spoil everything by giving way to some freak of his fanciful imagination. This is particularly the case when we allow him the use of the colour-box, and he takes an inexpressible delight in the creation of strange monstrosities, such as a blue horse or a scarlet elephant or a man with seven heads.

    This is a new stereotype for me about Arab[ic speaker]s, North Africans or Tunisians in particular. I asked around, but the closest specimens of the noble race are unaware of their talents. Maybe I should ask someone to draw an elephant and see if it will be (1) the most accurate (2) in scarlet…

    Russian kids certainly do blue horses and scarlet elephants and even rainbow animals. Just not too accurately.

  396. A different poem by a different poet than the one hat posted, but one that addresses the British abandonment of their “civilizing mission” and subsequent washing of hands. What can you say, man? It was the Sixties.
    https://allpoetry.com/homage-to-a-government

  397. As Larkin’s poem neatly illustrates, one problem with “civilising mission” propaganda in a democracy is that your own voters may fall for it and end up disillusioned by the predictable course of events.

    You may succeed in destroying what you term the ‘ clod’ in the Arab’s mind, but before you are able to put anything in to replace it, you will let loose upon the world a conscienceless monster, who will not be responsible for his actions and may drift into incalculable mischief.

    Reminds me somehow of the Kouachi brothers, who were largely brought up as wards of the French state.

  398. The previous stages were: “war is cool!” “let’s rob them”, “let’s enslave them” (and “let’s convert them”).

    That there was a need to see it as a symbiosis is a progress.

  399. >The fact that there was resistance means that Europeans were not responsible for what they did, because they didn’t always get their way.

    This isn’t even merely caricature or reduction ad absurdum. It’s fully the opposite of what I wrote. “An indictment of Europeans” is what I wrote.

    My problem is with absolving those who did get their way for the first three and a half centuries of contact – those who ruled most of the land, who took the captives and sold them, in order to create a caricature of the relationship that puts Africans beyond moral judgment while making Europeans simple monsters, the anti-slavery and anti-human sacrifice folks not mere pawns, like the African rulers are in this worldview, but actually participants in the depravity because they provide the pretexts.

    Here is what the wiki page you’ve just sent me to actually tells us, even speaking of a rather late period:

    >During most of the 19th century, Asante, the most powerful state of the Akan interior, sought to expand its rule and to promote and protect its trade… Local British, Dutch, and Danish authorities were all forced to come to terms with the Asante… The coastal people, primarily some of the Fante and the inhabitants of the new town of Accra, who were chiefly Ga, came to rely on British protection against Asante incursions… The coastal people, primarily some of the Fante and the inhabitants of the new town of Accra, who were chiefly Ga, came to rely on British protection against Asante incursions. But the merchant companies had limited ability to provide such security. The British Crown dissolved the company in 1821, giving authority over British forts on the Gold Coast to Charles MacCarthy, governor of the colony of Sierra Leone… MacCarthy’s mandate was to impose peace and end the slave trade.

    I do get that such mandates are used as cover for corruption and slaughter in the name of self-enrichment. But those who leave “the protection of the coastal peoples” out of their calculation aren’t being honest. That the colonialists were “forced to come to terms” proves that writing “not always getting their way” is as patronizing towards the Africans as it is reductionist towards the Europeans.

    I certainly recognize the power of the general thrust of Hat’s rejoinder:

    >Civilize thyself, would-be savior, and after a millennium or two you can check back to see how thy brother across the water is doing. The “civilizing mission” is always a pretext for self-enrichment.

    But the devil is in the details. In the fact that to arrive at this degree of certainty, one is forced to write things like “after a millennium” and “always”. Such words are a message of comfort to Davis and Forrest, to Lindbergh and Milosevic. Yes, the intervention of the North in the Civil War and Reconstruction or the US in Nazi Europe created precedents and a mindset for far uglier interventions. But on the ground at any given time, it’s not as clear as you are pretending which ones are the ugly ones and which the righteous. Perhaps the human sacrifices at Ouidah, Benin and elsewhere and the “protection of the coastal peoples” did not justify intervention. But your moral certainty of that isn’t convincing to me and seems a rather blithe dismissal of human suffering.

    Perhaps what happened at Srebrenica, the men who were carried to Brcko “standing in boxcars” and left “stacked like timber” in Mark Danner’s horrifying description, were not sufficient to justify the NATO intervention in Kosovo. Maybe Danner was just another pawn in the age-old enterprise to impose one’s will on others. To follow David Eddyshaw’s suggestion, that campaign against the Serbs happened years after the Bosnian genocide. Maybe “we” should just stay out of “their” affairs.

    I’m not so sure as you are.

    I think that attitude is equally an “othering”, a turning away from human suffering imposed by other humans. I do think that intervention may be just at times. I don’t think “the civilizing mission” is “always” a pretext. Interveners must carry responsibility for the outcomes of their interventions. But others are also moral actors, who can be judged and sometimes condemned, and the balance sheet of an intervention contains not merely the bad things that happened, but also the bad things that would have happened otherwise.

    In addition to the various horrors and corruptions carried out by the British, their interventions “on behalf of the coastal peoples” may bear some responsibility for Leopold’s men chopping off arms of the kids who didn’t return with enough rubber. Genuinely I write that. It IS part of the balance of judgment. Perhaps “the revolution is a bloc” and there is no other question than “which side are you on.”

    For myself, I think the victims at Ouidah also have a claim on our memory. Say their names, too.

  400. Perhaps an equally relevant wiki article for Ryan’s concerns is this one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_systems_in_Africa. It is a bit surprising that Meinhof apparently did not consider the West African societies that had managed to develop elaborately anti-egalitarian, hierarchical, and oppressive social structures prior to European contact to be honorary Hamites. Honorary Aryans, even.

  401. David Eddyshaw says

    @Ryan:

    I regret that my explosion ended up coming off as ad hominem, which was carelessness on my part, rather than malice (if that’s any consolation.) I have absolutely no wish to attack you personally.

    As you may possibly have noticed, this is something of a hot-button issue for me, and I tend to get carried away when it arises. I am very far from supposing that there were not also Africans who bore moral responsibility for the slave trade. (The views of the people I used to live among in the north of Ghana are not always what you might call vigorously pro-Ashanti; and there is something of grim irony in the affinity that black Americans often feel with the Ashanti.)

    I am, however, deeply allergic to attempts to play down or excuse what is one of the greatest collective crimes ever committed by Europeans*. I have repeatedly seen arguments unfortunately very similar to those you have deployed, in all good faith, used in bad faith to this very end. You got caught in the crossfire. Sorry.

    * I do not believe in collective guilt (I do not hold myself responsible for my grandfather’s behaviour, let alone that of my forebears of two centuries ago.) But evasion of the awkward aspects of past colonial history nevertheless has present consequences; such amnesia is important, for example, in masking the viciousness of our own morally empty current UK government’s rhetoric and actions regarding refugees, predicated on the untroubled assumption that refugees have really only got themselves to blame for their plight, and have something of a nerve in supposing that they might have any moral claim on our help at all.

  402. Such words are a message of comfort to Davis and Forrest, to Lindbergh and Milosevic. Yes, the intervention of the North in the Civil War and Reconstruction or the US in Nazi Europe created precedents and a mindset for far uglier interventions. But on the ground at any given time, it’s not as clear as you are pretending which ones are the ugly ones and which the righteous. Perhaps the human sacrifices at Ouidah, Benin and elsewhere and the “protection of the coastal peoples” did not justify intervention. But your moral certainty of that isn’t convincing to me and seems a rather blithe dismissal of human suffering.

    Oh, spare me. This is one of the least appealing aspects of the Self-Righteous Left, the insistence that anyone who doesn’t spout the appropriate moral condemnations on every possible occasion is giving aid and comfort to monsters and dismissing human suffering. OK, put up or shut up: do you think we should invade and conquer every time we see human suffering? Because there is a shitload of it everywhere, and always has been. Is it the sacred mission of those of us who have both Higher Morals and a bloated and underused military to send in the troops to dislodge every dictator everywhere? “No, of course not, but you can at least express appropriate moral condemnations…” Fine: I object strongly to Davis and Forrest, Lindbergh and Milosevic, Putin and Xi, and in fact rulers everywhere who rule by violence and the threat of violence. Can I be acquitted of “blithe dismissal of human suffering” now?

  403. Also, what DE said.

  404. PlasticPaddy says

    @ryan, de
    Regarding colonialist vs. native outrages (and either as a pretext for the other), I think it is useful to consider power imbalances and the checks and balances that serve to restrain or prevent abuse of power. In the case of the native governments, there were religious, legal and political obstacles that had to be bypassed or negotiated before a leader could commit acts entailing grievous damage or large-scale death.This also applied to the European Powers. However, the latter had the capability to deploy significantly more force in an organised or systematic way, and the ultimate political, legal, and religious authorities were far away and had little direct communication with natives. So in my opinion the military and civilian authorities based in the colonies had a greater responsibility to act conscientiously and proportionately, and the home government had a greater responsibility to identify and punish those who acted in a different manner, causing large-scale harm.

  405. >Spare me. This is one of the least appealing aspects of the Self-Righteous Left, the insistence that anyone who doesn’t spout the appropriate moral condemnations on every possible occasion is giving aid and comfort to monsters and dismissing human suffering. OK, put up or shut up: do you think we should invade and conquer every time we see human suffering? Because there is a shitload of it everywhere, and always has been.

    I’m surprised my continued expressions of uncertainty and the difficulty of calculating sweeping moral balances and judging the impact of large forces in world affairs haven’t already answered the question for you. My answer to your question is certainly no, I don’t think we should invade and conquer every time. I think many, perhaps most interventions have been disastrous, and there is a measure of hypocrisy in all of them.

    It does seem a bit strange to have this charge leveled at me when I wasn’t the one using terms like “always”.

    I do try to acknowledge my own errors, such as using Ouidah as my symbol, though Ouidah was the entrepot, not the capital where the sacrifices took place. It’s not a small error. It reflects my lack of comprehensive knowledge of the subject. I still think I point to significant factors that others are leaving out of their account, but such a basic error is a sign I may not be any more competent to carry on the argument than those who leave things out that I try to resuscitate.

    I also take to heart DE’s statement that others make these points in bad faith, as whitewash. I’m trying hard not to do so, but likely fail at many points. It is difficult to avoid the leveling binaries of politics.

  406. I have thought about colonialism quite a bit, particularly in the context of utilitarian ethics, which I take very seriously. While I don’t approve of colonialism as practiced throughout history, that does not mean that a noninterventionist stance is always better, morally speaking. Ideally, I would like to see the fruits of human labor and technology shared freely around the world—with rich states helping poor states without coercive conditions or recriminations. However, the world we live in is a long way from that, and it was much further away in the not so terribly distant past. There have been times when two peoples—a richer, more technologically developed people A and a weaker B—have come into contact, leading to A dominating over B, but also increased prosperity for both A and B. This is surely not optimal; it would be better for A to aid B unconditionally. However, it may be that A would not, in practice, be willing to help out B unless A gets the better deal; that may be the best outcome that is realistically achievable.

  407. >the latter [Europeans] had the capability to deploy significantly more force in an organised or systematic way, and the ultimate political, legal, and religious authorities were far away and had little direct communication with natives.

    This is one of the things I came up against in reading African history. I had assumed it was true that the Europeans had the capability to deploy significantly more force. I came to understand that for most of the time period of contact, that doesn’t seem to have been true. Europeans were marginal rather than dominant in Africa from the time of Henry the Navigator straight through into earliest periods of the British colony in the Gold Coast. The scramble for Africa began in the 1880s, more than 4 centuries after Henry. It was already collapsing by 1947.

    This is what I meant by describing myself as someone “conditioned by the North American experience, and by both the malingering perspective of white supremacy and dominion and the burgeoning belief in a reckoning with a millennial victimization.” In North America, Europeans immediately deployed more force. The discovery was in 1492, the conquest of Mexico complete by 1521. The lens of white supremacy can make it seem that Europeans must always have deployed more force in Africa. And from a lens of victimization, it is also useful to believe that Europeans deployed more force, always and everywhere.

    But reading African history, I get a rather different sense. As far as I can tell, African kingdoms were not puppet kingdoms in the 15th to 18th centuries nor through much of the 19th, and European control barely extended beyond the range of the guns in a handful of port cities and their fortresses, places that were both literally and metaphorically marginal to the continent.

    But David, Lameen and others surely know more than I do, and would likely describe this differently. I’d be interested to read another perspective.

  408. David Eddyshaw says

    @Brett:

    It is perfectly conceivable that some places are better off now than they would have been without the European invasions*; however, I can’t think of any way of actually assessing such counterfactual scenarios with any sort of rigour. In practice, the idea seems mainly to be deployed as if the better-off-ness was immediately obvious, as part of a retrospective justification of the invasions.

    It is also conceivable that many Africans would rather not have been invaded, even if they could be shown to have benefitted from it in the long term. I think that is perhaps a matter for them to decide …

    * This is probably the case in Polynesia, where (I believe; but I suspect AntC knows much more about this than I do) Hawaiians and Maori are, in aggregate, materially much better off than the inhabitants of islands where indigenous people remained a majority and their cultures were not as seriously damaged.

  409. David Eddyshaw says

    @Ryan:

    You’re absolutely right about the brevity of direct European rule in most of Africa. Many people at Ghanaian independence had lived through the entire period (the area I lived in was conquered by the British in 1904, a date engraved on a stone bridge* just outside town.)

    Félix Houphouët-Boigny, president-forever of Côte d’Ivoire, was three years old when the French first arrived at his village. Saw ’em come, saw ’em go …

    However, the effects of Europe on Africa were by no means limited to the Scramble for Africa. That was just the last phase of it (and by no means the most damaging, of course.) Much of that last phase actually made no economic sense at all: the history of British colonial involvement in West Africa was largely a series of doomed attempts to get the colonies to “pay their own way.” (Larkin’s poem is rather on the nose in that respect, anyhow.) French West Africa was an even more dubious proposition economically. (The AOF was memorably described by a British government spokesman in Parliament as, though geographically impressive, mostly “very light land”; the Brits had grabbed the potentially juicy bits.)

    * Still standing. Can’t say we did no good for Africa …

  410. David Eddyshaw says

    (When I say “last phase”, of course it wasn’t: Europe just rediscovered the fact that exploitation need not entail expensive, wasteful and politically fraught direct rule, and is cheaper and much more effective when conducted in other ways. China is catching up with the lesson … in fact, has surpassed us …)

  411. David Marjanović says

    […] European control barely extended beyond the range of the guns in a handful of port cities and their fortresses, places that were both literally and metaphorically marginal to the continent.

    All I can add to this entire discussion is that money is never marginal. In northern Europe and in Siberia, the fur trade in particular shaped the history of entire language families and their speakers for centuries to millennia. To pick another example, Rome never even tried to conquer most of the Amber Road, and maybe it couldn’t have if it had tried; but its effects even beyond the Baltic Sea were profound.

  412. J.W. Brewer says

    For the “better off now” one problem is that we don’t have a very good control group. However, wikipedia has a handy list of African countries ranked by UN-calculated “Human Development Index,”* and one of the rather striking things is that the top two “African” countries on that metric (Mauritius and the Seychelles) are among those that never had a pre-European history, i.e. they were uninhabited at first European contact and have current populations that primarily descend (okay, Mauritius is more complicated …) from Africans brought there from the mainland involuntarily. Cape Verde and Sao Tome/Principe, which are other examples of the same phenomenon, also rank fairly high and if you were to start treating the likes of Barbados** as similar “off-shore” satellites of Africa you would see even more striking examples (with Haiti as a reminder that the correlation is not perfect …).

    People are welcome to look at the rankings and theorize about causes and correlations. It would be useful (maybe it’s been done) to recreate the numbers as of, say 1960 to see the extent to which relative positions have or have not remained steady in the post-colonial era. The gap between Ghana and Burkina Faso (to the disadvantage of the latter) is one of the largest among neighbors, and perhaps David E. might have insights to offer on why that might be. Although the gap between Rwanda and Burundi, which have such intertwined histories (and it’s not like one struck oil and the other didn’t) is perhaps more curious.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African_countries_by_Human_Development_Index

    *There’s also an “Inequality-Adjusted” variant of the HDI which might be more useful but it apparently hasn’t been calculated for 100% of the African countries.

    **I myself think of both the Seychelles and Barbados as “Western” countries, just like New Zealand, but not everyone seems to share this perspective.

  413. David Eddyshaw says

    The gap between Ghana and Burkina Faso (to the disadvantage of the latter) is one of the largest among neighbors

    No mystery. Ghana has much more in the way of natural resources (including much more good agricultural land, gold, oil, and the Akosombo Dam), is not landlocked, and has had decent governance for some considerable time now (really since Jerry Rawlings voluntarily gave up power.) It’s also comparatively homogeneous ethnically, inasmuch as the much richer and more powerful south of the country is dominated by fairly closely related Akan groups, but (fortunately) not the capital, Accra.

    Ghana has also been fortunate in that the traditional powerbrokers (in particular the Asante king), who potentially could have done great damage by pushing narrow ethnic interests, have instead had a considerable moderating influence (on the whole.)

  414. J.W. Brewer says

    The difference in the pre-Scramble situation was that (even leaving the Maghreb out of it) European influence/exploitation was not really continent-wide. The hinterland from which the slave-sellers on or near the Atlantic coast extracted their “merchandise” to meet European demand was large, and covered territory that virtually no Europeans had visited in person, but it was not continent-wide. Of course, much of the rest of the continent was at the same time serving as the comparable hinterland for the trans-Saharan and Indian ocean slave trades that were being primarily conducted by non-Europeans. (European buyers/traders popped up a bit in the Indian Ocean but were never afaik the primary factor at least north of Mozambique.

  415. It is also conceivable that many Africans would rather not have been invaded, even if they could be shown to have benefitted from it in the long term. I think that is perhaps a matter for them to decide …

    A very popular Algerian proverb goes Nnif welxṣaṛa “(choose) self-respect and loss” – roughly, it’s better to keep your self-respect and take a loss than to lose your self-respect and make a profit thereby. I think that would very much apply in deciding whether or not to submit to some hypothetical unambiguously beneficial colonialism.

    As for HDI rankings, one of the many confounding factors is that more economically promising regions were by that very token more attractive to colonial powers and tended to get colonised earlier.

  416. @DE, I am not German. And I am not Kanuri. When trying to understand a German or Kanuri scholar I learn the context. But I do not say: “the German guy is a White man. I must be more demanding.” They (Germans, Welsh, Kanuri) all have the same face.

    Russians are far less critical of their past than you are. But if I want to change it, I will be critical about Russians maybe. Bashing Germans or Kanuri won’t do the job.

    Your soul is yours, your refugees are yours. It is not a global truth. It is about your ability to see the beam in your eye, but we other people also have eyes not without beams.

    To identify with “Europeans” , to call them “us” as opposed to “them” I must first call Moroccans “them”.
    It is the exact opposite of what I need. The Welsh are “us”, but not that way. I will hate the Welsh when I love the Welsh, when I have close Welsh friends and can in some way identify with the Welsh, I will absolutely hate you.

  417. I just mean:
    “Europeans are worse than Kanuri, because it is good to be self-critical” does not work for Kanuri or Russians.
    “Europeans are worse than Kanuri, because they have refugees” also does not work for many.

  418. David Eddyshaw says

    I am not German. And I am not Kanuri.

    We clearly have much in common …

    I should be very sorry to be interpreted as having “bashed Germans.” Or Europeans in general, for that matter. It is hardly disrespectful of a group to mention that a member of said group has acted (or spoken) wrongly.*

    To think otherwise with regard to ethnic groups that you belong to yourself (or favour) is really to subscribe to the “my country right or wrong” mindset; this is the diametric opposite of genuine patriotism. It is not friendship to be indifferent to a friend’s moral welfare, any more than it is friendship to be indifferent to their physical or mental health.

    I am proud of having worked for years for a German organisation, which I still support financially.

    * As opposed to claiming that such behaviour is an innate characteristic of the whole group in question.

  419. I should be very sorry to be interpreted as having “bashed Germans.”

    @David, no, I did not mean this. I just mean, there is an objective problem.
    If we want to learn some lesson from colonization, we should distinguish between universal truth and lessons that are only applicable locally.

  420. David Eddyshaw says

    Should we not be taking out our own rubbish before thinking about our neighbours’ rubbish?
    (Apart from anything else, we have a better understanding of our own rubbish; or at least we should do. We may try to sort theirs into the wrong recycling bags.)

    [It occurs to me that this analogy may be rather culture-bound; exegesis will be provided if required … “rubbish” is UKish for “garbage” …]

  421. “rubbish” is UKish for “garbage”

    Which reminds me of an amusing typo (I presume it’s a typo) in Buida’s Ermo: “энглизированный аристократ, который и после пятнадцатилетней жизни в САСШ предпочитал британский pavement американской pavement” (a [Russian] aristocrat who had become Anglicized [through long residence in England] and even after fifteen years of life in the USA preferred the British “pavement” to the American “pavement”). I presume the final word should be “sidewalk.”

    As for the concern over how to distribute blame among European slave-traders and the local African rulers who enabled them and also traded slaves: as an anarchist, I can despise all assholes of whatever skin color, whether or not they share an ethnicity with the poor saps they rule and/or trade.

  422. They have different gender!

  423. David Eddyshaw says

    Naturally. Our pavements are more manly.

  424. They have different gender!

    OK, how does that work? I fear I’m missing Buida’s joke!

  425. David Eddyshaw: I think that is perhaps a matter for them to decide …

    Again, that is something that would be great in the abstract, but it is frequently not a practical possibility. Who, after all, is actually going to do the deciding? It is common to elide the fact that when talking about what group B “wants,” that is usually what the entrenched, probably authoritarian local power structure wants—not necessarily what the actual people want, or what they would want if they understood what was at stake. I believe a lot more in equity for individuals, than in equity for political or ethnic groups—especially when a group’s interests are interpreted entirely by their traditional “leadership.”

    There is no doubt that the Nahuatl elite of central Mexico was opposed to the Spanish invasion. But I don’t really have a ton of sympathy for what they thought. Nasty as the Iberian conquerors were, it’s not clear that the Aztecs were not worse. Certainly, many of the oppressed communities around the Aztec empire decided to throw in their lots with Cortes. Those may or may not have been good decisions for them in the long run—I don’t know; and at that granular level it really is impossible to compare counterfactuals—and, moreover, they certainly were not particularly well-informed decisions when they were made.

    That last point is another important one. Individual autonomy is important, but to be valuable to an individual, that autonomy should be informed. The North Sentinel Islanders clearly prefer, as a group, to have nothing to do with outsiders. However, the very fact that their contact with the outside world has been so limited means that they cannot know what the outside world may have to offer them. And if some of the islanders did want to be part of the wider human community, it seems that neither their community leaders nor the wider community would allow them to cross over anyway.

  426. LH, no, I just noted that Buida used two different genders but I have no idea why.

    My best idea is “underlying literaltranslation of ‘sidewalk’ was feminine in his head” (дорожка? or even прогулка for walk?).

  427. David Eddyshaw says

    @Brett:

    It is remarkable how often the side with the Maxim gun turns out to have a more accurate notion of what people want than they do themselves.

  428. @Brett, I always thought that if someone informed them about everything and provided with connection to the Internet and taught them sciences and helped young curious Sentinelese to leak into India and spy for (Sentinelese) people but did not tell Indians that Sentinelese know everything….

  429. About “informed” unfortunately this notion was used by a FUNAÍ antropologist in connection to Suzukis’ daugher (and the story was referred to in a book about field-work as: a linguist/missionary couple helped a girl and it offended some in the community).

    That is, a tribe member (perhaps girls brother, I do not remember) brought an ill girl – otherwise abandoned by the community – to a couple of missionary linguists. They learned that she is about to die, so they managed to bring her to the hospital (not too quickly and as I remember with some resistance from FUNAI or someone) and a few years later applied for adoption and then the anthropologist wrote a report that this all is terrible, because now the people will learn that such conditions can be treated.

    I guess he is those “some in the community” who were offended. The girl (the lady) by now most certainly have read the report.

  430. David Eddyshaw says

    From Michel Launey’s Introduction à la langue et à la littérature aztèques:

    Le siècle suivant la conquête espagnole vit la mort de la plus grande partie de la populatiion indigène, le démantèlement de son système social, l’altération irréversible de sa culture. Cette catastrophe historique, l’une des plus grandes de l’histoire de l’humanité …

    Bleeding-heart liberal …
    Still, the conquest may not have been an unmixed blessing …

  431. David Eddyshaw says

    @drasvi:

    There’s an episode of Babylon 5, easily by far the best of all rubber-forehead-alien SF TV shows, dealing with a very similar issue (I’m not sure if the timescale works for the scriptwriters to have had that real-world case in mind.) The show shows its characteristic excellence in showing that there was never really a good answer (via an extremely upsetting, but all-too-plausible twist.)

    I seem to recall that the case you refer to was not quite as straightforward as it is sometimes presented, though I take your point about the central issue. Haven’t we discussed it here at some point?

  432. their contact with the outside world has been so limited means that they cannot know what the outside world may have to offer them.

    This is just a special case of the general fact that none of us can know what any particular decision may bring. We each have to do the best with the tiny bit of knowledge that we have; it will probably turn out in hindsight not to have been the best decision we could have made, but so what? Most people would rather make decisions for themselves rather than let other people with putatively greater knowledge and indubitably greater firepower to make them for them, and quite rightly.

  433. I refer you again to “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” the greatest poem of political analysis ever written.

  434. @DE, we did: someone rererenced the textbook and I wanted to learn more, and found the court ruling that cited the anthropologist’s report.

    The circumstances of adoption (that is: that the girl’s brother [if I remember correctly] brought her to their house and asked them to take care of her) are only known from Suzukis, I think. Likely FUNAÍ (or some other government organization) was able to contact them too.
    There also interviews with the women (that girl who is now adult)
    The anthropologist’s report is quoted in the court ruling, but I am not sure if it is quoted there completely. I can find the link.

  435. David Eddyshaw: “Babylon 5, easily by far the best of all rubber-forehead-alien SF TV shows” — that’s really debatable. No Farscape? Lexx?

  436. David Eddyshaw says

    I persist in my opinion. (I like Farscape, though. It’s sneakily subversive. And it has Muppets IN SPACE.)

  437. not quite as straightforward” – I remembered something less straightforward.

    1. The couple later became activists
    2. Some missionary organization produced a film about the girl. Hakani I think.

    The film was seen by indigenous rights groups (who usually are against contact) as pure evil, portraing Indians as barbarians.

    All I can say here is that the situation is unhealthy. It seems missionaries and FUNAÍ are fighting a war.

  438. David Marjanović says

    There’s an episode of Babylon 5

    That must be the one we watched in school…

  439. David Eddyshaw says

    It seems missionaries and FUNAÍ are fighting a war

    Yup. It’s a sad situation.

  440. Well I am glad to hear that 🙂
    Replying to David Eddyshaw about Farscape. Lexx is also quite good. I like it quite more than Farscape. It’s a lot more depressing, but also, in some ways, more optimistic in the long term.

  441. David Eddyshaw: “Babylon 5, easily by far the best of all rubber-forehead-alien SF TV shows” — that’s really debatable.

    Maybe, but I stand with DE in my unalloyed admiration. I hope I can someday watch the show from start to finish.

  442. Regarding the Sentinelese, I question the altruism of almost any external proposal for contact with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do too.

    After the 2004 tsunami, aerial/satellite photography showed the reef surrounding North Sentinel Island to have been significantly damaged. Some government expedition sent a helicopterful of food rations to the island. The crew was not attacked, but they were told by gestures to leave (though the food seems to have been accepted). It’s interesting to note that even among that pure and uncontacted population, waving your bare willie at another person signifies disrespect and a disinvitation.

    Even that expedition, one of many resulting from the reaction to a great human calamity, was, I suspect, not free of ulterior motive. If I were in that expedition, I doubt that I’d keep myself from musing if it wouldn’t soften their attitude to future outsiders, such as would bring back fascinating tidbits of knowledge about Sentinelese culture and language. Gift-giving in general is touched with an exchange of power. Offering any friendliness in exchange for food would have showed that their xenophobic principles had a price, and both sides would have been aware of it.

  443. I agree about Farscape.
    LEXX is less sneakily subversive. It is quite brutal:) I appreciate it. I mean, it impresses me that someone did somethign like that (the same about Farscape).
    I was some Babylon 5 fragments on TV in 90s… but that time I did not want a comedy with aliens and did not appreciate the humour (it is cultrually dependend).
    Firefly (sometime everyone around me loved) does not have aliens.

    But what is particularly memorable for lovers of such TV shows of my generation is
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Power_and_the_Soldiers_of_the_Future

    It is not that it has any “cult following”, but it is the FIRST such show that we saw. A very cheap production. It was aired by our first (somewhat experimental) commercial enterainment TV channel 2×2 (which mostly was airing advetisments but it was when even the idea of advertiments was new). There were two memorable monsters, a lot of memorably dumb stuff (a new idea too, and “dumb” worked for “crazy”) and it was properly depressive.

  444. Lexx was transfomational; I can remember it; but I barely remember “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future”, but I do remember it. Weird?

  445. @Y I always thought that anthropologists contact them because they (anthropologists) are curious. “Altruism” did not occur to me.
    But I hope that if the anthropologist who is running the contact group learned that they are in danger she would help them irrespectively of whether she is in the mood to do so or not.

  446. but I barely remember “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future”

    I barely remember it too. It was not… transformational:)
    But we did not know that shows of this kind are even made (and from what little I remember – that is, that it was depressive – maybe it is indeed unique).

  447. dravsi : “when even the idea of advertiments was new”

    exactly 🙂

    I learned of the concept of advertisements when I was eight, two years after I started studying English and the IPA, when I was six years old. That’s when I also learned of “sanwiches”.

  448. We are aliens. We want to play with you.

    [not a quotation, just a thought]

  449. Sure, why not. You’re a weird Russian dude that I know nothing about.

  450. I’m sorry, that sounded harsher than intended. You don’t deserve being under this government.

  451. Yeah, let’s not start equating people with governments; that way lies nothing good.

  452. languagehat: People suffer under Putin, though; that’s a fact. Casual violence is dispensed by his will. He’s a psychopath. He’s not your usual KGB agent.

  453. That piece of of shit far more dangerous that people make him out to be, and, at the same time, less.

  454. languagehat: People suffer under Putin, though; that’s a fact. Casual violence is dispensed by his will. He’s a psychopath. He’s not your usual KGB agent.

    I have no idea why you think I needed that reminder. Have I given you any reason to think I admire Putin?

  455. A post that was here has been deleted, presumably by the author, so I’m editing mine to just say I hope everyone here is safe, and if anyone needs help, reach out. I think people here would respond.

  456. Also, does anyone know how John Cowan is doing? His presence is missed.

  457. Members of my family were involuntarily connected to both the NKVD and Gestapo during WWII.

  458. Putin is a psychopath, and we need to do something about it. But what? He’s a psychopath in charge of a country that’s not a democracy with a lot of nuclear weapons. That’s not a good situation in the best of times, but what happens when he dies? He’s just provoking Biden now, but what if he invadedes Latvia, or Poland? Probably not as bad as it could be, but what do we do until then? We can’t just let him occupy parts of Ukraine.

  459. Parts? He seems to be invading the whole country.

    The root of the problem is that after the fall of the Soviet Union the Western powers felt impelled to take advantage of Russia’s weakness, right up to Russia’s borders. There is no way that the Russians could countenance Ukraine coming under NATO. No way whatsoever. Couldn’t they have left the Russians to pick up the pieces of their shattered country and done a deal to make Ukraine neutral, with no interference from Russia and no destabilisation from the West. Maybe too much to ask…

  460. David Marjanović says

    what if he invadedes Latvia, or Poland?

    That would trigger Article 5 of the NATO Charter. Even now, I doubt Putin is quite that stupid.

  461. Can we please not discuss the war here? I think it’s safe to say we all deplore it and despise Putin. If you need to vent, that’s what social media are for. Thanks!

  462. When I worte about “bashing Germans and Kanuri”, I also wrote (and deleted that part) about Nazi.
    They did [I skip it, a lot of bad things]. Here “Nazi” is Absolute Evil. Criticizing them here is like criticizing Israel among Arabs. If you want to do something bad, you can just call your opponent a Nazi and do it. Putin just illustrated it (‘de-Nazification’).

  463. I do not hate Meinhof because he joined the party (and less so Meinhof-1912 because he would join the party:/). I do not hate Hans Wehr and his dictionary. I think everyone knows that it was a part of “translating Mein Kampf to Arabic”, and that one of the authors was a Jew and was killed. I guess it is just scholar getting funding from whatever ruling party they have (not known to be “evil” then). Hating party members would be naïve to the extreme. I know why people join such parties. When it happens here, many will join.

  464. Yes, exactly. If you need somebody to hate, hate the alpha males who set the evil in motion and force/persuade the masses to go along, don’t hate the people who go along. We all try to live our lives as best we can, and not everyone is up for self-sacrifice.

  465. David Eddyshaw says

    I don’t hate Meinhof at all: he died long before I was born. I have no idea at all what he was like as a person. I do hate and despise his racial views and his abuse of science to support them. It is abundantly clear that he did abuse science to support them, in a way that cannot by explained away by ignorance, the current communis opinio, or the less advanced state of linguistics in his day.

    I can imagine that many people joined the Nazi party out of fear or a sense of self-interest; and I imagine many then as now were fundamentally uninterested in politics and would have joined simply because it became the “normal” thing to do in their circle. Moreover, it is unfortunately all too clear that many parts of Nazi ideology which all normal people now regard with revulsion were fairly mainstream at that time not only in Germany but elsewhere. It is clearly not possible to conclude from someone’s having joined the Nazi party in 1933 that they were personally monstrous, comforting though it would be to suppose otherwise. The British, at least, are fond of the illusion that the Nazi phenomenon was in some way specifically German, and that “it could never happen here.” The real lesson of it is that it was ordinary people who did these things, and that it could happen anywhere. That is, indeed, the reason for being active in stomping vigorously on such tendencies and calling them out clearly when they appear now, and when they appeared in the past.

    One hopes that one would personally have had the moral clarity and/or courage not to act like this if one were in their shoes, but it’s all too easy to delude oneself over such matters. (I believe I myself would have been ineligible for Nazi Party membership, though doubtless my great services for the Fatherland would have been grounds for a special exemption.)

    The chief reason I bring up the issue with regard to Meinhof at all is that it seems to me pretty clear that he was an ideological soulmate of the Nazis from a very early point. And at 73, his motives for joining the Party can surely really only have been ideological agreement with their programme. I don’t think I am damning him by association in the least.

    Though it is really beside the point, it is undeniably the case that scholars with repellent views have done sound and lasting work. Besides Meinhof’s own Bantu work, August Klingenheben, who has already come into this story, was a major-league Africanist, and Wehr is another good example.

    A striking example of a great scholar who enthusiastically joined the Nazi Party is Wolfram von Soden, the most eminent of Assyriologists. Not only is there abundant evidence of pseudoscientific abuse of his talents to promote antisemitism in his work, but he personally engineered the dismissal of his own (Jewish) teacher, Benno Landsberger – who was instrumental in rehabilitating him after the war: von Soden’s 1952 Akkadian grammar has a prominent note of thanks to him. (Von Soden’s WP page seems to have been worked over by someone with the deliberate intent of minimising his culpability, but you can find the story elsewhere.)

  466. The various Assyrian regimes over the centuries/millennia were not what you’d really call individual-rights-respecting liberal parliamentary democracies. Why should we be surprised if certain scholars attracted to the study of brutal and illiberal regimes themselves possess illiberal views?

    FWIW I do admire whoever worked on Landsberger’s wiki bio, which concludes (at present): “He was also known for particularly black humor and a love of cigars and beer.[citation needed]”

  467. This citation needed reminded me the news about Taliban’s concern with the situation in Kazakhstan and hope that it will be resolved diplomatically. Here news sites are obliged to add “(a terrorist organization forbidden in Russia)” each time they mention ISIS or Taliban. That is, 7 times in one paragraph sometimes. Accrodingly the paragraph about Taliban’s (a terroristic organization forbidden in Russia) concern was full of these notes, and I suspect that’s why numerous sites shared it.
    https://www.yaplakal.com/forum3/topic2375412.html

    «Талибан» (запрещённая в РФ террористическая организация) обеспокоен беспорядками в Казахстане.

    С таким заявлением выступил пресс-секретарь афганского министерства иностранных дел Абдул Кахара Балхи.

    «Мы внимательно следим за текущей ситуацией в Казахстане и как сосед и торговый партнер обеспокоены недавними беспорядками в стране. В этой связи призываем правительство и протестующих решить существующие проблемы путем диалога и взаимопонимания», — написал представитель талибов (организация запрещена в России)* в Twitter.

    Он также добавил, что «Талибан» (организация запрещена в России)* считает безопасность и политическую стабильность в регионе основным условием для развития экономики и торговли, а также для благополучной жизни людей.

    Note how they avoided repeating it in “Afghan ministry of foreign affairs”. Afghan state is not a terroristic organization forbidden in Russia…

  468. David Eddyshaw says

    @JWB:

    True. They had a thing for coming down like the wolf on the fold, IIRC.

  469. @David E.: Well, that’s an allegation made some time after the fact by a dubious character mixed up with the Wrong Sort of Greek nationalism, so the allegation may be serving some sort of unsavory agenda.

  470. Everyone knows these paranetheses and have joked about them, so they, of course, are not a reason to share this piece. But combined with Taliban’s worries the piece becomes surrealistic.

  471. David Eddyshaw says

    @JWB:

    Good point. I may have been naive …

  472. Though it is really beside the point, it is undeniably the case that scholars with repellent views have done sound and lasting work.

    My preferred go-to example is Philippe Marçais, an excellent Arabic dialectologist – he wrote what is still the best reference grammar of any Algerian Arabic variety – who was also an OAS member and prominent supporter of the Front National. His encyclopedic knowledge of dialectal Arabic was dedicated to the cause of keeping its speakers second-class (non-)citizens. Nazis provide some particularly picturesque examples of scholars with repellent views, but no one ideology has a monopoly on the phenomenon.

  473. David Marjanović says

    AFAIK, Assyrian royal inscriptions brag about the cruelty, as an obvious means to intimidate all potential enemies & rebels. They may occasionally have exaggerated, I speculate.

  474. Stu Clayton says

    They had a thing for coming down like the wolf on the fold, IIRC.

    Do you mean like “full speed ahead” ?

    I’ve always imagined that the wolf sneaks up on the fold, striking only at the last minute when he is satisfied that there are no forces present inimical to his interests.

    In fact anybody with a brain in their head does that, no matter how fluffy the booty. Too often there is a Sittenwächter, or some guy with a gun, lurking in the wings.

    The price of rapine is eternal vigilance.

  475. David Eddyshaw says

    I think the poem is frankly somewhat wolfist. Wolves are people too.

  476. Speaking of lasting work, Caesar definitely was not the first practicioner of applied ethnography….

  477. Stu Clayton says

    Wolves are people too.

    Plautus thought so: lupus est homo.

  478. I don’t hate Meinhof

    Ernst Dammann looks more interesting…. and a lot more recent.

  479. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes. It rather illustrates the point.

    It’s also the sort of thing that helps you understand Ulrike Meinhof a little: ex-Nazi status no bar to respectability …

    At least the Bethel Mission took the right decision. The compromises made with Nazism by all the mainstream Christian churches mark one of the most shameful episodes in modern church history. Bonhoeffer was exceptional. (The seriously heretical Jehovah’s Witnesses did the right thing, and suffered for it.)

    Dammann seems to have had the decency to lie about his Nazi past …
    The linked articles from the WP site don’t seem to actually provide any detail on his racial views; the indictment seems to be based largely on his role as a local Nazi party leader when he was in German East Africa. Apparently his 1999 memoirs show that he “upheld his racist and paternalistic views until late in life”, which can hardly be good, but could cover quite a range of offensiveness (F W Taylor, whom I cited above, no Nazi, certainly would also appear to have held racist and paternalistic views.) But I have no interest in making excuses for him; or, indeed, much interest in his opinions at all.

    The WP article is studded with the names of eminent German Africanists who were his colleagues or students (I possess works by nearly all of them.)

  480. Ulrike Meinhof? How?

    (I just learned that she was Carl’s great-niece.)

  481. David Eddyshaw says

    She emerged from a student milieu, not all that long after the war, which regarded the previous generation as irredeemably compromised morally by the Nazi era. They were wrong, as the subsequent history of Germany proves; but you can understand them. We are fortunate who were born in such a time and place that we do not have to worry about just what our older relations did in a genocidal war.

  482. David Eddyshaw says

    Looking up Philippe Marçais (French WP is vastly more informative on him than the English, which I suppose is not surprising), I almost begin to see a pattern …

    I was often struck when I lived in West Africa by how a great many European residents, including aid workers and missionaries, react to the very real psychological stress of living in a very unfamiliar human milieu (much more difficult to deal with than the merely physical stresses, which are something you anticipated and are easy to identify and name to yourself, and thus deal with) by psychological retreat. They don’t socialise with local people any more than they have to (and, to be fair, there can be great practical difficulties in doing this even if you do want to), and, worse yet, they erect protective psychological barriers around themselves, ending up mistrustful of the locals and despising them. Individual bad experiences (which everyone has: locals too can be unpleasant or manipulative) get generalised, and people start thinking that all the locals are like that, quite often without consciously realising that they have slipped into that mindset.

    I think I once previously mentioned how the wife of a Swiss gynaecologist with whom I was staying for a few days in Ghana once told me in all seriousness that the local people did not love their children. This sort of thing is not unique.

    People attain a sort of equilibrium where they can keep this up for years; it’s often compatible with their being perfectly capable and effective in their actual jobs.

    The thing that really surprises me about the Dammanns and the Marçaises is not so much that they ended up that way (especiaily as their preconceptions probably took them most of the way already), but that it didn’t get in the way of their language study. I have in the past confidently asserted that nobody can learn the language of a people well if they despise that people. True for me: I can’t imagine how you could. But it is evidently very far from true in general.

  483. seriously heretical Jehovah’s Witnesses

    At least from Soviet perspective they are a perfect illustration of “heretical”. Two weird ladies appear at your door to proclaim that they are “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and give you an issue of something called The Watchtower. Herrrrretical. You can make a wall painting The Schism in Kon’kovo out of them. Of course, young smartly dressed men who approach their peers to talk about virginity* competed with them.

    We know the name Jehovah, but it is just something people do not associate with Christianity. And “watchtower” is just a medieval military installation. Actually Russian Christians are far more into the Gospels than the Old Testament (and the fascination with the Old Testament and proving it right and all this Biblical archaeology is one of the most striking and surprising elements of English discourse).
    In other words, the metaphorical (and maybe conceptual) space is wrong.

    Druids in sacred groves would have enjoyed much more success. Sacred groves, that we children of marshes and former Finns understand. I even know some.
    Druids too.

    *sorry, purity, but they meant sexual purity.

  484. Likely it were these guys who were preaching purity to first year university students:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unification_Church
    But I am not sure. (beyond heresy, I guess)

  485. David Eddyshaw says

    and the fascination with the Old Testament and proving it right and all this Biblical archaeology is one of the most striking and surprising elements of English discourse

    American, more specifically. You find that sort of thing in the UK as well, but it is very much less salient, even among groups that regard themselves as “Evangelical.”

    Actual knowledge of the Old Testament (as opposed to ideological commitment to its historical accuracy) is pretty low in the UK, and, I strongly suspect, in the US.

  486. PlasticPaddy says

    @de
    With these types I find Leviticus 20:15-16 useful. They are of course familiar with the content but not eager to discuss it at length. For me these verses demonstrate (a) the arbitrariness of the OT God (why must the animal be killed?) and (b) the arbitrariness of which sins were selected for extended treatment in the Bible (where is the admonition to pay ones taxes?).

  487. …even among groups that regard themselves as “Evangelical.”

    Does not “evangelical” imply specific interest in the gospel? (I mean, achivements of Jesus, not the synonymy between gospel and evangelion)

  488. Stu Clayton says

    For me [Leviticus 20:15-16] demonstrate (a) the arbitrariness of the OT God (why must the animal be killed?) …

    I see arbitrariness in the assumption that the animal might just as well be kept alive. Neither the OT God nor you offer any explanation.

    At any rate, I thought that killing the animals was intended as advance warning to whoever was pimping them. God is forgiving until at some point he lowers the boom, is it not ?

  489. David Eddyshaw says

    Does not “evangelical” imply specific interest in the gospel?

    Not really, or at least not directly. It’s generally used as a substitute for the somewhat-skunked “fundamentalist” in the US context; UK usage is a bit different (though US-influenced) because the more-Protestant/less-Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England has traditionally long been called Evangelical; Evangelicals of this kind are generally far from fundamentalist, though use of the label does imply sola-scriptura style Protestantism.

    The etymological sense of “Evangelical” has basically given way to a use as a sort of general Protestant “hurrah” word, though most such Protestants would certainly regard evangelism as very important: it’s that, rather than the four actual Gospels, which is really being alluded to.

    Ignorant commentators/journalists (especially in the UK) quite often refer to “Evangelists” when they actually mean “Evangelicals.”

  490. Lars Mathiesen says

    The Danish state church is officially Lutheran-Evangelical. FWIW. I’m not sure exactly how that distinguishes it from other Protestant churches, though.

  491. David Eddyshaw says

    The word tends to mean not much more than “Protestant” outside Anglophone (or Anglophone-influenced) areas; similar to traditional Anglican usage. The repurposing to mean “fundamentalist, but quite nice really, honest” in the English-speaking world is a comparatively recent development.

    We may need to create a new term now, to mean “Evangelical, but not Trump-supporting.”

    [Partly ninja’d by Lars]

  492. Well, in Russian
    katolik (the Greek word) means specifically Roman Catholic
    pravoslav- [-nyj, -ije] (translation of “orthodox”) means Eastern Orthdox.
    ortodoks- [-al’nyj] means orthodox

    the original meaning is forgotten. But
    jevangelije is the Gospel. The New Testament (novyj zavet), or each of the gospels.
    jevangelije ot Ioanna “gospel of John”
    blagovest- is the translation of the word.
    The blagovest is a type of peal in Russian Orthodox bell ringing, says WP.
    ot Ioanna svjatoje blagovestvovanije that is how the gospel of John is titled and begins in the Russian Bible (a physical book). The word is long and appropriately bookish.
    jevangelion (with -ón) is a psychoanalytical anime. Famous.

    Also there is an angel hiding in it, but no one notices:(

    Wiener wanted to call his science after the greek word for “messenger” and then he opened a dictionary and for some weird reason did not like “angelics”. Now cyborgs and cyber-punks suffer…

  493. In German “evangelische” has primarily been understood as merely contrasted with “katholische” (in a context that presupposes only two major flavors of Christianity) for many many centuries.* In current AmEng, the “evangelical” sort of Protestant is understood as contrasted with the “mainline” sort of Protestant.** “Mainline” as a label does not seem to have been in very much use prior to the 1960’s although the set of institutions and personality types and ecclesial praxes it references is older than that. It seems likely to me that in a U.S. context David E. would be on the “evangelical” side of that contrast in terms of his substantive theological commitments although he might find the accompanying perceived sociological baggage awkward.

    *Ernst Hammann’s wife was apparently more theologically rigorous than he was and broke with the dishwater government-affiliated “evangelical” church to join the more hardcore (if dramatically less numerous) Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche, opposed to the related evils of Calvinism, indifferentism, and unionism.

    **In C of E terms think of the old “Broad Church” and/or “latitudinarian” (I guess that was never an endonym?) faction as contrasted with both the “evangelical” faction and the Anglo-Catholic faction – and not as three points along a single line either — as the theological/sociological analogue/predecessor to where the mainline denominations have ended up in a U.S. context.

  494. David Eddyshaw says

    It seems likely to me that in a U.S. context David E. would be on the “evangelical” side of that contrast in terms of his substantive theological commitments although he might find the accompanying perceived sociological baggage awkward.

    You are right on the first point. However, I do not find the accompanying perceived sociological baggage “awkward”; I think it is a perversion of the Gospel, frequently crossing the line into outright heresy. You feel me?

  495. But the guy who named it knew what the word means, so initially there MUST have been some reference to Jesus and the gospel…

  496. Have the archaeological proof of the book of Ecclesiastes been searched for and found?

  497. The U.S. evangelical milieu is full of small-but-intense factions (coventicles, they might have been called in former centuries) who think that 99% of other evangelicals are outright heretics,* so David could fit right in if he approached it in the right spirit.

    *Thus the famous comedy routine (by Emo Philips):

    Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

    He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

    He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

    Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

  498. I mean, I went to Judea and digged, and I found: all is vanity.

  499. David Eddyshaw says

    But the guy who named it knew what the word means, so initially there MUST have been some reference to Jesus and the gospel…

    I imagine, given that all Christians would claim that their beliefs centre on Jesus and the Gospel, that the cooption of the name “Evangelical” was polemical, the implication being that those nasty Roman Catholics had lost sight of the fundamentals (so to speak.)

    It’s rather similar to

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churches_of_Christ

    which is the name, not of all Christendom (in their view), but only of their approved fragment thereof.

    @JWB:

    I appreciate your eirenical contributions.

  500. drasvi: I believe the JW’s call their publication The Watchtower based on the watchtower referenced in the 21st chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah. The relevant Septuagint Greek word equivalent to English “watchtower” is σκοπιὰ (leaving case endings out of it); I don’t know how that comes through in Church Slavonic and whether the equivalent word in the Slavonic version of Isaiah would be meaningful as opposed to puzzling to modern Russophones.

  501. Earlier this morning I read a FB post by “real” Evangelicals referring to the others as “Fundagelicals.” It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen the word.

  502. David Eddyshaw says

    The possibilies are endless. I propose “Anafundical” as an antonym of “Fundangelical” (a new one to me. I’m clearly out of the loop, what with not being on Facetube and all.)

  503. I believe the JW’s call their publication The Watchtower based on the watchtower referenced in the 21st chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah. The relevant Septuagint Greek word equivalent to English “watchtower” is σκοπιὰ (leaving case endings out of it); I don’t know how that comes through in Church Slavonic and whether the equivalent word in the Slavonic version of Isaiah would be meaningful as opposed to puzzling to modern Russophones.

    Isaiah 21:8. In the modern Russian version the equivalent of “on the watchtower” is “на страже,” which is a more abstract ‘on guard, on watch,’ so the physicality is lost. I think the Church Slavic (на стражбу) is much the same, though I’m not sure of the exact sense of стражба.

  504. David Eddyshaw says

    Made me wonder what “watchtower” is in Kusaal, given that such things aren’t a part of traditional culture: turns out to be dɔwɔk kanɛ ka ba zin’ gur “tall hut where they sit on guard.” Well, I suppose … it seems to lose something in translation, though. It would be harder to fit on the cover of the magazine, too.

  505. In Russian it is more complicated.
    Guard tower
    announces Jehovah’s kingdom.
    or
    …is announcing Jehovah’s kingdom.

    WIth the hut where they sit and guard it would have made more sense. But alas, no one knows Kusaal here.

  506. Сторожевая башня. And I see from that Wikipedia article that they use a different translation that actually has a watchtower: „Иегова, я всегда стою на сторожевой башне днём и остаюсь на посту каждую ночь“.

  507. David Eddyshaw says

    no one knows Kusaal here

    You never know. I gathered from a Kusaasi friend who did a master’s degree in London that there is an actual Kusaasi community there … (of course, in London, for any given ethnic group X, there is an X community there.* That makes me feel patriotic.)

    There used to be quite a stream of Ghanaians who went to study in Moscow; I knew a doctor who brought his Russian wife back with him. I don’t know what the situation is nowadays.

    * Except Pirahã. They find it impossible to navigate the London Underground, because this requires recursion, and they fall into a decline.

  508. J.W. Brewer says

    According to this the JW’s rolled out their own Russian version in 2007. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_translations_into_Russian

    I don’t know how much it varies from other modern options. There are some material differences between the LXX and the Hebrew MT in that chapter of Isaiah and the OCS of course follows the LXX. The so-called Synodal version produced under Orthodox auspices in the 19th century supposedly downplayed LXX-ism in favor of the MT, which was a rather controversial move in Orthodox circles, although the guy who favored that methodological choice is now regarded as a saint,* so …

    *This quotation is from a website that would be considered moderate-to-liberal by Orthodox standards: “In his eagerness to have the Bible translated into modern Russian, Saint Philaret at first supported the Bible Society without realizing how dangerous some of its ideas were.”

  509. In Germany, the American-style fundies are often being called evangelikal to distinguish them from the traditional garden variety evangelisch protestants.

  510. Well, if there were a Slavonic word that means “watchtower” AND if σκοπιὰν actually means that, we would have a Slavonic word for “watchtower” in Russian language.

    And there would not be storozhevaya bashnya. A -ra- form, or some other form, but not -oro- form representing Russian accent.

  511. David Marjanović says

    Ignorant commentators/journalists (especially in the UK) quite often refer to “Evangelists” when they actually mean “Evangelicals.”

    Ha! So much for Brexit! Laïcité has crossed the Channel! X-D

    In C of E terms think of the old “Broad Church” and/or “latitudinarian” (I guess that was never an endonym?) faction as contrasted with both the “evangelical” faction and the Anglo-Catholic faction – and not as three points along a single line either —

    I’ve heard of “High Church”, “Low Church”, “Broad Church”, and that the first is also called “Anglo-Catholic”; so, if the “Broad Church” is “Mainline Protestant”, is the “Low Church” vaguely “evangelical” in US terms?

    they use a different translation

    Oh yes, they have their own “New World Translation” into English, and then they translate that English translation into as many other languages as they can find.

  512. David Eddyshaw says

    is the “Low Church” vaguely “evangelical” in US terms?

    Not really. It’s a much broader spectrum, at least as regards things like Biblical literalism (though narrower in the sense that it is all one denomination.) It lacks the poisonous linkage with far-right* politics, too (though so did white American evangelicals, before they fell for the culture-war bullshit etc etc.)

    The Church of England is basically an ecclesiastical instantiation of “Why can’t we all just get along?” The truly remarkable thing about it is that it works at all, rather than its frequent lapses (a bit like the NIgerian Federation.) It’s easy to mock, and Brits often do. Lots of good things are easy to mock.

    Anglicanism/Episcopalianism elsewhere often doesn’t reflect the nature of the CofE on its home ground all that closely; in Scotland and Wales, for example, it tends to be much “higher”, because for various historical reasons other churches have gobbled up most of those who would otherwise have been low church Anglicans. American Episcopalianism seems to be a rather different animal, as far as I can make out from a different tradition and across the Atlantic.

    * Or as Americans call it, “right.”

  513. Not knowing any better, I always assumed that the U.S. Episcopal Church was simply Anglican minus all references to England, for obvious historical reasons. However, it occured to me that there are Episcopalians in Canada; thereby, no doubt, hangs a tale.

  514. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, yes, it is all the same denomination. I was being all vague and anthropological. You know, rather than accurate.

    The Scots ones are Episcopalians too. (“Piskies”, in the school playground …)

    This reflects the rather complicated story of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, in which questions of church ritual and governance (i.e. whether you have bishops) often bulked larger than actual doctrines (during much of the relevant period, the Church of England was pretty Calvinist too.)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Scotland#History

    https://allpoetry.com/On-The-New-Forcers-Of-Conscience-Under-The-Long-Parliament

  515. J.W. Brewer says

    Even before any changes of recent decades there had virtually always (like back to A.D. 1800 if not earlier) been more Methodists than Episcopalians in the U.S., but it was the other way round in the U.K. Many if not most U.S. Methodists might well have been “low church-ish” members of the C. of E. (or broad-churchish, in more recent generations as the Methodists got a bit gentrified) if transposed to England, as the Rev. Mr. Wesley himself was. I think it might be fair to say that in the U.K. many low church Anglicans are people who would have no particular affirmative reason to be in the C. of E. were it not Established, but given that it is do not find it so objectionable as to feel obligated to absent themselves from it. And indeed probably the same is true with other factions of C-of-E-ites.

    To put it another way, in former times, if English, you had to have unusually strong views in order to leave the C of E and affirmatively elect to be a “Dissenter” or “Non-Conformist,” whereas (except for in a few colonies where the C of E was more or less established, and that status did not really survive the events of 1776 et seq) there was no comparable way in which being Episcopalian was the default state you needed to have eccentrically strong opinions to shift out of on this side of the Atlantic.

    Burke famously called the then-prevalent religion in New England as of 1775 “the dissidence of dissent, and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion,” but he may have in part misapprehended the social context in which being a non-Anglican was in those colonies the default social position and you had to be a bit of a weirdo who overthought things to end up an Anglican instead. (It did happen: there was a crisis at Yale in the 1720’s when the president and several of the faculty determined that they ought to become Anglican/Episcopalian, whereupon the trustees naturally fired them.)

  516. David Eddyshaw says

    you had to be a bit of a weirdo who overthought things

    It is their tragedy that they lived long before Hat set up this refuge.

  517. @DE, you are also Diocese of Sourozh.
    The same Sourozh that was recently mentioned in the context of Genoese.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_of_Sourozh
    It’s a very funny character, but the WP article is not fun at all.

  518. ..is basically an ecclesiastical instantiation of “Why can’t we all just get along?”

    Not a bad message. I remember reading some history book (about Vandals) whose author said he is going to analyze it within the model of such and such where religious groups are groups of people opposed to other similar unions.
    And oh Yes.

  519. David Eddyshaw says

    He (A of S) seems to have been a pretty good Metropolitan.

    There is a lot to be said for the title Exarch.

  520. It means you get the first-formed xylem.

  521. David Eddyshaw says

    Cool title and perks!

  522. How is Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower translated into Russian. (The guy is a Nobel prizewinner; surely there must be translations!)

    Come to think of it, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ ‘watchtower’ and Dylan’s ‘watchtower’ exist in separate universes for me.

  523. Hm. The Russian wikipedia article about the Dylan song doesn’t translate the title and doesn’t mention any Russian cover versions. It mentions that Boris Grebenshchikov referenced lines from this song, but those don’t contain the word “watchtower”.
    Thinking about this a bit, in contrast to films, it’s actually not usual for a pop song titles to have a standard translation – when Germans speaking German refer to, say, “Yesterday”, they call it “Yesterday” and not “Gestern”.

  524. Yes. Similarly, Magical Mystery Tour, [A] Hard Day’s Night, etc.
    I would not even have recognized them in translation. And MS Окна too.

    And the subculture of people who listend to rock in soviet times also used words like шузы.

  525. J.W. Brewer says

    Just as it is considered impious in certain circles to try to translate the Koran out of Arabic, the same may be true (not necessarily in exactly the same circles) with respect to any attempt to translate Anglophone rock lyricists.

    I believe there is fortunately no surviving evidence of my teenage attempts to render CCR lyrics (chosen for the exercise because generally simple and vernacular and not excessively “poetic” or artsy) into German. That was FWIW a private exercise attempting to improve my own German skills, not an attempted service to any potential German-speaking audience.

  526. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s not impious to translate the Qur’an; strictly speaking, it’s impossible. Only the Arabic text is the Qur’an. “Translations” are, properly speaking, interpretations of the Qur’an (a perfectly tenable view, regardless of your religious beilefs, when you start thinking about it.)

    To what extent this principle applies to English rock lyrics, I cannot say. Perhaps only to Prog Rock.

  527. Compare first Russsin owners of PC in early 90s. I do not need a translation for labels like “file” or “copy” any more than I need it for “Norton Commander” (a popular file manager). I am afraid I also remember MkDir for the functional button that makes a new directory. It simply does not matter what languages these things are named in.

    But then I play a videogame and I want to know what those aliens are talking about, so I learn to understand some English. And then they start translating everything to Russian, but English for me has become a part of the “athmosphere”. If aliens start speaking in Russian it will make gaming feel wrong. Perhaps in Russian games would be more immersive, but there will be mistakes and Russian-speaking aliens would feel dumb and down to Earth. Not authentic. A Russian game about aliens would be a different story. The jokes there are Russian too, so why not.

    So I have made a step towards some sort of diglossia: I associated English with a certain athmosphere and genre. But I am still ready to accept Russian-speaking aliens when the game is Russian.

    Maybe a few generations and Russian-speaking aliens could have become impossible: everyone knows that aliens speak English! But everyone switched to Russian.

  528. Back in U.S.S.R. they didn’t allow Beatles’ music, but the rumor has it that there was an LP with an “English folk song” Devochka.

  529. FWIW, when you run Dylan’s specific “watchtower” in context through google translate into Russian and then back again into English it comes back as “watchtower.”

    The whole verse in machine-generated Russian:
    Вдоль сторожевой башни князья держали взгляд
    В то время как все женщины приходили и уходили, босые слуги тоже
    Снаружи вдалеке зарычала дикая кошка
    Приближались два всадника, завыл ветер

    The back-translated English:
    Along the watchtower the princes kept their eyes
    While all the women came and went, the barefoot servants too
    Outside, in the distance, a wild cat snarled
    Two riders approached, the wind howled

  530. That’s because ‘watchtower’ in Russian is сторожевая башня, as said above; it’s two words rather than one, but it means the same thing, so of course if you translate into Russian that’s what you’ll get, and if you translate it back you’ll get the original word, much as with “cloud” or “grass.”

  531. @Languagehat, once in a few month I read something that surprises me.

    E.g.:
    – Suzukis claimed that a government anthropologist said that they should not have saved the girl, because Indians may learn that such girls can be saved and it is bad. I was not sure if Suzuki are accurate, and the argument looked weird. I checked.

    – an Ukrainian site said that “Russia Today” interviewed a rabbi in a sinagogue attacked by local Nazis in Crimea (soon after the arrival of Russians) and presented it as if it was Kiev. I checked.

    – you posted this: “In fact, the inclusion of a wide variety of African languages in the Hamitic family was posited by leading figures in African linguistics (such as Carl Meinhof) on the basis of characteristics such as skin colour, stereotypical facial features, and subsistence type.”

    What “long-nose-Sprachen, full-lips-Sprachen, round-butt-Sprachen”? Crazy. I checked.

    I was motivated by pedantism. I was irritated because I wasted 3 evenings on reading crap about Meinhof and reading Meinhof (who I was not going to read, and was not interested in). But it was just a feat of pedantism, and this way I can evaluate my sources.

    If you can’t see that I can dislike insane bullshit because it is bullshit and not because I “like Meinhof [and take the side of racists?]”, “like Suzuki”, “anti-Putin” – then do not be suprised when a Serb dismisses any claims about war crimes as an excuse to bomb Belgrade again.

    (I am answering to a comment in another thread).

  532. @JWB, drasvi: in general, German versions of pop songs are seen as uncool, even if sung by the original artists; it doesn’t help that the translations often are cringeworthy. The cooler or edgier a band, the less successful the attempts to make German cover versions. The successful ones were rather covers of more middle-of-the-road bands like Smokie.
    Singer-songwriter covers of e.g. Dylan songs are a different matter, but while sufficiently cool, they are not usually chart toppers.

  533. You care about “women in science’

    Does it bother you that in order to make Meinoh dark enough for Greenberg to look great people forgot abotu Alice Werner? I am not sure if that would happen if she was male. She is dismissed because she is merely repeatign opinions of German Dudes.

    But her book wes influencial. It was HER classification (yes, based on Westermann and Meinhof and others).
    And it was SHE who insisted on that Sudan languages and Hamitic are families.
    It could be a wrong opinion, but it is her analyzis of Westermann’s and Meinhof’s work.

    Meinhof and Greenberg disagree ONLY in 3 points: Hottentot, Fula, Maasai.

    It does bother me. This, not Meinhof. And it si normal price for bullshit.

  534. David Eddyshaw says

    Meinhof and Greenberg disagree ONLY in 3 points: Hottentot, Fula, Masaai

    This is just not the case.

    And nobody ignored Alice Werner in order to run down Meinhof and make “Greenberg look great.” That’s pure fantasy. Your implication, based on this fantasy, that we are therefore all antifeminist, is quite extraordinary.

    For the life of me, I don’t understand why you reacted so violently to the statement that Meinhof was racist. He was. Deal with it.

  535. If you can’t see that I can dislike insane bullshit because it is bullshit

    Of course I see that, and I feel the same way. I just think you wasted a lot of time digging into Meinhof on pretty flimsy grounds, and you apparently have come to the same conclusion. You surely don’t think “the linguistic classification was often tied to speculations about race and culture” is in the same league as the outrageous lies of government spokespeople, even if you think it’s exaggerated.

  536. In other words, pick your targets. To spend large amounts of time and mental energy on every single disputable statement you run across is a waste of your time and energy.

  537. Also, what DE said. You got way too invested in this guy you don’t even care about and wound up insulting people here because they disputed you.

  538. @Languagehat, your words:

    I’m still not seeing what you mean by false accusations. He was said to be a Nazi and a racist, which he was.
    DE’s words (with your comment : “also what DE said”) :
    “I don’t understand why you reacted so violently to the statement that Meinhof was racist”

    You still are not seeing that I may possible have an isssue with bullshit and not with this “M was racist”.

  539. wound up insulting people here

    Please, tell me what exact words were “insulting people here”. Maybe I insulted someone, but I simply do not know what you interprete as “insult”:(

  540. “To spend large amounts of time and mental energy on every single disputable statement you run across is a waste of your time and energy.”

    Yes, so I only do it once in a few months. “Case study”. When I am especially surprised. In general, I am satisfied with the method. But in this case it made me read a lot of somethign that I was nto in the mood to read.

  541. Please, tell me what exact words were “insulting people here”. Maybe I insulted someone, but I simply do not know what you interprete as “insult”:(

    I don’t mean you called people names, but when you say things like:

    If you can’t see that I can dislike insane bullshit because it is bullshit and not because I “like Meinhof [and take the side of racists?]”, “like Suzuki”, “anti-Putin” – then do not be suprised when a Serb dismisses any claims about war crimes as an excuse to bomb Belgrade again.

    You seem to be saying that I am on the same level as Serbs dismissing war crimes. That’s not helpful discourse. If you think Meinhof was wronged, by all means say so, but don’t be upset when other people disagree with you. And then you throw Alice Werner into the mix as if to imply that we don’t really care about women (what?!). I know you have no intention of insulting anyone, but when people get angry (as you did because of “bullshit”) they start talking in ways that sound insulting. I know this as one of three brothers (our mother hated it when we started arguing and yelling at each other).

  542. @Languagehat, DE,

    I quoted the Alice Werner’s example as an exmaple of what does bother me. What makes me feel something.
    A negative consequence of ascribing bullshit to Meinhof (as opposed to his reputation which I do not care about). I am letting you peek into MY head and what is happening there at emotional level.

    And I said exactly so:
    “It does bother me. This, not Meinhof. ”

    But I said, “people forgot abotu Alice Werner”” and I never implied or thought that either of you is antifeminist. And I asked “Does it bother you that …”

    (I got DE’s answer: “nobody ignored Alice Werner in order to run down Meinhof and make ‘Greenberg look great.’ That’s pure fantasy.”)

  543. OK, thanks for explaining. I always like a peek inside people’s heads.

  544. About Alice:
    See Greenberg. He directly said that it was her “popular exposure” that formed people’s idea of classification.

    See earlier histories of classification, e.g. Desmond T. Cole’s:

    “8.4. …
    8.5. Carl Meinhof’s Die moderne Sprachforschung in Afrika (Berlin 1910) does not contain a classification, as such, of African languages, but a number of remarks in his survey of the languages and language-families (Chapter 2) reveal his views at this time….
    8.6 …
    8.7 …
    8.8 … Such was the background to The language-families of Africa by Alice Werner, first published in 1915. This little book, written in popular style, remained for decades the only work on this subject in English, and it enjoyed a considerable reputation.”

    This is how history was told when people wrote about books they DID read.

    In ennumerable modern histories Greenberg disproves “Meinhof’s classification” which is supposedly “race based”. E.g. DE: “Meinhof was a bad scholar. The data were already there to make his race-based language classification scheme scientifically untenablë”. But DE says it because ennumerable books say so.

    Alice disappears. Meinhof is said to have classified either African or Sudanic langauges.

  545. David Eddyshaw says

    I think what gets your goat, drasvi, is my statement that Meinhof’s racism (which is surely undeniable) led him to distort his scientific work. You are surely correct in implying that I have no way of knowing to what degree (if any) this was deliberate; however, in what is actually (if you think about it) a complement to Meinhof, is that even if it was not, Meinhof is still culpable because he had the information and the intellect not to let that happen. That is really all that I would try to maintain; personally, I think the case is overwhelming, but someone might well disagree in good faith.

    The question of how good or bad Meinhof was morally, as an individual, especially given his time, his background, and his environment, is extremely difficult and is ultimately not my business. But that does not in any way mean that it is illegitimate to express an opinion on his attitude to science.

    There are those who think it is wrong in principle to express moral judgments about historical figures. I am not one of them. We can easily be wrong, we can greatly overestimate how free the figure was to act rightly or wrongly at that time, and we may often apply inappropriate criteria based on importing our own contemporary standards, but that does not mean that we should abstain from all judgment. I think that is a dangerous doctrine.

    The question as to whether Meinhof produced a complete classification of African languages or not is not relevant to my point. It is surely clear from the very extracts of his own work that you diligently unearthed yourself that he associated race with language typology, and that moreover he did this in a way which was not morally neutral but pretended to correlate approved features of language with approved “racial” characteristics.

    I have no interest in whether Meinhof produced a classification of African languages in general. If he had, it would have been vitiated form the outset by his method, as is any classification (whether collated by a woman or a man) based on his classification concepts.

  546. Voila, Newman:

    Greenberg did combine Bantu with the languages of West Africa, but he took apart Meinhof’s broad Sudanic family.

    In reality “Sudan languages” is a term Meinhof proposed instead of “Negro languages” (used before him and by Westermann later when W. began to disagree with M.), Westermann published a book about them, Alice Werner foudn his work sufficient to speak about a family (genetically related).

  547. Alice disappears because she did not work with those languages. It is her expert opinion on other men’s arguments.

    But the same for M. He is a Bantuist. He merely said that in his view Westermann has proven a group (not family).
    As for Fula, Maasai and Hottentot he too to a large extent is just agreeing with others.
    His opinion diverged the most maybe for Hottentot, where he follows Lepsius (but I am not sure if he is giving new arguments). But he also disagreed with some (and agreed with others) about Hausa, calling it Hamitic.

  548. @DE,

    “And nobody ignored Alice Werner in order to run down Meinhof and make “Greenberg look great.” That’s pure fantasy”

    If you mean nobody here : I did not speak about people here. People here repeat after encyclopedias.

    If you mean nobody, then you are wrong. In darkness we wandered, but Greenberg came and performed the holy rite of mass comparison and there was light. You need someone to symbolize the darkness (both sceintific and racist) and this someone must be King Africanist, no less. Meinhof has been placed on this position.

  549. David Eddyshaw says

    I’m sure you could find some popular account of language classification in Africa (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) that painted a nice simple picture of that kind, though I’ve never seen one myself. But so what? No real scholar thinks in such terms. Chomskyans may have a King Syntax, but there has never been a King Africanist.

    Mass comparison was not the basis of Greenberg’s classification, as you know, I’m sure; as you rightly say, G’s contribution was not radical innovation but selecting the most cogent among existing proposals.

    I’m interested in your contention that Alice Werner has been sidelined from the story because of her gender. Such things are indeed not unheard of. I know very little about her. What was the nature of her original contribution to the classification of African languages?

  550. David Marjanović says

    German versions of pop songs are seen as uncool

    I think it goes deeper. My generation grew up finding it normal that songs had incomprehensible lyrics – the human voice as just another instrument. Understanding the lyrics breaks the entire spell, I think.

    Sure, we all had English at school, we eventually got to the point that we understood the lyrics – but by then our tastes in music, or lack thereof, had long solidified.

  551. What was the nature of her original contribution to the classification of African languages?

    @DE, Perhaps no. But what was the nature of Meinhof’s?

  552. You are objecting to this:

    Alice disappears because she did not work with those languages. It is her expert opinion on other men’s arguments.

    But the same for M. He is a Bantuist. He merely said that in his view Westermann has proven a group (not family).

    I did not claim that there was “original contribution” by Alice apart of proposing “Sudan languages” as genetically-related language family (either she or Westermann, but not Meinhof). You did claim that there was a Meinhof’s contribution:

    Meinhof was a bad scholar. The data were already there to make his race-based language classification scheme scientifically untenable, and he had to ignore,

  553. David Eddyshaw says

    On Werner: you misunderstand me: it was a genuine question, not a rhetorical one. I thought you might know something I didn’t (not hard …)

    On Meinhof: yes, and I still claim it. M classified African languages by “race.” This is surely undeniable. Whether he came up with a classification of all African languages on this basis is not the question.

  554. @DE, I am not saying that her book was important.

    Cole: ” This little book, written in popular style, remained for decades the only work on this subject in English, and it enjoyed a considerable reputation.””

    Greenberg: “Of the most recent attempts at the classification of African langauges … the one that which has gained the widest currency in this country… is that of Meinhof, known largely through A. Werner’s popular exposition in The Language Families of Africa”

    So it was influential.

    I think (but do not know) that it was not a work of someone who worked for years to describe many different African languages and then offered original arguments for genetical groupings. It is just her expert opinion.
    But I need to read it to be sure, maybe there are original arguments too.

    The question is why her expert opinion is called “Meinhof’s classification” even though the man never proposed any classification and was a Bantuist.

  555. David Eddyshaw says

    I see the work is actually available online:

    https://ia600202.us.archive.org/30/items/languagefamilies00wern/languagefamilies00wern.pdf

    I shall have a look too.

  556. Jen in Edinburgh says

    My generation grew up finding it normal that songs had incomprehensible lyrics

    This is not particularly unusual even when the lyrics are (nominally) in English for English speakers, of course.

    (I was recently quite surprised to find out that ‘Into the Valley’ HAD lyrics!)

  557. it was a genuine question, not a rhetorical one

    @DE, sorry:( I understand the question. No, learning who’s Alice Werner will be episode 2 of my exercise in pedantism. Thus far I only can see that she played a major role in English Africanistics, but possibly as a populariser.

    I am not insisting that sexism has to do with this. But the stereotype that a woman’s work is more likely to merely represent some man’s views is too familiar (maybe not today).

    When her role is downplayed and Meinhof is credided with doing something he never did and was not even qualified to do (and even said so himself), something that she did do (perhaps also without being qualified to do it?) shaping views of a generation of English-speaking Africanists, I do suspect that it is because he spoke German and has a beard. I do not question Meinhof’s contribution in Bantu, though.

  558. Let’s say, a German Professor is a convenient figure for ascribing things to, good or bad.

    And a “female teacher” was (again, hopefully not “IS”) a conveinient figure for stealing from.

  559. David Eddyshaw says

    The section on “Sudanian Languages” in Werner’s book borrows heavily from (well, is essentially based on) Meinhof’s Introduction, with the same stuff about genitives and so forth, though happily with the blather about race almost completely absent. Interestingly, W notes that Yoruba in fact does not fit the pattern with possessor-order, and attributes this to influence from “Hamitic” Hausa. In general, this is the modus operandi throughout; deviations from the supposed Sudanic type are always ascribed to contact with Hamitic languages.

    As in Meinhof’s scheme, “Eastern Sudanic” languages (like Dinka) are stated to be genetically related to the “Western Sudanic”, except for those with m/f gender like Maasai, which are “Hamitic.” This part is Meinhof’s classification.

    W also carries over M’s idea that the Bantu languages are in fact of the same genetic origin as the “Sudanic” languages, but have become more developed under “Hamitic” influence; not a lot is made of this, however. Werner herself was a Bantuist, apparently, and that section is much better than the “Sudanic” part.

    1915 is of course pretty early, and a lot of the better information about “Sudanic” languages wasn’t available at that point. It’s also clear that “Sudanic” began life as a “leftover” group, and was not initially thought of as a language family in the genetic sense at all (W makes this distinction very well); unfortunately the earliest attempts to apply proper comparative methods seem to have been carried out extremely poorly, resulting in ideas like DInka being related to Twi; it’s also evident that people were far too prone to suppose that typology reflected genetic relationship (with all the stuff about “monosyllabic roots” and “complete lack of inflection”, which is, moreover, largely incorrect anyway.) With the quality of comparative work being so low, I suppose it’s not surprising that typological criteria bulked too large, even when not reinforced by racist preconceptions.

    As I’ve often moaned, typological resemblances are still being wrongly used as evidence for relationship, as with Greenberg’s adding “Kordofanian” to Niger-Congo. And people still invoke language mixture to explain features of contemporary African languages without corroborating evidence that such mixture ever really happened. La lucha continúa …

  560. I think it goes deeper. My generation grew up finding it normal that songs had incomprehensible lyrics – the human voice as just another instrument. Understanding the lyrics breaks the entire spell, I think.
    That plays a role as well; now, I was always good at learning languages and learnt English fast, but while I could understand a lot of the lyrics, it required an effort that made them look cooler than their German equivalents – “My love will never die” sounded less trite to me than “Meine Liebe wird nie vergehn”. It’s the same reason why most of my and my friends’ adolescent poetry was in English.
    Another point: when I had my formative years in the 70s, German pop with intelligent lyrics (or lyrics that at least weren’t embarrassing, trite, or totally cliché) was a rarity. That changed in the 80s*), but for my generation it took some time to change the association “German lyrics – automatically uncool”.
    *) Not saying that all the bad stuff went away – we still have the Helene Fischers and DJ Ötzis, but today there’s a wide range of popular music in German you don’t have to be embarassed to listen to.

  561. Even though English is my native language, I never paid that much attention to pop lyrics — I would belt out a chorus and ignore all the other stuff. I am bemused by people (like my friend Dave) who can spend hours parsing the lyrics to some endless Dylan ballad (or, God forbid, “Ode to Billie Joe”). If it’s got a good beat, it’s fine with me; contrariwise, I don’t care how poetic the words are, if it’s draggy and repetitive, I’m not interested. I do not give a good goddamn why Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

  562. As in Meinhof’s scheme, “Eastern Sudanic” languages (like Dinka) are stated to be genetically related to the “Western Sudanic”, except for those with m/f gender like Maasai, which are “Hamitic.” This part is Meinhof’s classification.

    Er???
    How?
    It was Westermann who worked with Sudan langauges. And so does say she.

    Who is “Meinhof’s scheme”? It is her (GENETICALLY is her claim I think – but need to check) and Westermann’s scheme.

  563. David Eddyshaw says

    @Hans:

    Wagner is supposed to have complained about a French translation of one of his works: “Don’t you have a better word for Liebe than amour?”

  564. I did not give the referecne for Cole.
    https://books.google.com/books?id=qYhdDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA23#v=onepage
    (in: Linguistics in Sub-Saharan Africa)

  565. @DE: That’s a great story 🙂
    @LH: a catchy tune is important. And if the lyrics are in English, it’s much easier for me to ignore them 🙂

  566. @languagehat, sorry. I see how my words can be insulting for you and Serbs and it is wrong words.

    I do not expect you to be insensitive to war crimes. Serbs, like any nation are many different individual people.

    But I wrote that while having my original comment (Khmer Rouge) in mind, and I remembered a very particular Serb lady who during a heated international debate about international warfare (she is strongly anti-NATO and sees the West as an evil force colonizing everyone) was reminded by someone about [you know what] and she said that the West says so, and she does not know if it is true or lies. And I do not know what to answer.
    “Westrern media” are an unreliable source. It is easy to dismiss anythign that media are saying because “they just need an excuse” becuase they actually are liars.

    One of reasons why I am so sick of our propaganda is that in 2014 they kept accusing Ukraine in war crimes but never cared if any war crimes actually happen or not. War crimes most likely do happen. By both sides. If I need to learn about them – I know where I can learn about them. Our media simply do not care, they’d rather invent a story, because it is easier. So there are actual terrible things that are actually happening and are not discussed in our media and fake imaginary nightmare that some whore made up in 2 minutes. And when these imaginary nightmares are that terrible, listening to it becomes impossible.

    There are poeple who care what is happening to people. They are far less likely to be dismissive about any reports.

    And yet this “we or them” mentality is pervasive. It is easy to say “you are lying, you are only saying so because you need an excuse for ‘the first humanitarian bombing in history'” and it is especially easy when “you” is known to be a terrible liar – and I do not know what to do with that. What one caould possibly answer to this lady.

    Now we are in a weird situation becuase emotionally, in my head, I am just being pedantic. I feel nothing about Meinhof. At all. But it is much easier for people here to believe that I do not like accusations in racism (and possibly am siding with him and racists). Because “we and them” is pervasive. My interest is seen in this light.

  567. @LH, and I remind you that in my initial comment I was not complaing. Conversely, I asked about Chomsky.

    If it is obvious to everyone that I like Meinhof or do not like that people say he is a racist (when in reality I just do not give a shit) – it is also obvious to some people that everything that propaganda is saying about Communists is lies, that all reports about war crimes are “just” excuses for wars and so on.
    I simply do not know how to navigate that swamp. I do not navigate it actually.

  568. For Donbass I at least have some real people who I can ask, some methods (yes, terribly pedantic and time-consuming methods) for telling accurate sources from biased and so on.

  569. David Eddyshaw says

    Your heart is clearly in the right place, drasvi. I’d have given up arguing if I didn’t think so.

    We may be doomed to differ eternally on the Matter of Meinhof, but I agree with your metapoint: that (what you might call) the sociological aspects of the history of African language classification are complicated and quite interesting in themselves. In fact, I dare say there is more than enough material there for some enterprising graduate to get a PhD out of (if it hasn’t been done already.)

    If it threatened to get tedious, you could introduce as a counterpoint to European racists someone like this guy

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%A9ophile_Obenga

    (the source for the claim that de Brazza raped a Vestal Virgin.)

    In fact, I can see the thesis turning into a book. I can see it being well reviewed in the Guardian …

  570. “Westrern media” are an unreliable source. It is easy to dismiss anythign that media are saying because “they just need an excuse” becuase they actually are liars.

    This is nonsense. There is no such thing as “Western media”; there are a huge number of media outlets everywhere, many of them are in what is loosely called the “West,” and obviously they have widely varied agendas and differ in both ability and desire to ferret out facts, but to lump them all together as “liars” is childish. If you read a sufficient variety of US, UK, Western European, and other sources from non-authoritarian environments, you will get as good a picture of what is going on as is available (though of course a better one will be available in a few decades if you wait that long). The New York Times and Washington Post, to take two obvious examples, have superb reporters who put themselves in danger to get the story; the newspapers may overemphasize certain things and sweep others under the carpet, but they do not knowingly print lies. The US has no equivalent of Pravda.

  571. @Languagehat, true.

    But as I said, both sites where my friend wanted to post his article were sort of “independent” (and he would never have worked there if he did not think so) and both were not willing to accept it because for Ukrainians it was too pro-Russian and for Russians too pro-Ukrainian.

    To find a reliable first hand (!!!!) source (because it does not matter if 5th hand source is reliable, you need to follow the chain) you need to really want to know what is happening and invest a lot of labour. Maybe even go and see yourself.

  572. That may well be true for countries like those in the post-Soviet sphere where the tradition of independent journalism is newly developed and easily suppressed by the authorities.

  573. David Eddyshaw says

    While it’s very easy to overstate the case, I have often been disagreeably surprised by how inaccurate reporting is of any issue of which I have first-hand experience and/or specialised knowledge. Deliberate bias is an important source of misinformation, but not the only one. “Maybe go and see for yourself” is not bad advice (if possible.)

    A major problem is what counts as “news.” Setting the agenda for the kind of things that get covered can be as important or more important than what you actually say. The bad guys know this: so long as you’re talking about immigration and not about inequality (for example), they’re not too bothered if you’re arguing that immigration benefits the country. The fact that you’re talking about immigration at all, rather than something else, is a victory … and you’re unlikely to change a racist voter’s mind by what you say. You just remind them that they want to vote for the racist, because immigration is the issue

    Admittedly, this is not on a level with being shot if the authorities don’t like your reporting. But subtle distortions of truth can do the job as well or better than obvious repression.

  574. I have often been disagreeably surprised by how inaccurate reporting is of any issue of which I have first-hand experience and/or specialised knowledge.

    Sure, and I’ve complained about that many times. But that’s an entirely separate issue from refusing to print news that doesn’t suit your agenda, which is what drasvi was talking about: “both were not willing to accept it because for Ukrainians it was too pro-Russian and for Russians too pro-Ukrainian.”

  575. The reluctance of US papers to print stories that made the US look bad ended during the Vietnam War (not all papers, obviously, but as a general rule).

  576. David Eddyshaw says

    I certainly would not want go overboard and suggest any sort of moral informational equivalence here: that would be ludicrous. Offensive, even. But I worry that people in countries where the media are not subject to violent coercion by the authorities are often blind to more subtle means of lie-propagation. And Hatters are wildly unrepresentative of voters in general: none of us would think of relying on a single highly partisan source for all our news, and we are well-informed about the world in general; but it’s not our votes that these people are after.

    In good times, perhaps this doesn’t matter very much. These are not good times.

  577. Of course I agree, but having been alert to subtle means of lie-propagation for over half a century now, I don’t get excited about it. Just another brick in the wall, man…

  578. Has anyone done a Der Untergang parody with Putin-Hitler? It would be boffo!

  579. PlasticPaddy says

    @LH
    I would be sympathetic to an argument that news media in the West are subject to unstated biases due to several factors (e.g., pressures to report things briefly, concretely and entertainingly, space limitations, owners’ and advertisers’ interests, dependence on news services or on official sources for sensitive information, etc.). I think at times it is just as difficult to publish some information that would have a tendency to alter an “uninformed” consensus in Western Europe or (perhaps especially) the US as it would be in Russia. The difference is that individuals who find, provide or publish this kind of information are not normally subject to the same existential fear and penalties, if they expect any reaction from authorities or powerful individuals to be tempered by requirements of due process and legality.

  580. David Eddyshaw says

    The difference is that individuals who find, provide or publish this kind of information are not normally subject to the same existential fear and penalties

    The British way is to involve journalists, as individuals rather than representatives of their organsations, in potentially ruinous libel lawsuits that they cannot afford to contest. This is not only perfectly legal, but enriches British lawyers, and is thus a Good Thing. By a curious topical coincidence, many of the complainants in such suits appear to be Russian or to have sources of funding emanating from Russia … Rule Britannia!

    At this point, I would like to lighten the mood by talking about the sociology of African comparative linguistics in the twentieth century … you out there, drasvi?

    (Actually, it sounds tailor-made for HiPhiLangSci. I wonder if they do requests?)

  581. I think at times it is just as difficult to publish some information that would have a tendency to alter an “uninformed” consensus in Western Europe or (perhaps especially) the US as it would be in Russia.

    You can, of course, think what you like, but I’d want to see actual examples. The major US papers have published plenty of things that enraged both the administration and lots of readers. “As difficult as in Russia” is such a high bar I’m confident you can’t clear it.

  582. While as a left-wing American I am painfully aware of the many sins of my country over the entire course of its existence, I am still highly annoyed by false equivalences between the US and Russia/China/whatever. Not all bad things are alike, and the Times is not like Pravda. Not even a little bit.

  583. Sorry if I’m extra prickly these days — the war news is really upsetting me, and I’m not even being bombed.

  584. drasvi, you might be interested in this account of how to try to distinguish biased information from outright fabrication. Scott Alexander, if nothing else, is a lively writer.

  585. David Eddyshaw says

    Sorry if I’m extra prickly these days

    All of us.

  586. Sorry if I’m extra prickly these days — the war news is really upsetting me, and I’m not even being bombed.

    @LH, I was about to write the same. When I type soemthing angry about Meinhof & co (and insulting to you) I am actually very angry. Or sick. Or I do not know how to call that.
    It jsut has nothign to do with Meinhof or you*.


    Sorry for placing you side by side (if you believe that the man was an asshole)

  587. Thanks. Yes, we’re all upset, and it will be a long time before we can return to a relatively normal state, I’m afraid.

  588. Fuck:(

  589. Правильно сказано.

  590. @LH, I was inaccurate in “pro-Ukrainian” part. The Russian site likely did not want to publish it because it was afraid to publish it. The Ukrainian site… One can only guess why. Perhaps it was just uninteresting. Unlike the Russian site they were not expected to publish anything that he contribues.

    It is basically an interview with rebels. A friend of mine (Ukrainian woman, Moscow-based) was in Kiev, her neighbour (a lady of 80+ years) was saying things like “if I were younger, I would take a rifle and go to fight the terrorists myself!”.*

    Eventually it was published in both countries, more censored here, less censored in Ukraine. Our common friend says, as a “they are censoring free press” story.


    * the woman has nothing do with the story, it just illustrates attitudes. The rebels were supposed to be bandits and terrorists, what interviews.

  591. @LH, of course I do not think “all journalists are just whores”. This guy is a journnalist too. But even my friends are not “unbiased”.

    And then what DE said. I repeatedly was unpleasantly surprised by how they report on scientific discoveries. They confuse Everything. All right, we think they are dumb at science.

    But then they report on something else that you personally know well. And… they confuse Everything.

  592. Because:

    Imagine, that DE needs to report on some complicated (they are complicated) situation in Ghana. He lived there. He knows these people. He speaks their language. But it has been years since he was there. So he comes to Bawku, he tries to figure out what’s going on. And a month later he publishes something, but even after a month of work he is not comfortable doing that because he is not sure he understand what is really going on.

    And TV just came, interviewed some guy, filmed it… They spent 5 minutes on this and then they film something else. Within 5 minutes they can’t understand a complicated story.

    So I was unpleasantly suprised, then I was unpleasantly suprised, then I was …
    And stop.
    Доколе?
    Should not we assume that they are AS reliable when they are speaking of what you do not know as when they are speaking about what you know?
    And if so, I am sorry: a large part of what you see in the news is just white noice.

    So I assign any source reliability 0. For politics I assugn negative values. And then if I have a reason to believe that some source is particularly trustworthy, I take into account what it is saying.

    No, I am not that extreme. I think a war in Ukraine is actually happening:( And I often take somethign seriously based on my gut feeling. But behind this gut feeling there are numerous tiresome episodes like this story with Meinhof, when I was checking my sources.

  593. Many articles in the newspapers that you menioned did impress me in a good way (and of course it is not the TV situation where people come, film and go).

  594. Admittedly, this is not on a level with being shot if the authorities don’t like your reporting. But subtle distortions of truth can do the job as well or better than obvious repression.

    Moscow is not Chechnya. Initially Putin allowed a popular opposition radio and one VERY anti-Putin newspaper. So anti-Putin that even my anti-Putin friends won’t read it. As long as everyone believes that people in such media and their readers are merely a bunch of anti-Russian intelligentsia who are paid by the State Department, it was fine. As I said: things have been chanign for about two years. Yet try this (in Russian).

  595. David Marjanović says

    Fully aware of the risk of conscious and unconscious biases, the NYT has become so stunningly good at bothsiderism that I wonder if they invented it. And I really cannot resist bringing up their occasional acts of simple incompetence, like when they completely fell for the yellowcake story in 2003 and the rest of the world watched in stunned silence how the Newspaper of Record could be anywhere near that stupid.

    But, as a result, the NYT is always mildly against the government. That’s obviously much better than always being for it.

    Science journalism is altogether different. It’s culturally unimportant enough that it is neither targeted in its content by governments nor funded anywhere near adequately in any ordinary news media. Very often, a single person is responsible for reporting on all of science. That person may have, say, a university degree in chemistry, and may actually get the chemistry right on the rare occasions that there’s some chemistry to report on. But that same person is expected to write about dinosaurs, and then the result is barely recognizable from the original paper. And the same person is expected to write about linguistics…

  596. A major problem is what counts as “news.” Setting the agenda for the kind of things that get covered can be as important or more important than what you actually say.

    Absotutely. If you can’t convince people that your answer is right, you can make them discuss your quiestion.
    Should we invade Mars or Venera first? The opinions differ. According to our poll, 60% …
    But environmentalists say we should start with invading Alpha Centauri….

  597. David Eddyshaw says

    Imagine, that DE needs to report on some complicated (they are complicated) situation in Ghana.

    I actually was in Ghana during the conflict between the Konkomba and the Dagomba in the 1990’s; indeed I was cut off from the rest of the country by it (I was very glad that my wife and child were out of the country at that point.)

    I was very taken aback by the BBC coverage, which was extremely one-sided, not because the BBC was biased (or had any actual stake in the matter at all) but because all their sources of information were Dagomba, and that fact was not flagged up. Statements that the Konkomba were incomers from Togo were broadcast as accepted fact; this was in reality propaganda, and of a drearily familiar type at that. The reporting was also filtered through a rather depressing exoticism: for example, the roving vigilante groups killing civilians became “warriors”, because, hey, it’s Africa. (The Dagomba, as it happens, have an actual warrior clan, with an interesting history of their own. They were not involved.)

    This is not really a criticism of the BBC. Perfect reporting is impossible, and they were doing their best with the information they had, though they could have been better at explaining how they were getting it, I think. But it taught me something, nevertheless, about realistic expectations of reporting.

  598. David Marjanović says

    try this (in Russian)

    I’m impressed – also by how much of it I understand, so late at night no less! It’s a very thoughtful letter. The first block of signatures is by members of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

  599. David Eddyshaw says

    Seconded; thanks for the link, drasvi.

  600. David Eddyshaw says

    It chances that the Guardian has a report on the restraints on UK reporting I alluded to above

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/26/putin-british-rich-mans-law-avoid-scrutiny-crippling-cost

  601. I recognize a number of names in the signatures, of people whose work I know and appreciate, including a correspondent of mine. I salute every single person on the list.

  602. This is not really a criticism of the BBC. Perfect reporting is impossible, and they were doing their best with the information they had, though they could have been better at explaining how they were getting it, I think. But it taught me something, nevertheless, about realistic expectations of reporting.

    Thank you, that’s exactly right and has to be kept in mind. I don’t object to criticism of the press — God knows I do enough of it myself — but I object to the stupid criticisms that treat every error as proof of ultimate evil and imply “If I were running the paper I would print only the facts, and it would be objective and fair and truth and justice would prevail!” These same people also think they could run a country far better than the ones who are doing the job (badly, of course).

  603. David Eddyshaw says

    I could run the country far better than the ones doing the job … (though I’m actually working to support those who could do it better than me, which is also not difficult.)

  604. If I were running the paper I would print only the facts, and it would be objective and fair and truth and justice would prevail!

    I know many such papers. Physical Review A, Physical Review B, Physical Review C….

    What, i am getting it wrong? Do not call honesty a feat.

  605. David Eddyshaw says
  606. @LH, about media. An opinion of a Slovene activist working in Kordofan (he was distributing quadrocopters so locals – more or less Riefenstahl’s Nuba – could film bombing), not my:

    Before the South Sudan independence Western media willingly published stories about war crimes in the south of Sudan. It was a hot topic.

    The ruler of Sudan threatened disloyal or otherwise wrong populations in the south of Sudan (not to be confused with those who entered the South Sudan) including the Nuba Hills with a major crackdown in case the South Sudan votes for independence the night before the vote.
    And so they did. And so he did. Massive bombing (halted for several years as result of peace talks and peace efforts) resumed. But Western media immediately lost interest. Politicians have been working on the solution for years. NOW we are celebrating the success – and are working on a new problem.

    Any criticism instantly became inconvenient.

    —————————–
    I can add that in the South Sudan the sitution turned out to be a Complete nightmare, with factions and tribes calling for genocide and perpetrating terrible crimes.

  607. David Eddyshaw says

    But Western media immediately lost interest.
    Any criticism instantly became inconvenient

    These aren’t the same thing at all, and only the first is true(-ish.) Admittedly I follow Africa news much more assiduously than most Europeans, but such reporting as there is on South Sudan has by no means minimised the awful problems there.

    If anything, the thing works the opposite way: because of what is “newsworthy”, reporting on Africa can easily lead people to imagine that nothing ever happens south of the Sahara but famine, corruption, disease, war and the occasional Nelson Mandela. And cool wildlife, of course …

    “Almost all Africans remain principally concerned with making a living by working and providing for their families” is not really a clickbait headline …

  608. ” but such reporting as there is on South Sudan has by no means minimised the awful problems there.”

    South Sudan (the independent state) is my addition. The activist complained about the situation in Nuba Mountains that stayed within Sudan.

  609. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s surely relevant that reporting from places like these is extremely dangerous (as well as practically very difficult), and given the very low levels of interest among the Western public in why people have become refugees (as opposed to a much higher interest in preventing them claiming refuge in the West) you can hardly blame editors for sending their (ever-fewer) reporters elsewhere.

  610. Yes. But there were .. er, Northerners on the ground. The activist (personally) and doctors.
    And his quadrocopter effort implies that there was even footage.

    The guy is an activist and clearly tried to draw attention of Western media before and after and followed headlines and news reports closely and reported an U-turn both in attitudes of the media and humanitarian organisations – AND symmetrical turn in the attitude of Sudanese government (“bombing halted” > “bombing resumed”).

  611. Any criticism instantly became inconvenient.

    I don’t know what you mean by “inconvenient,” but if you mean there hasn’t been reporting about the violence there, you’re quite wrong. I’ve read a great deal about it in US newspapers, and unlike DE I’m not a specialist in the region. It’s been in the news, even if not as much as “activists” would like.

  612. David Eddyshaw says

    @drasvi:

    I don’t think this is really a problem with reporting as such; it’s another instance of the question of “who decides what’s newsworthy?” This is deliberately manipulated by the unscrupulous in order to maintain their power; but in a case like this, the media are not deliberately minimising the the sufferings of the people of Sudan, they are reacting to the fact that the actual market for such stories is very small, and it’s no use being an activist news medium if you’re bankrupt (just as, as I remind like-minded comrades sometimes, it’s no use being right if you’re not in power.)

    The fact that the market is small certainly reflects deep problems in our society; people surely ought to be more concerned about people far away that don’t closely resemble themselves. But the news media don’t create this problem; they reflect it.

    Apropos of this, the actual financial and time constraints on the news media are much greater than most people realise, and have got much worse because of the damage done to their revenue by Google and Facebook etc. Honourable journalists work in an environment where they face continual frustrations from not being able to do their jobs properly because of lack of time and resources. That’s before you get personally sued into bankruptcy by a billionaire oligarch with his tame British lawyers …

  613. The fact that the market is small certainly reflects deep problems in our society; people surely ought to be more concerned about people far away that don’t closely resemble themselves. But the news media don’t create this problem; they reflect it.

    This is an idealistic attitude that is very common and that comes from understandable and honorable places, but it falls apart if you think about it. OK, “people” should be more informed about and concerned with South Sudan… and the eastern Congo… and Rwanda… and Mali… and Chad… and Libya… and Algeria… and we’re not even out of Africa yet, but you get the general idea. You could spend a lifetime trying to keep up with all the places people are being brutalized en masse and barely scratch the surface (Baluchistan, anyone?). It is natural for people who specialize in any particular one of these places to be upset about the general ignorance and indifference of people who live in more prosperous and peaceful places, but there is no point at all in railing against those people — all it will do is make them think you’re an asshole. All you can do is put the word out as persuasively as you can and hope for a break (maybe a feature story in the Times Magazine, which will inevitably be simplistic and get things wrong but may inspire some congressman to tell his staff to look into it and might get it discussed in Congress). This is of course also true of leftists who shout that anyone who didn’t support Bernie (or Jeremy or whoever) is a Nazi. That’s not how you win friends and influence people.

  614. The hard truth is that most people in the world are too busy trying to get their own lives in decent shape (a sister has cancer, a son is getting into a cult, a parent is sliding into dementia, work sucks) to spare much time and attention for the problems of people they will never meet and have little in common with other than bare humanity. Sure, try to attract their attention, but don’t consider them stupid/inhuman/whatever — that attitude will come through (as the contempt of urban progressives for the flyover people comes through). Remember that we all have our own struggles, don’t assume anything about the other guy, and do your best to represent your position well. I believe in the left that says Yes (patron saint Emma Goldman: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” — not that she ever said those words), not the left that says No (“I have a bingo card of required positions here, and if you can’t check them all off you’re a fascist”).

  615. David Eddyshaw says

    You’re overinterpreting what I said: I agree that it is human nature to be more concerned with people who are near and like oneself – and that that is not wrong. However, that is also not incompatible with saying that people’s sympathies ought* to be broader than they currently are; personally, I think there is quite a lot of leeway for improvement along that axis before we run into hardwired limitations on human capacity.

    It’s not “idealism” (in the pejorative sense you are using the word) to think that things could be better than they currently are. Good grief, they have been better, at least in some places and at some times …

    * This word may be the problem, on reflection. It has quite a number of senses. I do not mean that we should be organising gangs to go round compelling people to be more charitable. I mean that this is a highly desirable objective. Moreover, I do not believe that making any progress in this direction is a completely unachievable fantasy that merely betrays a hopeless impracticality of outlook.

  616. @LH, do you mean that AFTER 2011 you saw bombing of Nuba mountains (or other regions in the south of Sudan – not in the state of South Sudan) covered?

    If so, I am glad to hear that. The activist in question is the guy who filmed “Eyes and Ears of God” (above).

  617. As I said, it is NOT my opinion.

    What I meant is that there exist such a mechanism: politicians say “we need to apply more pressure on X” and media covers some topic extensively. Then politicians say “we have solved the problem, we reached an agreement with X”. Then for a (human, women, whatver) rights activist dealing with this topic the situation will look exactly like he said: media lose interest, organizations start giving him looks and say “now we work differently”.

    If your media is not succeptible to that, I am glad to hear it.

  618. What I can say from myself:

    One only wants to cry when reading about either region. It is utter fuck up.

    On paper you have new border. In reality it was a nightmare. It is a nightmare.

  619. You’re overinterpreting what I said

    I’m not overinterpreting, I’m just countering. Frankly, I think it is idealism — which is not a curse word, just a description. Yes, of course things could be better and have been better, in some places and at some times, and it is therefore realistic to hope for better things, but it is not realistic to expect any particular person to care about the South Sudan (or wherever) and become resentful when they don’t. I’m not aiming this at you — you are clearly a thoughtful and generous person — but at the self-centered arrogance of many activists. It is human nature to resent people who don’t see things the way you do, just as it’s human nature to want to punch somebody who insults you, but it’s not helpful, and one needs to train oneself out of those instincts if one wants to do any good. It’s helpful being an anarchist in this regard, since almost nobody agrees with you and you have zero prospects of seeing your ideas implemented in your lifetime, so you either become a bomb-throwing nihilist asshole or you learn patience and tolerance.

  620. do you mean that AFTER 2011 you saw bombing of Nuba mountains (or other regions in the south of Sudan – not in the state of South Sudan) covered?

    Yes, of course — that was over a decade ago! Don’t take activists seriously when they complain nobody pays attention to them and nobody cares about their cause — it’s understandable (just as it’s understandable for writers to complain that reviewers are stupid and unfair), but there’s no point subscribing to their paranoia.

  621. One only wants to cry when reading about either region. It is utter fuck up.

    Yes indeed, which is why it’s a bad idea to immerse oneself too much in News of the World. It’s important to protect oneself as well as help others. The world has been fucked up pretty much since people discovered how to corral large numbers of other people and force them to do what somebody else wants, and it’s not going to stop being fucked up in the foreseeable future.

  622. I mean, I’ve done little for days now but obsess over the news from Ukraine. That kind of concentrated attention is unsustainable over long periods.

  623. Let me add that I really appreciate being able to discuss this stuff with you folks; it sure beats screaming into the void.

  624. David Eddyshaw says

    I think you are a sort of Quietist Leftist. As with the religious kind, I find it an honorable and in some ways admirable position, which I nevertheless disagree with. Stiil, by the powers vested in me by the Calvinist Socialist International, I hereby declare that you are not Part of the Problem.

  625. ” but at the self-centered arrogance of many activists. ”

    An activist who goes to Nuba Mountains to distribute quadrocopters among villagers has some right for Nuba-centered arrogance.

    But IF the scheme is working as I described, the problem with it is that media become a mere tool for backing political decisions. And viewers won’t notice that decisions solved nothing.
    Wrong picture of the world.

    I introduced it as a TYPE of bias. How much your media is succeptible to it, I do not know.

  626. David Eddyshaw says

    Lots of aid workers (and missionaries*) are self-centred and arrogant. Fortunately, it need not prevent them from doing good work.

    (My Ghanaian colleagues were very used to having foreign aid workers parachuted in amongst them in leadership roles. They had developed admirable skills for subtly pointing such people in the directions where they could actually be helpful rather than the reverse. It was an important milestone for me when I realised that they had been deploying these skills in my own case …)

    * For some reason, very few shrinking violets seem to come to the conclusion that they are called to be missionaries.

  627. An activist who goes to Nuba Mountains to distribute quadrocopters among villagers has some right for Nuba-centered arrogance.

    Yes, of course! And I honor those people. I’m just saying their paranoia, understandable and probably inevitable as it is, isn’t helpful. Nobody appreciates being treated as a Bad Person because they don’t know about your cause, or don’t promote it with the vigor you would like.

    I think you are a sort of Quietist Leftist.

    Not sure what you mean by that — I don’t throw bombs? I went out in the street to oppose the Vietnam War and decades later did the same to oppose the Iraq War; I’ve contacted congresspeople (politely not mentioning I think their job shouldn’t exist) and written letters to the editor. If you mean I don’t vote, guilty as charged — that comes with being an anarchist. You probably don’t sacrifice to the Emperor. We all have our failings.

  628. (I apologize to the people who find Recent Activity full of politics when they come to LH to get away from that sort of thing, but it’s only a couple of threads — there are thousands of others available! Talk about aorists or counting rhymes or obscure poets; be the change you want to see!)

  629. David Eddyshaw says

    Politics is intimately bound up with the whole topic of this particular thread, so it seems fair enough here. It might get out of hand in another forum, but as so often Hatters have shown an admirable ability to agree to disagree, or even (in extreme cases) to change their minds in response to reasoned arguments.

  630. Exactly, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Little did I know when I started posting in 2002 how vital the thing would be to my intellectual and spiritual health.

  631. >I mean, I’ve done little for days now but obsess over the news from Ukraine.

    To the extreme detriment of work, for me.

    I’m curious what sources you read. The BBC’s free live stream is the most comprehensive mainstream reporting that I have found/have access to (better than the WaPo stuff my subscription gets me. But I no longer subscribe to the NY Times, so I can’t compare.)

    For granular detail in English, the Twitter of Rob Lee (ralee85, a PHD student who is curating loads of battlefield information) and Illia Ponomarenko (iaponomarenko, of the Kyiv Independent) can’t be beat. A Belarusian media company’s Twitter – @nexta_tv also compiles an awful lot of sources in Ukraine, though today they were very busy with Belarusian opposition to the war / the Belarusian referendum.

    But if anyone is aware of the sources I’ve mentioned, I’d be interested in critiques of their perspective. There are obviously a lot of Hatters with access to Slavic sources I can’t read.

    But I am starting to hold Cyrillic letters for V, D, G, L etc. in my mind, just from repetitively seeing and trying to sort out social media names screen names. A small victory for a brain losing its capacity for new tricks.

  632. screen names
    A name I rememebred was Єбать “Fuck” (Russian orthography Ебать).

  633. I’m curious what sources you read.

    I have the NYT live-update feed open in its own tab and refresh it regularly:
    https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/02/27/world/russia-ukraine-war

    I also keep refreshing FB, where I have enough friends with good information that I learn about new developments (and memes) promptly.

    And this is a useful source of local information:
    https://kyivindependent.com/

  634. The biggest problem I perceive with the unevenness of news coverage about various tragedies around the world is that public opinions and policy decisions can be misdirected. One very clear example of this is what happened in 1982 after the Israeli Defense Forces (which had occupied much of Lebanon) abetted a massacre committed by Elie Hobeika’s militia. The Israelis were rightly excoriated for this; however, the pressure applied by Western countries that forced Israel to withdraw to a much narrower occupation zone along Lebanon’s southern border was probably based a deeply skewed view of the situation in the ongoing Lebanese Civil War. In reality, the Sabra and Shatila massacre was probably (casualty figures for the Lebanese Civil War being notoriously unreliable) not even the worst massacre that month. The worst massacre that year likely involved ten times as many deaths. Yet these events were hardly reported on in the West. The net result was an Israeli withdrawal that turned central Lebanon over to Syrian interference again—with Syrian-sponsored militias responsible for much greater nastiness than what had happened at Sabra and Shatila.

  635. Sure, and such things are deplorable, but they’re also inevitable. I don’t mean one shouldn’t try to correct them — I’ve spent my entire life correcting errors! — but that one shouldn’t be outraged, any more than it’s useful to be outraged when it rains. All of us are wrong about almost everything, and the more condensation, simplification, and triage is going on (as with news media) the more wrongness there is going to be. It is literally impossible to be outraged about, or even to know about, all the things in the world that deserve outrage, and of course people personally concerned with a particular outrage will be upset that it’s not getting enough attention, but if one isn’t personally involved, it behooves one to try to keep some balance.

  636. Two situation where the international community’s intervention (not just attention) is necessary:

    (1) Gaza blockade by Israel and Egypt.

    (2) situations like that of Bushmen in Botswana are respionsibility of people linguists, anthropologists and people like that. That is, of people here. Simply because no one else knows or cares.

    otherwise, of course, we have seen how the whole world was helping syria (by bombing someone within syria).

  637. >But I am starting to hold Cyrillic letters for V, D, G, L etc. in my mind,

    The left-handed small-b apostrophe is gonna break me, though.

  638. Great discussion here on the history of “Hamitic” — not something you’ll find in just any comments section!

    the reference books I could find in bookstores and afford were mostly introductory text books foor students like Krahe-Meid that were reprints basically unchanged since the 60s

    The penning of comprehensive introductions is often, it seems, an unthankful job. One of the standard introductory works on the history of Finnish has chapters basically unchanged since the 40s (last edition penned 1979, last re-issue 2000); including some on speculating on how the concepts of word-classes would have gradually arisen among the primitive Proto-Uralic speakers … at the point of first picking it up, I aluckily had also good enough exposure to the general basics of modern linguistics to figure out that this should be ignored.

    Which is older, pitch accent or stress accent?

    Amusing as the ensuing speculation is, this question above all smacks of an evolutionary-grade thinking where different types follow each other in succession. The possibility that both have coexisted “always” and may have shifted back and forth numerous times does not seem to have been even on the table. Indeed, to me this mistake looks to be where a lot of 19th-century intellectual mis-steps, that these days get rounded off as “just racism”,* actually derive from. Interestingly though, the logic does not seem to have been consistently applied to many other linguistic-typological variables like case systems or phoneme inventories (perhaps because their diversity is simply too apparent to be fit into a grade hypothesis)…

    * Often in a likewise characteristically current-day mistake of treating racism, or perhaps bigotry in general, as an unanalyzable immovable mover (rather than a spectrum of ideologies with internal structure and prior motivations).

  639. Well said.

  640. The possibility that both have coexisted “always” and may have shifted back and forth numerous times does not seem to have been even on the table. Indeed, to me this mistake looks to be where a lot of 19th-century intellectual mis-steps, that these days get rounded off as “just racism”

    “directed change” [“evolutionary change”, “degradation”], “random change”, “cyclical change”
    are all simple ideas.
    In 19th century they were markedly obsessed with evolutionary change.

  641. A racist ideology with cyclical change qwould be interesting. LIke: yes, today whites are better than blacks.

    But in 21st century blacks will be better than whites. Then Asians will rule…

  642. qwould….
    Sadly, any racist (or otherwise oppressive) ideology is shit.

  643. “Race” could be used in the sense “a people”. Cf. Fresnel who speaks about “la race noble” and “vilains” – both are Jibbali speakers, Rubin calls them “tribal” and “original population” that was “subjugated”. Cf. that journalist who called Tunisian Arabic speakers “the noble race”.

    Dumas ascribing physically “noble” traits to more aristocratic of his musqueteers (and vulgarity of behaviour to their servants) has to do with that too.

    Also “race” could mean “black and white”. Also “race” was used in various biological concepts of race, including the ugly racist ones (and applied this way to both “peoples” like Aryans and macropopulations like “Caucasians”).

    But what unites them, I think – and again, compare Alexandre Dumas – is that it is a holistic concept.
    A race has looks, culture, mentality.

  644. PlasticPaddy says

    @drasvi
    This is very hard to substantiate and sounds like the way aristocrats build a class consciousness ,(and define others as less than human–the aristocrats can behave very nicely when doing this, but it is still an unsatisfactory approach). I would say, there are families and tribes with common blood or ancestral myths. Other groupings are manmade and only valid for specific purposes, for example common defence or resource management.

  645. “Aristocrates” are a hereditary class (and this way can be treated as ‘a people’ or population), it has its own culture (and this way is a people as well) and, supposedly refined manners and what not and hereditary right to rule. Even whiter skin.

    The ideas associated with aristocrates sometimes include descend from, say, Goths, who conquerred locals. Or Sarmatians (Poles).

  646. And then you think “hey, we are Goths too! Why then are we servants and have masters* over us? We just Goths who forgot their Barbarian virtues and have not conquered anyone yet”, or Carl Peters: „dass ich es satt hatte, unter die Parias gerechnet zu werden, und daß ich einem Herrenvolk anzugehören wünschte.“

    Hello Nazi. We discussed here those R1b1 who (as people here suppose) killed everyone in Spain and raped everyone else. And brought some language to there.

    It is not very different from how Slavic and Tajik history is described in the Cambridge Medieval History above and how African history is descibed by Meinhof and even from what one actually could see in Africa.

    Except that our version (kill and rape) is worse that CMH and Meinhof – but terribly close to what witnesses of slave raids could observe. And yes, we connect language and race.

    As I said I am not looking forward to seeing the outcome of teaching this in school:(

    * I guess this is where Jews appear in the scheme.

  647. John Cowan says

    1) I don’t think the problem with news (or media generally) in the U.S. is the maintenance of an ideological line, it’s the concentration of ownership. As of 2011 (the latest source I can find), about 90% of media sources were controlled by 6-8 companies. I believe this is a global phenomenon as well, but I can’t speak to that.

    2) I think I am relatively free of being less concerned about the far-away-and-look-different people than the nearby-and-look-like-me people. (This is undoubtedly partly because the people physically nearest me look and indeed are very unlike me and one another.) I have the same benevolence and concern for all who suffer, though of course I can’t enumerate them, much less know about them in detail. To put it in the light most hostile to myself, emotionally I divide the world into Immediate Family and Others, where I.F. gets most of my concern and Others generally get what’s left.

    3) I am a bit fearful about LH being tarred as a racist site by well-meaning people (who cannot recognize irony) based on various remarks above. I don’t think there are any Meinhofites around to be offended by DE’s entirely justified contempt for their putative founder, but in the Age of Influencers a single ill-chosen word can be arbitrarily damaging, and if you look back there really are quite a lot of them.

    In any case and for whatever comfort it may bring, an ObLeGuinWodge:

    ‘Well,’ he said, ‘all that is much as I thought, and much as I think. And I think we have a sledge to pull together. But I have a question before we get in harness, Estraven. You have my hood down over my eyes entirely. Now tell me: what was all this obscuration, obfuscation and fiddlefaddle concerning an Envoy from the far side of the moon?’

    Genly Ai, then, had requested permission to enter Orgoreyn.

    ‘The Envoy? He is what he says he is.’

    ‘And that is—’

    ‘An envoy from another world.’

    ‘None of your damned shadowy Karhidish metaphors, now, Estraven. I waive shifgrethor, I discard it. Will you answer me?’

    ‘I have done so.’

    ‘He is an alien being?’ Obsle said, and Yegey, ‘And he has had audience with King Argaven?’

    I answered yes to both. They were silent a minute and then both started to speak at once, neither trying to mask his interest. Yegey was for circumnambulating, but Obsle went to the point. ‘What was he in your plans, then? You staked yourself on him, it seems, and fell. Why?’

    ‘Because Tibe tripped me. I had my eyes on the stars, and didn’t watch the mud I walked in.’

    ‘You’ve taken up astronomy, my dear?’

    ‘We’d better all take up astronomy, Obsle.’

    ‘Is he a threat to us, this Envoy?’

    ‘I think not. He brings from his people offers of communication, trade, treaty, and alliance, nothing else. He came alone, without arms or defence, with nothing but a communicating device, and his ship, which he allowed us to examine completely. He is not to be feared, I think. Yet he brings the end of Kingdom and commensalities with him in his empty hands.’

    ‘Why?’

    ‘How shall we deal with strangers except as brothers? How shall Gethen treat with a union of eighty worlds, except as a world?’

    ‘Eighty worlds?’ said Yegey, and laughed uneasily. Obsle stared at me athwart and said, ‘I’d like to think that you’ve been too long with the madman in his palace and had gone mad yourself … Name of Meshe! What’s this babble of alliances with the suns and treaties with the moon? How did the fellow come here, riding on a comet? astride a meteor? A ship, what sort of ship floats on air? [On Winter there are no birds, and therefore no airplanes.] On void space? Yet you’re no madder than you ever were, Estraven, which is to say shrewdly mad, wisely mad. All Karhiders are insane. Lead on, my lord, I follow. Go on!’

    ‘I go nowhere, Obsle. Where have I to go? You, however, may get somewhere. If you should follow the Envoy a little way, he might show you a way out of the Sinoth Valley [site of a border dispute that is heating up], out of the evil course we’re caught in.’

    ‘Very good. I’ll take up astronomy in my old age. Where will it lead me?’

    ‘Toward greatness, if you go more wisely than I went. Gentlemen, I’ve been with the Envoy, I’ve seen his ship that crossed the void, and I know that he is truly and exactly a messenger from elsewhere than this earth. As to the honesty of his message and the truth of his descriptions of that elsewhere, there is no knowing; one can only judge as one would judge any man; if he were one of us I should call him an honest man. That you’ll judge for yourselves, perhaps. But this is certain: in his presence, lines drawn on the earth make no boundaries, and no defence. There is a greater challenger than Karhide at the doors of Orgoreyn. The men who meet that challenge, who first open the doors of earth, will be the leaders of us all. All: the Three Continents: all the earth. Our border now is no line between two hills, but the line our planet makes in circling the Sun. To stake shifgrethor on any lesser chance is a fool’s doing, now.’

  648. David Marjanović says

    there are no birds, and therefore no airplanes

    Any insects, then…?

  649. Gethen is a very cold planet, perhaps too cold for flying insects to be commonplace?

    The lack of the concept of flight is also remarked upon by the narrator of “Coming of age in Karhide”:

    Later on when I was a wild elder sib we used to play catch with babies for balls; they always screamed, with terror or with delight, or both. It’s the nearest to flying anyone of my generation knew. We had dozens of different words for the way snow falls, floats, descends, glides; blows, for the way clouds move, the way ice floats, the way boats sail; but not that word. Not yet. And so I don’t remember “flying.” I remember falling upward through the golden light.

  650. In The Tripods trilogy by John Christopher, it is an important plot point that the aliens come from a planet with much higher gravity that Earth. In fact, the author probably decided to make them heavy-worlders specifically to answer the question of why they did not use aircraft, but rather preferred to travel about in War-of-the-Worlds-style tripods. By the end of the last book, the main character Will muses that the Masters could certainly have built airplanes on Earth, but because they did not use them at home, they presumably just preferred not to.

  651. John Cowan says

    Any insects, then…?

    I seem to remember that the grains of Gethen, at least, and perhaps all plants, are wind-pollinated.

  652. Stu Clayton says

    I seem to remember that the grains of Gethen, at least, and perhaps all plants, are wind-pollinated.

    Odd that nobody hit on the idea of airpollanes or mandelions.

  653. David Marjanović says

    Flying is easier when the air is denser, though, and the air is denser when gravity is higher…

  654. @David Marjanović: Higher gravity leads to denser air, when all else is equal, but there’s a lot of other chemistry and thermodynamics that also come into it. Earth and Venus have similar surface gravities, but very different atmospheric densities.

    In The Tripods, the Masters’ air is at a similar pressure to the Earth’s atmosphere and, while it contains poisonous components (probably chlorine and chlorine compounds), it still seems to have nitrogen and oxygen content that are similar to what we are used to. So its density is probably similar to ours. Trying to work things out in more detail (like—what would the significance of the effective gravity inside the Masters’ cities being somewhere intermediate between that of Earth and that of their home world?) would be going well beyond what the author himself must ever have considered.

  655. Lars Mathiesen says

    Unless the high gas density is hydrogen or helium, I would think lighter-than-air flight could arise naturally. Methane has about half the molecular weight of molecular nitrogen, for instance, but with the same composition and double the air pressure it would be just as good for LTA as helium is here — lift of around 1g/l at room temperature. (My organic chemistry is too vague to come up with an non-flammable low-molecular-weight substance that is gaseous at high pressure and carbon life-friendly temperature — water is light enough, but the phase diagram is less useful).

    But of course you can have high gravity and lower air pressure at the same time, ruling out both heavier and lighter-than-air. How did insect wings even evolve on Earth?

  656. David Marjanović says

    Methane is easy enough to make that I can imagine this. Being flammable only becomes a problem in a thunderstorm.

    How did insect wings even evolve on Earth?

    Not well understood, but tracheal gills used for swimming have been suspected to be where insect wings come from.

  657. a non-flammable low-molecular-weight substance that is gaseous at high pressure and carbon life-friendly temperature

    Ammonia is, at least, much less flammable than methane, and remains a gas at 0°C up to ~10 atm. Dissolves very easily into water though.

    Not many other options will be clearly lighter than N₂ or CO. Borane is a gas also, but less light than you’d think due to dimerizing to B₂H₆. I don’t think anything involving lithium or beryllium is a gas (and Li Be B are also geochemically highly rare elements).

  658. Lars Mathiesen says

    Yeah, ammonia is a contender too. You just need enough to saturate the water innit — I don’t think our kind of biochemistry would be comfortable with that by default, but if you can have Archaea in hot springs it should be easy to adapt to that.

    On the other hand I think it will be hard to justify something containing an element that isn’t common in the atmosphere already. Ammonia and methane (and water) have only atom of a “heavy” element and then a lot of hydrogen, that’s what makes them light relative to diatomic nitrogen and oxygen. (And we can call carbon “common” because carbon dioxide mixes so well with those, it’s just a bit of luck that it is a third species around the same weight as the first two).

    Anyway, if your chemistry is built on boron, I assume your atmosphere will be borane already.

  659. David Marjanović says

    You just need enough to saturate the water innit —

    We’re talking totally insane amounts there. Maximum solubilities are 47% w/w (0 °C), 31% w/w (25 °C), 18% w/w (50 °C). Water molecules form hollow hexagonal prisms, and inside those you can stack the hollow tetrahedra that ammonia molecules are.

    It doesn’t stop at 0° either – “a mixture of water and ammonia can have a melting point as low as 173 K (−100 °C; −148 °F) if the ammonia concentration is high enough” (Wikipedia). That’s well below the freezing point of pure ammonia: “the liquid boils at −33.1 °C (−27.58 °F), and freezes to white crystals at −77.7 °C (−107.86 °F).”

  660. Even though I understand why it happens, it seems pretty amazing to me that a mixture of two substances can have a freezing point lower than that of either pure substance on its own.

  661. Lars Mathiesen says

    I was under the impression that that is a pretty general phenomenon, mix enough metals and you get tea spoons that will melt in your tea — propanol and water do it as well, IIRC — but I can’t say I’ve ever been able to remember how it works. Entropy probably figures in there somehow.

  662. Well, if 2 things dissolve in each other, it means they like each others company more then their own and will keep that company for longer. At least that was always my handwavy explanation. It assumes that the mixture does not crystallize as a mixture.

  663. David Marjanović says

    Whether they crystallize as a mixture depends on how easily they can form a repeatable pattern, and that depends on the sizes and shapes of the molecules – atoms in the case of metals. Sodium and potassium just don’t fit together, so the alloy of 77% potassium and 23% sodium melts at −12.6 °C, and “[t]he alloy consisting of 40.8 % caesium, 11.8 % sodium and 47.4 % potassium has a melting point of −79.4 °C”.

    (Mercury is different. It’s halfway to a noble gas because Einstein.)

  664. Lars Mathiesen says

    Now, a teaspoon made from an eutectic mixture of sodium and potassium is not something I’d put in my tea, even if I was drinking stuff that was liquid at 261 degrees. The ones I remember reading about would melt at about 350 and were made from metals that don’t make you explode when you touch them (and easier to procure than gallium), but IIRC lead figured heavily so daily use would be contraindicated.

  665. I actually first learned about eutectic mixtures specifically in the context of NaK. NaK cooling has been a suggestion for the next generation of small nuclear reactors for longer than I’ve been alive. It could be advantageous because NaK is liquid over a large (and relatively low) range of temperatures and doesn’t corrode other metals. The obvious disadvantage is that if there is ever a coolant leak, there will almost automatically be a fire.

  666. (The seriously heretical Jehovah’s Witnesses did the right thing, and suffered for it.)

    @DE, as I said, I haven’t been following news for quite a while, but it seems persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses has began here too. They were declared an “extremist” organization in 2017.

  667. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes.

    It’s not a sign of intellectual self-confidence when you start calling the Jehovah’s Witnesses “extremists.” It means that, deep down, you realise that your own intellectual position is a mere house of cards. In this particular case, I think this reflects the influence of the current Russian Orthodox hierarchy, who share with most white American evangelicals a deep-seated belief that Jesus really missed a trick when Satan offered him all the kingdoms of this world and he turned him down. (Both groups would indignantly deny this. Pay no attention to their words, and keep your eyes on what they are doing with their hands.)

    Unfortunately, patently ridiculous ideology is no bar to running a functioning terror state. On the contrary, getting people to assent to your bullshit is an important part of imposing your power; the more ridiculous it is, the more it displays your power that you can get ordinary people to agree that 2+2=5. It’s all about power. Thought is for the weak.

    It’s no accident that buffoonishness so often goes with authoritarianism.

  668. ‘We are the priests of power,’ he said.

    That is not one of the most famous quotes from O’Brien’s harangue at the end of Nineteen Eighty-Four, but it’s the one that made the strongest impression on me.

  669. Has anyone done a Der Untergang parody with Putin-Hitler? It would be boffo!

    And so they have.

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