I don’t know how I’ve missed Paleoglot until now, but I’m glad I’ve found it. Glen Gordon says:

Growing up on gyros, roti and chow mein, I learned to appreciate the beauty of world cultures at an early age. I spend any spare time I have avidly studying comparative linguistics. My current research interests relate specifically to Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Aegean (aka Proto-Tyrrhenian) linguistics involving languages like Etruscan and Lemnian, however I’ve explored a multitude of other languages and protolanguages, from Sino-Tibetan to Abkhaz-Adyghe as well. My blog “Paleoglot” will largely focus on the reconstruction of Indo-European or ancient Aegean-derived languages but sometimes I will throw in a bone about whatever ancient language, culture or civilization inspires me that day.

Talk of things like “Proto-Aegean” makes me nervous, but this guy is no pushover for sloppy comparisons and hand-waving correspondences; his rant about How NOT to reconstruct a protolanguage warmed my heart with its demolishing of Starostin’s Tower of Babel project. He says “In case anyone was confused, my blog isn’t a mouthpiece for proto-world rhetoric and I’m an ardent defender of mainstream linguistics despite my moderate interest in long-range linguistics,” and that makes me want to hear him out about the long-range stuff he finds plausible.


  1. His anti-Dravidian bias vitiates Gordon’s entire research projects. Hard words, but the truth.

  2. You’ve missed a treat by not having come across him before. His writings on Etruscan are particularly worth a read.

  3. “His anti-Dravidian bias vitiates Gordon’s entire research projects. Hard words, but the truth.”
    An Anti-Dravidian bias? He talks about Dravidian once in his whole blog. What exactly are you basing this on?
    If he maybe doesn’t have much experience with Dravidian languages, I’m glad he doesn’t go into detail about them; Never talk about languages you don’t know about, right 😉

  4. That’s John’s little joke. He pretends to believe that everything is descended from Dravidian. Don’t mind him.

  5. Much thanks Language Hat!!
    And now for some damage control 😉 When you follow John Emerson’s link to his website, it should become clear that he is Language Hat‘s resident comic. It appears to me that he’s just a garden-variety Dadaist that uses empty comedy in attempts to undermine any form of structured thought. His intention here is of course to bait me and bait others. Enough said. Take him with a grain of salt.
    Of course, I have no “anti-Dravidian bias” to speak of and in fact have rejected a form of reconstructed Proto-Dravidian found on Sergei Starostin’s website, in favour of actual published Dravidian *specialists* such as Krishnamurti who I believe sensibly reconstruct initial stops without voicing contrasts. So clearly John is using his poor humour only at the expense of others and I hope the author of Language Hat does more to weed out these harmful, distracting comments.
    Now for the happy stuff… I’m of course very honoured to be mentioned on Language Hat since this is a very well written blog. It’s popular for good reason. I will have to address this “fear of Proto-Aegean” however since it appears to be another one of those rather common “judging-a-book-by-its-cover”-type fears instead of “judging-a-book-by-its-carefully-read-content”-type fears. I may have to make a post about it. Whatever you want to call the linguistic ancestor of Etruscan, Etruscan nonetheless had an ancestor, no matter what you wish to call it. If I should think that all significant aspects of Etruscan culture, religion, writing and language are derivatives of the Ancient Near East and Aegean regions, forgive me for basing this on well-known facts such as the Babylonian origins of haruspicy, the North-West Semitic origins of Etruscan writing, the unusually close relations with Phoenician and Greek traders from the East, and certain early loanwords from eastern Semitic languages (e.g. take note of some of the Etruscan numerals and ponder for a second). Plus, there is the direct account by Herodotus concerning Etruscan ancestry from Lydia which I feel has an element of truth to it despite its being misunderstood and underappreciated by modern academics due to its more naive mythic motifs such as an indulgence in eponymy, something that is sufficed to say quite false.
    If one is opposed to my position, I challenge the person to prove what, if any, fundamental aspects of Etruscan civilization are both un-Indo-European and yet autochthonous to Italy. I expect that my opposition has an uphill battle ahead of them.
    Now, hopefully I’ve dispelled some of these nasty rumours about me. Carry on 🙂

  6. Hey now, I didn’t say you were wrong about Proto-Aegean, just that talk of such things makes me nervous. As I’m sure you’re aware, in the wrong hands such talk can be a sign of all sorts of weirdness. But as I thought was clear from my post, you’re sensible enough to dispel my nervousness.
    And John is an excellent fellow, he and his straight-faced sense of humor just take getting used to.

  7. “As I’m sure you’re aware, in the wrong hands such talk can be a sign of all sorts of weirdness.”
    ‘Weirdness’ is a subjective term that I never came across in computer science classes on Logic. However, is making someone a subject of a ‘joke’ (or false claim), whether directly or passively through condonement and lack of moderation, really such a ‘non-weird’ thing to do on a blog devoted to academic subjects? 🙂 Oh well, I guess we’re all weird one way or another, aren’t we? Lol! We could insinuate each other’s weirdnesses all day or ponder on what it means to be ‘weird’ but I’ve always loved linguistics more than philosophy personally.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Hey now, I didn’t say you were wrong about Proto-Aegean

    In his own words, drinking decaffeinated coffee makes him grumpy… and I get the impression that caffeine drives his blood pressure up. But I’ve only started discussing with him 🙂
    His ideas on the origin of Etruscan and Indo-European are certainly worth close investigation, however.
    BTW, defending Herodot’s account that the Etruscans came from Asia Minor is no longer necessary: genetic studies recently showed that the current residents of the Toscana, or at least their cattle, indeed come from Asia Minor. Was all over the science sections of the news, I thought.

  9. Gordon talks the talk but doesn’t quite walk the walk. In fact, a good portion of this time is spent bashing academics instead of politely disagreeing with their work and offering his own. He also believes far too much in his own theories (see his Wikipdia page) and pushes aside commentary or on his work except backclapping and agreement (see Phoenix1 above and at Gordon’s blog). Though this is all done in a heavy academic tone, it obuscates his work as an independent researcher who does not seek review or aid from others, as is typical at many stages in actual scholarly investigation.
    This is fine for someone’s blog, but don’t put too much into what he writes. Interesting yes, useful for true scholarship no.

  10. Also whatever George Starostin’s failings may or may not be as a linguist (see vicious argument over at Gordon’s place), he did put together an encyclopedic, eclectic and usually interesting website of record reviews worth browsing for the casual rock music fanatic. As a Russian he is refreshingly ignorant of a lot of Western prejudices and thus approaches the rock “canon” from a slightly peculiar bent (like taking Marillion seriously).
    While Starostin fails to demonstrate that the pentatonic scale, the Dorian mode and really all Western music essentially is derivative of an ancient Dravidian diatonic scale (something that should be obvious), his discussion of the relevance of the obscure 1970s British prog rock band Henry Cow almost makes up for that fact.

  11. Hehe. I love anonymous trolls because they can never address specifics. It’s silly that anyone would say that I don’t offer work of my own since my Etruscan Dictionary Project is quite obviously “work” that is free to discuss since it’s free to download. Maybe this is just John Emerson again under disguise. Supposedly, I’m supposed to feel ashamed for voicing opinions on a blog. Hahaha, go figure!

  12. vanya: “Also whatever George Starostin’s failings may or may not be as a linguist (see vicious argument over at Gordon’s place), he did put together an encyclopedic, eclectic and usually interesting website of record reviews worth browsing for the casual rock music fanatic.”
    🙂 You’re joking, right? In what coherent way is rock music relevant to linguistic issues? And how did you misread my entry How NOT to reconstruct a protolanguage as a “vicious attack” on George Starosin when in fact throughout the whole article I was addressing *Sergei* Starostin’s work (seperate person!) and his lack of legitimacy? Further, in what way is agreeing with a quite damning but logic-based critique published by Nichols herself considered “vicious”? Maybe you think Nichols and other academics are “vicious” for having logical debates? Maybe you wish that people didn’t disagree in your idealistic world at all? Or just maybe, non-linguist rock music enthusiasts have no experience to rely on when assessing linguistic critiques? Oh well, you may not hear me right now because you have the rock blaring in the background. That’s okay. Carry on, carry on 🙂

  13. Words fail me.

  14. It gets better. His Etruscan dictionary isn’t anything more than his own work on some tricky paralinguistic data and, without peer review, isn’t worth much more than the other guesswork on Etruscan he chides and poopoos in his blog. The guy seems unbalanced and possibly mentally unstable.

  15. Can we please leave the personal insults out of it? Thanks.

  16. Nice, Language Hat, real nice. Sufficed to say, your site is deleted from my blog. Thanks but no thanks.

  17. Huh? I was asking Anonymous not to attack you. Jeez.

  18. I think his response to my post demonstrates the gentleman is rather sensitive, even to non-existent criticism that is not even implied or intended.
    I used to browse through George Starostin’s eccentric little collection of music crit fairly regularly years ago, and I was surprised to see him turn up (or someone pretending to be him turn up, yet another riddle) in the comments on Gordon’s blog. The internet is apparently a small world, but yet still big enough for all sorts of petty rancor.

  19. In Gordon’s ideolect there is no such word as ‘joke’, so he must put it in scare quotes.
    This has been my most amazing internet transaction EVAR.

  20. If Gordon knew how to work with others he might be an asset to the linguistics community, but instead he belittles and otherwise chases off everyone but the most fervent of sycophants. Sad that I had to warn everyone about him, sadder still that he proved what I said to a tee.
    Perhaps some interesting work on Etruscan is being done elsewhere?

  21. Sad that I had to warn everyone about him, sadder still that he proved what I said to a tee.
    Somehow you don’t sound very sad. And it was more like poking Glen than warning others about him. I don’t mind anonymous commenters, but I’d prefer they didn’t use their anonymity to attack people. Anyway, congratulations, your tactic worked and drove him away. Gee, do you think things like that are part of what make him as touchy as he is?

  22. The music reviews are excellent, but they belong to George Starosin the son, not the father.
    From his comments, Glen Gordon no doubt seems touchy and incongenial. But the very congeniality of Languagehat is its receptivity to views that are incongenial to the stolid mainstream. Can’t we have him back?

  23. I’d be delighted to have him back, but judging from his comments at his blog he has no interest in giving this nest of vipers a second chance.

  24. “Nest of vipers”? That’s a nice one!

  25. “Nest of vipers” is arguably better than “giggly children.”
    I’m aware George is the son, Sergei is the father. George, or someone calling himself George if you believe Gordon, leapt to Sergei’s defense over at P-Blog on the whole Dravidian issue and used intemperate language. Maybe that’s one reason Gordon’s so touchy.

  26. OMFG! There’s another Dravidiocentrist in the world besides me! No longer am I alone!

  27. Beware. You know the old saying “Two Dravidiocentrists, three factions.”

  28. Greetings to all!
    I’ve just happened to discover the link to the ToB site right on this heated discussion page, no less. Thanks for putting it up, and if I may be allowed to clear up a few things:
    a) I AM George Starostin, the son and colleague of the late Sergei Starostin, even though I’m aware it’s hard to prove this through an anonymous posting (well, you can E-mail me back and I’ll answer).
    b) I do maintain both the rock’n’roll review site (well, I rarely update it nowadays) AND the Tower of Babel site.
    c) My argument with the person who calls himself Glen Gordon initially started as a defense of myself rather than anyone else, since all the revisions of Dravidian reconstruction on the site have been done by yours truly (for some reason, Mr. Gordon likes to ascribe everything that has been posted on the site to Sergei Starostin, probably because he doesn’t have a good memory for foreign names or something).
    d) Finally, in my first two posts on Gordon’s blog I didn’t use any intemperate lexics – I think the closest I came to using some was saying that G.G. was “ignorant of” a couple facts (which he was, and still is). For some reason, the second post was never posted, despite containing a load of explanations and counter-arguments; instead, I got a lengthy and insulting public reprimand without the public being shown what that reprimand was directed at. That’s when I had no choice left but to jump ship, with a little firecracker behind, perhaps.
    It makes me a little sad, actually, to see this state of affairs, because from what I’d read by the man both on the Nostratic list and his own blog, he’s got potential for real scientific work (and people interested in scientific treatment of long-range language comparison are scarcer than hen’s teeth nowadays). But it’s almost unbelievable to witness him flying off his rocket whenever he meets with a little discomfort, especially considering how frequently he’s willing to badmouth others, with or without reason.
    George Starostin

  29. I am also regretful about the way things turned out — unbeknownst to me, my standing Dravidian joke touched a sore spot. And for all I know or will ever know, Gordon is absolutely right about the Dravidians.
    On the other hand, I cannot accept Gordon’s proposal that LH exclude jokes and Dadaists and become properly serious. Though I will accede to the will of the majority if that’s the way they want to go.
    Anyway, recent research indicates that the Garden of Eden was in Kartvelian territory near Mount Ararat. You will hear no more about the supposed Dravidians (= Southeastern Kartvelians) from this quarter.

  30. I shall never give up dada. Dada Herr Rubiner, dada Herr Korrodi, dada Herr Anastasius Lilienstein!
    And thanks for joining the conversation, George Starostin (I’m certainly willing to accept your bona fides); as you can tell, I am deeply skeptical about speculative reconstructions, but you have admirable sangfroid, and any linguist who appreciates rock and roll is OK by me.

  31. michael farris says

    I’ve stayed out of this, but I perceive just a couple of possibilities.
    a) Gordon is an Asperberger’s kind of case who can’t perceive anything beyond the surface meaning of words.
    b) He’s the kind of old school scholar who absolutely cannot back down about anything even (or especially) when he knows he’s in the wrong. Since he didn’t realize in time he was making a long pompous answer to an insiders joke not aimed at him he has to go on pretending the original comment was as serious as his rebuttal.
    c) There are other problems we know nothing about.
    I for one am glad to have Emerson’s humor here (I just wish I knew what he saw in the biological determinists at gnxp unless his participation there really is a dadaist joke).

  32. Does name really matter at this point says

    Michael Farris says Glen Gordon doesn’t have the right to respond back to criticism. And “George Starostin” says Glen Gordon can’t delete his comments on his own blog. He’s clearly screwed either way by these vicious trolls, isn’t he? If trolls had their way, Glen Gordon wouldn’t have the right to say or do anything while trolls have free reign.

  33. michael farris says

    I never said any such thing, I theorized (among other possibilities) that GG didn’t recognize an insider joke and responded to it seriously. Big deal, it’s happened to me before and probably every regular poster here. That’s just part and parcel of a written medium.
    But instead of following the usual protocal when such a situation is pointed out (short version: ‘oops, my bad’) he follows through with what can best be described as escalation from his original response.
    Of course he has every right to do so, but expecting people to take him seriously (vis a vis his original reaction to joke that no one but him thought was aimed at him) is … not realistic.

  34. Gregory Hugo says

    Yes, precisely, Henry. And you have to ask yourself what deranged motivation is behind one ad hominem after another. Let’s say for an absurd moment that he did have Asperger’s (as if it’s decent to make a debate out of someone’s private health), what gain is there in hounding the poor man then and what more serious mental disorders do his attackers have? It can only be some kind of dirty smear campaign, really.
    People with Asperger’s or even Autism can be highly productive but I can’t say as much for people with the personality disorders that are being demonstrated by you insidious saps (and that criticism is also directed towards the owner of this blog who condones this negative behaviour obviously). Einstein may have had Asperger’s as well. Would these people mock Einstein too? But of course they would! If one has no intelligence, what else does one do to validate their existence but to throw stones at others ad nauseum? Perhaps some actual information on Asperger’s would be appropriate (click here) although I doubt that it would be of much use to those making the puerile comments above. It’s disappointing to have to see Language Hat debase himself like this. I for one remain unamused by these ‘jokes’ and no, I don’t have Asperger’s nor should anyone care if I do.

  35. michael farris says

    I’ll just point out that I’m not the one who’s making a very big deal out of a trivial misunderstanding (that everyone else would have forgotten about by now if it wasn’t kept in the spotlight by person or persons unknown).

  36. I suspect “Hugo” and “Faulter” are just Gordon. I can’t imagine this silly thread is really attracting that much attention. It may be time for LH to shut this thread down before this just spirals into a ridiculous flame war.

  37. michael farris says


  38. Well, I’ve seen worse, although never a flame war with as little apparent justification. And as an uncle of a child with Asperger’s, I’ll end with pointing out that Gregory is being innapropriate – Asperger’s is not a “disorder” and people with Asperger’s are not mentally ill. It’s really a label for an extreme personality type. And yes, there are many many examples of important creative people with Asperger’s, especially in the sciences.It is also true that many people with undiagnosed Asperger’s lead profoundly unhappy lives due to their social frustration. There is no reason to be ashamed of an Asperger diagnosis and not seek help

  39. michael farris says

    vanya, on Asperger’s exactly right.
    It’s my fault for not making clear that my guess wasn’t meant in any kind of harsh or evaluative way. You’re right, it’s certainly not a disorder in any classic sense (except in that it’s out of the ordinary). But those who have it do face challenges in dealing with us ‘neurotypicals’ who must seem profoundly and infuriatingly irrational.

  40. I’ve deleted most of the trollish comments and banned the IP address they were coming from, and (reluctantly) removed Paleoglot from my blogroll—I was baffled as to why he took offense in the first place but was happy to link to him even though he left in a huff and insulted me on his blog, but coming here and spamming LH with nasty comments is beyond the pale. And now I’m going to close this thread, because we shouldn’t be talking about someone who can’t respond.
    Glen, if you’re reading this (and I’m pretty sure you are): I have nothing against you other than your recent nasty behavior, I still like your blog, and it’s a pity you’ve made it impossible for me to keep it on the blogroll. I hope you become less touchy someday. Best of luck to you.

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