George Walkden has posted “Syntactic Reconstruction and Proto-Germanic: Cinematic Teaser” on Facebook; you can also view it at Mark Liberman’s Log post, and I urge you to take the two minutes needed to watch this brilliant attempt to attract attention to what might seem (and in fact is) a recondite subject. From the Log comments, I have to agree with Yuval, who said “How, HOW, did he miss the (rated) PG pun?” and with Matt‘s complaint about the price (“maybe someone at OUP will decide to ride this towering wave of publicity by offering a pre-order discount?”) — it boggles my mind that someone responded “290 pages at £65 for a hardback academic book seems quite affordable.” O RLY? I guess for those who enjoy Pétrus with their foie gras.


  1. “290 pages at £65 for a hardback academic book seems quite affordable” when compared to the usual prices for textbooks.

  2. I guess it depends what you mean by “affordable.” To me, it means “something I can afford.” I don’t care if every other academic book costs thousands of dollars, I still can’t afford that amount for a book. If it were called “quite reasonable” by comparison, I would still disagree, but I wouldn’t bristle as much.

  3. “How, HOW, did he miss the (rated) PG pun?”

    Explicit syntax and reconstructed language warning (professorial guidance required!).

  4. New comment at the Log:

    Y said,
    July 29, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

    “Rated PG for strong verbs”?

  5. Stefan Holm says

    In his published first chapter Walkden in an (alleged?) attempt of caution warns about the Old Norse sources: the earliest texts at our disposal date from around 1150, which is markedly later than for the other Germanic languages under consideration.

    Has it ever occurred to him that every text ‘at our disposal’, including Gallehus and Wulfila, is multiple later to PGmc than the two mentioned (or Beowulf) are to Snorri?

    What we know of modern and/or attested analytic languages is, that even if their word order is ‘free’ they seem to develope some kind of standard in everyday speech. In my own language the earliest attested runic inscriptions or medieval laws as a standard places the infinite verb at the end of the clause. But just as Middle Low German starts to influence Scandinavian (judging from vocabulary) this peculiarity, still kept in German, fades away and the infinite verb gets closer to the finite with just the adverb intervening. From 14th c. we just like the English say I will always love you instead of earlier I will always you love. What would Walkden do of that?

    One of our rune stones (in the older futhark) has swestar minu liubu, ‘(to) my beloved sister’ The –u endings mark the accusative, in the nominative it would have been –a (c.f. the resemblance to the Slavic inflectional system). Would that word order be antediluvian?

    Well, the interpretations are legio: http://www.runenprojekt.uni-kiel.de/abfragen/standard/deutung2_eng.asp?findno=72&ort=Opedal&objekt=runsten%2C+glimmerskiffer&showlesungnr=9&jumptotextmarke=10#10

    Walkden has a lot of work to do – not least in the Vernerian spirit of comparing to the other branches of PIE.

  6. I read the first chapter, available online. Not enough to judge the book, alas, but it’s interesting how he says he’s using the Chomskyan syntax framework for explicitly non-Chomskyan purposes (i.e. Minimalism, but not the Strong Minimalist research program).

  7. David Marjanović says

    I hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time!

    The –u endings mark the accusative, in the nominative it would have been –a (c.f. the resemblance to the Slavic inflectional system).

    In Slavic, however, that’s the result of a process that turned /am/ into [ã], then the [õ] reconstructed for Proto-Slavic and attested in OCS, and then [u]; it’s still ą [ɔ̃] in Polish.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Oops. It’s ę [ɛ̃] in Polish, and ą is the quite unrelated instrumental ending. In the history of Polish the two nasal vowel phonemes first merged into one, which then split into two new ones, and it tripls me up all the time. 🙂

  9. That is confusing!

  10. David Marjanović says

    …It trips me up triply, or something.

Speak Your Mind