8 May 2010

The Franco-Iberian refuge

During the last glaciation, vast areas of northern Europe, including the British Isles, were uninhabited. This glaciation reached its peak at about 20,000 BC (Late Glacial Maximum, LGM), and it wasn't until the beginning of the Holocene (about 12,000 BP) with milder climatic conditions, that these territories started to be repopulated from southern refugia. Population genetics studies show that the Franco-Iberian LGM Refugium played a major role in this repopulation, with a series of relevant gene clusters that can be traced back to that original area. Some authors, e.g. Oppenheimer, have also suggested that this Mesolithic expansion from the various rrfugia is the most important component in today's European populations; other authors suggest that the role of later oppulation movements, e.g. during the Neolithic, has left a more significant mark. This is of course a matter of current debate, and one that has important implications for the study of European prehistoric languages. Now, what was this Franco-Iberian refuge exactly?

Sometimes, it is referred to simply as the Iberian refuge, but I prefer the other name (Franco-Iberian, or Franco-Cantabrian) because I think it's a more accurate term. In his book (Origins of the British), Stephen Oppenheimer defines it as follows: (p. 118): "The refuge for south-west Europe was spread either side of the Pyrenees in southern and eastern France, the Basque Country, and other northern coastal parts of Spain such as Galicia and Catalonia." I'm not so sure of that. If we take a look at a physical map of the Iberian Peninsula, we realize that it is in general composed of high lands and mountainous terrain. In fact, Spain is the second highest country in Europe, after Switzerland, and the area of Castilla-León, sorrounded by mountains, is the highest plateau in Europe (with cities like Burgos, at an altitude of 929 m.). In present-day climatic conditions, these natural features would impose some limitations to population or linguistic exchange. In the hard conditions of the LGM, and also in later cold spells, e.g. the Younger Dryass, they probably meant complete isolation. The Mediterranean areas of Iberia, including Catalonia, were probably cut off from the Cantabrian coast, so they probably did not participate in the repopulation of north-west Europe. As I see it, there is an axis dividing the Iberian Peninsula into two distinct prehistoric areas: on the one hand, the Atlantic Façade, comprising Portugal and some regions of northern and central Spain; on the other, a Mediterranean Façade, connected with southern France and Italy. This division, caused by climatic and geographic features, is also reflected in the distribution of languages in prehistory: Celtic in the west and Iberian on the Mediterranean, as can be seen in the map of the left (source: Arkeotavira). How old are these linguistic borders? What were the languages spoken by those people who repopulated the British Isles and other northern regions from the Franco-Iberian refuge? These are difficult questions to answer. Geographic features are an important factor in population movements, as they define the possible routes of communication and the chances for interaction. This can clearly be seen during the LGM, the most hostile environment that can be imagined for human populations in Europe, but also in other periods, with milder climatic conditions.

In some previous posts (e.g. here) I have suggested some possible scenarios for the languages of the Iberian Peninsula in pre-Roman times. One of the hypotheses, as stated by Xaverio Ballester and other authors, is that the speakers of Iberian languages arrived at a later period, settling over a territory where IE (possibly Italid) languages were spoken. But where did these Iberian-speakers come from? A possible candidate is Aquitaine, in south-west France, as some parallels can de drawn between the ancient languages of the Aquitani and Iberian. It has also been argued that Iberian is connected with Basque, and this idea was actually quite popular in the 20th century, leading to some simplistic equations of Basque and Iberian which were more enthusiastic than scientifically sound. In any case, it is reasonable to see some possible links between the languages of the Basques, the Aquitani and the Iberians. Now, what is the possible geographic connection between these territories? If we look at the first map again, we find that there is actually a natural corridor uniting those areas: the Garonne River Valley, situated between the Pyrenees and the French Massif Central; at its centre, the city of Toulouse, a strategic point in this route. Was this natural corridor shut off during LGM? It would be interesting to know.

Whenever one attempts to make sense of the languages of western Europe, one is forced to face a familiar mystery: the presence of an unexpected non-IE linguistic isolate: Basque. And to make matters worse, the Basque-speaking area is actually at the heart of the Franco-Iberian LGM refugium. According to the German linguist Theo Vennemann, the people in the Franco-Iberian refugium spoke languages related to Basque, and they spread them through vast areas of western and northern Europe. These languages were later superseded by Indo-European (except of course in the Basque Country) and their traces, as Vasconic Substratum, can be found in the vocabulary of some European languages, including toponymical terms. Vennemann's theory has not been accepted in general, and I personally think it's not tenable (I'll discuss it in a future post). However, it presents a coherent explanation in terms of prehistoric events. Now, is there an alternative explanation? Let's try.

The question is: why would a language, in this case Basque, be excluded from the opportunity of expanding to a new territory, in this case post-Ice-Age northern Europe, when the opportunity arose? First, it must be said that, in theory, there's no reason to believe that Basque was spoken in that area at such an early age (the Mesolithic), but in any case, for the purposes of this investigation, let's assume that this was the case. The Basque country of today occupies the coastal corner of land that connects Spain and France. At first sight, this would have been the natural route for any population transfer from the LGM refugium to the north. However, let's remember that at that precise moment the coastal line was different from the one we have today; the sea level was much lower, and the lowlands extended well into the Antlantic. At least in theory, it is possible that some populations along the Cantabrian coast, speakers of a non-Basque language, moved to the north, bypassing the highland areas where Basque-related languages were spoken and actually impeding any possible expansion of this language group into the new horizon created by the receding ice. And it can also be argued that these 'opportunists' from the Cantabrian refuge were speakers of some form of Indo-European, but that's of course a different discussion. In any case, is it reasonable to suppose that the Basque-speaking population just missed the chance for expansion? The situation is not impossible in itself. To illustrate the point, I will provide an example which bears some distant resemblance: the conquest and colonization of America.

The discovery of America opened a new horizon for European populations and languages, but who took the chance? Obviously, there is a geographic factor in this: it was the areas around the Atlantic that were involved in the whole process. First the Spanish and the Portuguese, then the English, the French and the Dutch. Let's take a look at the Spanish expansion: who took part in it? Basically, it involved people from the west side of the axis (see above), mainly from areas such as Extremadura or Andalusia. There was little or no involvement of people from the Mediteranean coast in the whole event. Consequently their language (Catalan) played no role in the story. This can be explained in geographic terms but also, more importantly, in socio-economic terms: the eastern regions of Spain are in a different context, one that connects them to other Mediterranean territories. In addition, the discovery of America coincided with a time of decadence for the Catalan language, with Spanish as the language of the new emerging power.

54 comments:

Joan-Carles Martí i Casanova said...

Jesus:

I've chosen you amongst my favourite ten blogs. I just thought you ought to know.

Jesús Sanchis said...

Thank you very much, Joan-Carles.

Maju said...

"Was this natural corridor shut off during LGM? It would be interesting to know".

Nope. Absolutely not. The Garonne basin (and particularly Dordogne) was all the time the core of the Franco-Cantabrian cultural (probably ethnic) region, with a lesser role for the Rhone. So to say, it was "the European metropolis of the Ice Age", specially since the LGM (Solutrean, Magdalenian).

Another issue would be the connection with the Iberian province and the "buffer zone" of northern Catalonia. This is complex but, in general, the Iberian province (with a SE Iberia core) is receptor of cultural influences from the Franco-Cantabrian province (though not a mere passive one). On the other hand, most likely contributed greatly to the formation of Oranian (Iberomaurusian) in North Africa.

Even in the Epipaleolithic it seems a receptor area and only after Neolithic, specially in the Chalcolithic (Megalithism, Zambujal, International Bell Beaker) it becomes a cultural exporter towards Atlantic Europe and both West Mediterranean shores. This process however seems more centered in SW Iberia (Portugal specially).

...

I think this is a nice blog with very interesting posts. But I also fear that you are totally wrong in being drawn by the dark side... I mean the IE continuity hypothesis, which makes no sense whatsoever.

Said so I can't exclude vague "Italoid" IE elements here and there (though I wonder about the solidity of the reasoning behind them), because there are at least two IE influences affecting Iberia since the Bronze Age: on one side the well known Urnfields-Hallstatt "Celtic" migration (which could well include other Western IE peoples such as "Illyro-Italic" ones). And on the other side a less well known case of Mycenaean influence (and likely colonial enteprise in search of tin and other riches) evident in the adoption of pithos burial in El Argar B and maybe affecting other areas. Let's recall that Mycenaean proto-Greek, still quite undifferentiated, has lots of words that look more like Latin than Greek.

Indoeuropean is almost without doubt a Chalcolithic and later phenomenon. Only that a very expansive one, without a possible comparison (Semitic, Altaic, Niger-Congo, Austronesian... but not quite). They are still expanding right now, through the global primacy of English in particular (mind you that I, more or less grudgingly, participate in it).

Jesús Sanchis said...

Hello Maju, and welcome to this blog. Thanks for answering my question about the west-European LGM refuge. In fact, that's what it was: a question about something that I find intriguing. You mention Dordogne as the heart of the Franco-Cantabrian region. In my post, I mentioned the Toulouse area (Haute Garonne), further south, as a natural communication gate between the Mediterranean and Atlantic façades. How permeable was this geographic point during the ice age? Probably it was not shut off in absolute terms, but maybe the conditions for population, culture or language flow were reduced considerably. If we take a look at some distribution maps of gene clusters assumed to have derived from the Franco-Iberian refuge, it seems that the centre of gravity lies further west, closer to the Basque country or the Cantabrian coastal areas. Apparently, Dordogne is not the focal point of the post-glaciation repopulation of western Europe.

The distribution of some Paleolithic material cultures, for example the Epigravettian in western Europe, also seems to suggest that the French and Spanish Mediterranean areas formed a distinct unit, contrasting with other material developments on the other side of the axis. Could this be used as an argument in favour of language continuity in the area, in the context of Alinei's 'Italide'? This is really difficult to say. One curious thing is that in later times, during the Neolithic, the distribution of cardial ware seems to be quite similar, though more extensive (especially further up the Rhone valley). Can linguistic inferences be made from these data? It's obvious that it is necessary to provide other kinds of evidence.

I have mentioned some evidence from archaeology. Of all three types of data often used in this kind of research (archaeology, population genetics and liguistics) I tend to think that the ones from archaeology are possibly the most reliable. I have observed that there are some eminent archaeologists, e.g. Clive Gamble, suggesting that ideas such as a post-Neolithic intercontinental expansion of IE are basically absurd. Take a look at his 2005 paper: "Archaeological and genetic foundations of the European population during the late glacial: implications for 'agriculturlak thinking'". In my opinion, it's one of the most enlightening pieces of scholarly work I have read in recent times, with strong criticism of how population genetics data are used in the debate and, especially, a strong criticism of historical linguistics applied to prehistory. It's not just one author (Mario Alinei) proposing a more or less acceptable theory about the languages of prehistoric Europe. There are other authors suggesting that traditional historical linguistics and traditional IE studies are possibly quite wrong. Of course, this is one of the main themes of my blog and I'm not going to enter a complete discussion of the issue in this comment, as it would require an excessively long text. I refer the readers to some previous posts that I have published in this blog.

Maju said...

"In my post, I mentioned the Toulouse area (Haute Garonne)"

Best resource I know of is this paper (rather presentation) on Paleolithic population density by J.P. Bocquet-Appel (vide page 6 specially).

And definitively there are lots of sites in all periods. But Toulouse as such is a silly reference before the Neolithic though you may be thinking rather in the Pyrenees (north facade), where there's aboundance of sites. There is continuity between all subregions in the FC region. This is only altered to some degree by the arrival of Cardium Pottery Neolithic, that affects mostly the Rhone valley and precisely the area of Toulouse at the middle Garonne. But the whole FC region (epicardial or not) was later of Megalithic macro-culture (what was not the case in North Italy, most of East Iberia or variably in Northern France/West Germany).

So in my opinion it's very likely that they all spoke related languages of the Vasco-Iberian family till the arrival of Celts/other IEs c. 1200 BCE. Now if Vasco-Iberian is of Neolithic (Cardial) or Paleolithic origin is impossible to determine, I believe. However the lack of known relatives in the ancient East Mediterranean or even Italy/Illyria (the real origin of CP culture) rather suggests that it should be a Paleolithic remnant. That would also explain the great distance between Basque (Aquitanian) and Iberian in spite of intense sprachbund, because by historical times there would be at least 8000 years of divergence, probably more. This assuming Iberian was a single language what I'm not really sure about.

"Of all three types of data often used in this kind of research (archaeology, population genetics and liguistics) I tend to think that the ones from archaeology are possibly the most reliable".

I totally agree.

Maju said...

"I have observed that there are some eminent archaeologists, e.g. Clive Gamble, suggesting that ideas such as a post-Neolithic intercontinental expansion of IE are basically absurd".

Well, Gamble thinks that Neanderthals got extinct because they were "feminist", so they did not have enough time to hunt so busy they were cleaning babies' shit all day and night. He's interesting but now and then he goes a little bit too far, just like Homer Simpson, if you know what I mean. I have not read that paper you mention but I will take a look.

My knowledge of European archaeology rather suggests very strongly that, with some modifications, the Kurgan model is the right one without options. It's the only one able to explain IE everywhere, not just in Central and West Europe but also Scandinavia (last invaded by Corded Ware culture, where proto-Germanic is without doubt rooted at), the huge historical Indo-Iranian area, Tocharian, Greek, Thracian, etc.

All other theories fail at too many points. Renfrew's hypothesis for instance fails not just to explain the Asian spread but also the fall of Danubian cultures to Kurgan (and to lesser extent proto-Aquitanian) expansions, the disconnection between Scandinavian Neolithic and Danubian one, the lack of protohistorical Indoeuropean languages in the CP area, as well as in Anatolia, and the unavoidable fact that European Neolithic processes anyhow were original not directly from Anatolia but from the SW Balcans (Thessaly for Balcano-Danubian and the East Adriatic for CP).

There are many other such revisionist hypothesis including the Indus origin hypothesis, so dear to Indian nationalists, but they really don't stand the problem that the young language family is so widespread.

The continuity conjecture is a total nonsense: we would not be able to detect such strong connections between IE languages if it would be correct: languages would have been diverging in West/Central Europe for 10 Ka or so and Italian or East European language differences would be much older, going to Gravettian times, some 30 Ka ago. At least Renfrew's hypothesis has some grounds on the relatively high diversity of historical languages in the Balcans-Anatolia area, which is its strongest point. It just decides to ignore altogether the fact that the Taurus-Zagros Neolithic peoples spoke languages surely related to Caucasian ones (Hattic, Hurro-Urartean, possibly Sumerian too), not Indoeuropean ones before the arrival of Hittites and their contemporary Indo-Aryan Mittani elites.

Jesús Sanchis said...

Let's see:

- when you talk about Clive Gamble you mention a series of apparently strange theories proposed by him. Could you please provide the bibliographic references?

- you mention something called "CP". What is it? We live in a world which is full of abbreviations of all kinds, and I don't know this one in particular. And probably many of the readers of this blog don't know it either.

- you favour the Kurgan model, I don't. Why? As I said before, I have written about IE expansion extensively in this blog, giving all kinds of reasons.

- When you talk about Scandinavia you say: "(last invaded by Corded Ware culture, where proto-Germanic is without doubt rooted at)". Do you really think the phrase "without doubt" is something that should often be used when dealing with prehistoric languages? Generally, when I present alternative views on historical linguistics (one of the main themes in my blog), I try to avoid this kind of categorical language.

- One day I'll talk about the OIT (Out of India Theory), which is indeed an absurd theory about the origins of PIE.

- Your views about PIE are dominated by the idea that IE expansion was some kind of unique, extraordinary event by which a lot of people who spoke non-IE languages decided, by some kind of mysterious reason, to start speaking IE languages. In your view, which is more or less the traditional view, there's a need for an origin, and a need for linguistic laws and order. When I think of Indo-European I tend to imagine a complex process where languages overlapped through time, with processes of hybridization and diffusion, not just a framework of 'origin + family tree divergence'. In my view, an ancient layer of 'IE' components is compatible with sucessive re-arrangemets of linguistic elements. A sentence like "IE was brought there by an X people" is probably an imaginary simplification of something which could be "a certain type of IE was brought to an area where other types of IE were already spoken", also bearing in mind that the concept of IE is in itself debatable, and that the whole picture must also include hybridization and rearrangement of linguistic elements.

- the main argument of the continuity theory goes like this: in the history of languages, and particularly in prehistory, continuity is the norm, and dicontinuity is the exception. Discontinuity must be proved, and it's not as easy as it seems in many cases.

- another important detail to bear in mind is that in his main work about the topic, Alinei tried to establish continuity patterns for European languages from the Mesolithic, not the Paleolithic. One thing is the general framework related to human migration in Eurasia at the Paleolithic, and another thing is to offer possible scenarios supported by evidence (e.g. Mesolithic and Neolithic in Europe).

Maju said...

"Could you please provide the bibliographic references?"

Gamble 2001. The Paleolithic Societies of Europe / Las Sociedades Paleolíticas de Europa.

"you mention something called "CP". What is it?"

CP = Cardium Pottery culture (Mediterranean Neolithic). I thought it was obvious from context but guess not so much.

"you favour the Kurgan model, I don't. Why?"

Because you need to read more on the archaeology of Chalcolithic Europe (in particular). It's a problem of lack of multidisciplinarity (not your fault probably but the academic system's).

"Do you really think the phrase "without doubt" is something that should often be used when dealing with prehistoric languages?"

I'm talking of ethno-culture: language is just a manifestation of that. But guess you are right.

"Your views about PIE are dominated by the idea that IE expansion was some kind of unique, extraordinary event by which a lot of people who spoke non-IE languages decided, by some kind of mysterious reason, to start speaking IE languages".

Not for any kind of mysterious reason, for the exactly same reason that Egyptians learnt Arabic and Iberians Latin, for exactly the same reason that Mesopotamians abandoned Sumerian for Semitic, and Elamites dropped their language for Persian, for the very same reason why English is nowadays made up by almost 50% of French words (and they did not become 100% French by this tiny bit): because it was the language of the new elites. For the same reason you and I are speaking English here.

It's a perfectly valid and terribly functional reason: after all languages aren't but social tools. I know well how a language can be replaced in few generations if it's become relatively useless in economic and social life and more so if its being repressed or simply lacks prestige. Cuius regio eius lingua, I guess - at least in the long run. Though I also believe in substrate and creolization.

It's not just IE, we know of such expansions in historical times: Arabic, Turkic, some IE dialects...

"When I think of Indo-European I tend to imagine a complex process where languages overlapped through time, with processes of hybridization and diffusion"...

That is interesting, specially as closely related languages are prone to such hybridization and there is also the well known process of creolization. That does not deny expansions but can really help to understand better the origins not as standard monlithic *proto-languages but as dynamic dialectal continuums, which become more complex and dynamic as expansion, adult learning grammatical simplification and creolization happen.

"A sentence like "IE was brought there by an X people" is probably an imaginary simplification of something which could be "a certain type of IE was brought to an area where other types of IE were already spoken"".

That also happened without doubt: Celtic was replaced by Germanic and Latin in most of its extension, for instance. But that does not contradict the fact that non-IE languages were also wiped off by these and previous ethno-cultural expansions.

Any how I don't see ethnogenesis as mere demic replacement (not sure if you misinterpret me that way) but as assimilation of the masses into the culture of the elites. So it's not a whole people which brings language but an often conqueror elite, original in that people, which creates a new creole variant of that original people in the conquered land with the conquered peasant multitudes. There are other variant possibilities but this one sums it up the normal core process of ethnic transformation pretty well.

(continues)

Maju said...

(continuation)

"the main argument of the continuity theory goes like this: in the history of languages, and particularly in prehistory, continuity is the norm, and dicontinuity is the exception. Discontinuity must be proved, and it's not as easy as it seems in many cases".

I would say that it is the very assumption of continuity is the norm which needs to be proven. I can think of very few places in all West Eurasia (for example) where there has been continuity in historical times alone (a tiny fraction of all real history). Replacement is pretty much the norm in fact.

The very fundamentals of this hypothesis seem to be wrong. It can be proven statistically for >90% of the area of the former Roman Empire, where we have ethno-linguistic data since c. 2000 years ago, that there has been elite-driven replacement, often more than once in this relatively short period.

The time-frame of expansion of IE languages is three times that long in Europe and happened within a very bellicose period (metal ages), when inequality and social stratification were pretty much the rule everywhere.

However proving either replacement or continuity on mere linguistic grounds is impossible for where there is not any single piece of written data. So we have to rely on archaeological data and the most plausible recreations we can build up on them.

But it can be reasonably demonstrated in linguistic terms that the timeline of the Indoeuropean family as a whole is relatively short (c. 6000 years is the most common age estimate) and that it's closely related, even if maybe just by sprachbund, to Uralic (Indo-Uralic theories), what reinforces the Kurgan model in all its facets (even if this model is largely built on archaeology and pre-dates Indo-Uralic).

"another important detail to bear in mind is that in his main work about the topic, Alinei tried to establish continuity patterns for European languages from the Mesolithic, not the Paleolithic"

Well, European Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic) is directly derived from Late Upper Paleolithic cultures (Magdalenian, Epigravettian cultures).

There is controversy on demic/cultural replacement in Neolithic, yes, but nearly all languages we know from ancient West Asia and Mediterranean Europe were not Indoeuropean, and where ancient IE appears (Greek, Hittite, Italic, SW Celtic) it does over (or at least clearly inter-sped) with pre-Indoeuropean languages of many different families. So pretending a single homogeneous IE substrate for all the area or even just for Europe seems pretty much forced and contrary to factual evidence.

If you would be telling me that Iberian, Ligurian, Hattic and Hurro-Urartean, among other languages (Basque, Tartessian, Etruscan, Eteocretan, Eteocypriot, Sumerian, Elamite) were product of that Neolithic drive in its Mediterrenean variants, then I might agree with you (or not but I would have to admit you could well have a good point). But Indoeuropean? Doesn't really look like that at all, but rather something pouring from the NE.

Jesús Sanchis said...

Thank you very much for your comments and links, Maju. They're quite interesting in general.

You talk about elite dominance as an important factor in language expansion, and you're right, but the whole idea of elite dominance is not so relevant if we try to think of more ancient times, with less hierarchical societies. And the road from elite influence to language substitution is not as simple as it seems. We are speaking in English here, but we use other languages as well. In my case, Spanish and Valencian. I suppose you speak Spanish and Basque in daily life.

What about Latin? Yes, we suppose there were a lot of people in the Roman Empire (especially, or nearly exclusively, in the west) who shifted to Latin. Why is it that the almighy Roman elites were only able to establish their 'language' in areas where there was already language affinity with 'Latin', and not in the rest? On the other hand, what was this 'Latin'? What kind of process created Romance languages?

Elite dominance is one thing, and language substitution is another. Let's think of Britain. It is traditionally believed that Celtic languages were spoken on the whole island, and that Germanic languages appeared at the Adventus Saxonum, from the 5th c. AD. This traditional view is just that: a tradition. It makes little sense in linguistic terms. The story of European languages is full of tales about the origins, even tales about the origins of languages. In the traditional view, PIE speakers were horseriders from the steppes who spread their language over half of Eurasia... Do you also believe this tale? In the traditional view, the people of England underwent at least two processes of complete language substitution in more or less 1000 years. Is that acceptable? Does that make sense?

There are more questions than answers in the field of historical linguistics. It is necessary to be sceptical about every single thing that has ever been said about PIE or any other language familiy regarding their 'origin', 'homeland' or chronology.

Maju said...

[part 3]

"In the traditional view, PIE speakers were horseriders from the steppes who spread their language over half of Eurasia... Do you also believe this tale?"

It's not any "tale" but a prehistorical reconstruction that owes to Archaeology and Linguistics. I do agree with it in the essentials, sure. But it's not a "myth": a couple of centuries ago the concept of IE did not even exist and this explanation (Kurgan model) has only a few decades: it was first proposed in 1956. And so far is the only really good and solid model.

Gimbutas made really a very good work and whatever criticisms one can make to her do not really affect the substance of the Kurgan theory as the best reconstruction available by large.

If you want to falsify such a solid theory, you'll need much more than just generic skepticism and linguistic speculation.

"In the traditional view, the people of England underwent at least two processes of complete language substitution in more or less 1000 years. Is that acceptable? Does that make sense?"

Yes, except that the substitution was not so clearly complete in the case of Latin (there was no post-Roman state reinforcing Latin there and even Christianism, a major vehicle of Latin in Western Europe, collapsed in the island for a while). You have the same case in Bohemia for example (Celtic-Germanic-Slavic) or in Austria (Celtic-Latin-Slavic-Germanic). We can't know for sure how complete were these language shifts but for sure they happened to at least some depth.

As I said before, I have to make a real effort to find places in Europe and the Mediterranean where language replacement has not taken place in the last two millennia or so of written history.

Do you speak Iberian? Obviously not. Yet we have loads of evidence that Iberian was the language of your ancestors at the time of the 2nd Punic War (assuming your roots are deeply local). Romans were not even really emphatic in enforcing Latin domination in most cases, they did tolerate other languages, yet they succeeded because Latin was the language of the elites and all local elites (and eventually nearly everybody else) adopted it by necessity.

"There are more questions than answers in the field of historical linguistics. It is necessary to be sceptical about every single thing that has ever been said about PIE or any other language familiy regarding their 'origin', 'homeland' or chronology".

I always welcome skepticism and criticism but I understand that to throw down a well established theory of very solid foundations such as the Kurgan model, you need something more than just generic skepticism. You need to at least be able to prove that the model is wrong in fundamental aspects and so far I have seen nothing of that.

Maju said...

[part 2]

"Why is it that the almighy Roman elites were only able to establish their 'language' in areas where there was already language affinity with 'Latin', and not in the rest?"

I don't see it that way. In fact Etruscans, Ligures, Iberians and probably others became Romanized without being IE speakers at all. Instead some Celtic-speakers retained that pre-Roman language, it seems. And if you believe Albanian is derived from Illyrian, there you have another case of IE dialect resisting to Latin expansion for no reason at all. In the opposite case, we see a most odd expansion of Latin in Romania, where Roman political domination was very short-lived.

It's been argued, and probably with some reason, that Latin/proto-Romance also saw itself consolidated by the post-Roman Germanic realms and their Catholic bureaucracy, rather than only expanding within the Roman Empire.

But it's not just Latin: you see how the extremely short-lived Macedonian Empire had a very long-lived linguistic influence in all the Eastern Mediterranean and specially in Anatolia, how a bunch of Germanic invaders managed to replace Latin and Celtic in England in few centuries and how this early English was very much threatened by French under Norman dominance, up to the point of completely altering its vocabulary.

We also know that German replaced Celtic and that Slavic replaced German, Romance and Greek in some areas too and that Magyar replaced them in the Danubian plateau and Turkish in Anatolia later on (not to mention the impact of Arabic, even if the Caliphate was very short-lived too). We know that replacement happens. There's no simple rule for that but it's a very recurrent fact of history.

"On the other hand, what was this 'Latin'? What kind of process created Romance languages?"

Not sure if this is a rhetorical question but IMO written Latin suffered of artificial fossilization and real Latin (Vulgar Latin), creolized by a colorful array of different peoples (who apparently had serious difficulties with declensions), became the real Latin and the root of all Romances already in the Roman Empire.

"Let's think of Britain. It is traditionally believed that Celtic languages were spoken on the whole island, and that Germanic languages appeared at the Adventus Saxonum, from the 5th c. AD. This traditional view is just that: a tradition. It makes little sense in linguistic terms".

It makes total sense to me. And History and Archaeology (and I'd dare say Linguistics too) seem to confirm this "traditonal" view. In fact English seems a very strongly creolized (and gramatically hyper-simplified) language, signature, IMO, of a rapid expansion through lands where it was not spoken previously.

Maju said...

[Long reply follows in several parts]

[part 1]

"... the whole idea of elite dominance is not so relevant if we try to think of more ancient times, with less hierarchical societies".

True. But stratified societies are attested in Europe since the Chalcolithic (beginning c. 3500-3000 BCE), precisely when IE languages begin to expand (per the Kurgan model, my default). In some places they tend to call this period late Neolithic because of lack of copper objects but for many prehistorians Chalcolithic is defined by precisely growing social complexity, hierarchies, inequality, long distance trade...

Of course the Bronze and Iron ages were no better, rather worse in this aspect. And Antiquity and the Middle Ages are nothing but the continuity of this Iron Age into written history.

When we try to understand how were the metal ages in Europe before history, we have to look at our own Antique and Middle Age periods and also to equivalent periods in other continents, like pre-colonial Africa (Iron Age without horse) or America (Chalcolithic without horse transitioning to Bronze at European arrival).

There are differences but you can't tell me that there were no hierarchies, states (or state-like tribal structures) and elite domination. Of course there were some more egalitarian societies too (the Anasazi for example) but they were not apparently so central nor expansive.

In the European archaeological record this tendency to hierarchy and social complexity is very evident, specially in the most advanced areas (Balcans, southern Iberian peninsula) but also in other regions (megalithic Brittany and Britain, early Western IE societies in East Germany and Poland: rural but hierarchical, etc.)

"We are speaking in English here, but we use other languages as well".

Yes but we are using English for a reason: audience. I can only reach to some Basques in Basque, to many more people in Spanish and to even more (and more diverse) people in English.

As Basque I know well how people can lose their language in few generations for mere practical (and prestige) reasons, even more easily when repression is intense (fascism for example) and when there are immigrant minorities who don't need to bother learning the local language and force everyone else to speak the "lingua franca". Only a very strong political drive can (maybe) revert such elite-driven homogenizing trend and such political tools were normally absent in pre-modern societies.

100 years ago there was a Erronkariera (Roncal) dialect... now the actual border of Basque in the Pyrenees is several valleys to the west. If this can happen in isolated mountain valleys, go figure in more open an "civilized" areas!

Jesús Sanchis said...

Maju, you're covering lots of things in these comments, and it might get a bit confusing for the readers (if any). You talk about Latin, Arabic, Etruscan, Celtic, Germanic, Hungarian, etc., and you talk about PIE origins, creolization and many other aspects of historical linguistics. The funny thing is that I have already covered ALL these topics in my blog, offering all kinds of ideas and references. Obviously, I can't respond to all your comments in this discussion, because it would become a really boring and useless one.

There are so many arguments against the Kurgan hypothesis that I don't really know where to start. Shall we start with Renfrew? Or shall we talk about Otte, Gamble and other archaeologists? Then we have Alinei, Ballester, and others. I have written extensively about the topic here. I don't feel like repeating the same things all over again.

Just a couple of clarifications:

When I talked about the two language shifts in England, I was not even thinking of the Romans and their language. I was thinking about the supposed 'arrival of the Celts' in the 1st millenium BC and the 'arrival of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes' approximately 1,000 years later. This is the story as told by mainstream historical linguistics, a story that I don't believe in.

Are there examples of language substitution? Yes. Especially in more recent times. But as I said before, things were probably quite different as we go back in time.

I don't know much about the details of the Basque language. You mention the presence of Basque speakers in areas outside the Basque country. One question (I feel curious about it): Were those speakers supposed to be there from ancestral times, or are they the result of historical migration? As you may know, there are some areas in Murcia where Valencian is spoken, but this is not due to any Medieval event in the 'Reconquista', but to a later migration connected with agricultural exploitation of the land.

Maju said...

You're right that the matter is becoming to broad. However I haven't seen posts addressing these crucial matters in your blog. Possibly my fault.

"When I talked about the two language shifts in England, I was not even thinking of the Romans and their language. I was thinking about the supposed 'arrival of the Celts' in the 1st millenium BC and the 'arrival of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes' approximately 1,000 years later. This is the story as told by mainstream historical linguistics, a story that I don't believe in".

Seems a very plausible reconstruction to me. Otherwise how do you explain that Welsh is so close to, say, Bengali?

"Are there examples of language substitution? Yes. Especially in more recent times. But as I said before, things were probably quite different as we go back in time".

Probably not that much. The Middle Ages and the Bronze and Iron Ages are often compared with good reason. Sure, the "tribal" element was stronger earlier but it survived until Roman Age in the Mediterranean and till much later towards the Atlantic. The Patriarchal aristocratic system was surely not much different in any case.

"I don't know much about the details of the Basque language".

You should take a dip on it if you really want to be able to face ancient linguistics in SW Europe with some neutrality. If you are only familiar with IE languages, your mind will surely tend to produce IE-centric results.

"You mention the presence of Basque speakers in areas outside the Basque country".

I did not. I was talking of Navarre.

However you are most probably correct in Basque language being spoken in a wider area, which shrank with the advance of Romance.

It's a complicated story. We only have so much info on pre-Roman and Roman Age linguistic status (slabs, toponimy, Iruña-Veleia controversial texts) but it seems likely that Basque dialects were spoken all around the Pyrenees, except its easternmost reaches and surely also west of them into the Western country, Cantabria and La Rioja up to Atapuerca. However other languages (Latin for sure, Celtic and Iberian maybe) were also present in some of these areas probably at some periods.

There's a whole archaeology of war at the Upper Ebro basin, since Celtic times (Iron Age) and later also in the Late Roman Empire, where it seems an offshoot of the Bagaudae extracted the Basque territory, including Aquitaine and Cantabria, from Roman rule. Against this insurrection, as well as against the independent tribal realms of Alans, Vandals and Swabian in Iberia, the decadent Romans appointed the powerful Visigothic tribe, with capital in Toulouse (Tolosa: Basque for "the bend", cf. "tolestu": to bend, Tolosa, Gip.: similar river feature) first of all.

So, sure, there's evidence of Basque language even in areas not controlled by Basques/Aquitanians. It can't correspond to any immigration. And anyhow, if immigration, from where? And if elite domination, why Basque elites almost invariably used Latin or Romance as "official" languages?

"One question (I feel curious about it): Were those speakers supposed to be there from ancestral times, or are they the result of historical migration?"

You can't totally exclude localized colonization but overall it seems ancient. Pamplona/Navarre was not really an active Reconquista-oriented power but a defensive realm surely supported by its own distinct ethno-social tapestry, not exclusively but quite markedly Basque. This can also be said of its predecessor the Duchy of Vasconia and of whatever kind of anonymous polities Basque peoples managed to establish in the Dark Ages against Romans and Visigoths.

Jesús Sanchis said...

Of course I would benefit from some knowledge of Basque, but it's impossible to do so many things at the same time really.

A lot of things have been said about the possible origins and affiliation of Basque. Some decades ago the field of pre-Roman languages in Iberia was dominated by a theory called 'vasco-iberismo', which tried to interpret Iberian texts and many pre-Roman topopnyms through Basque. You mention one example of this type of explanation, the interpretation of the toponym 'Toulouse', and you might be right (there's actually another 'Tolosa' in the Basque country). But in general, 'vascoiberismo' can be criticised in many ways, and nowadays it is not as popular with scholars as it used to be.

Maju said...

There's still a lot of 'Vasco-Iberismo' (see for instance H. Iglesias), though it seems clear that we are talking of two clearly different languages in the best case, with two different homelands and surely histories, both human and linguistic. It could be a mere matter of sprachbund (because the similitudes are certainly there at least in some vocabulary) but if it is by phylogeny, then we are for sure on either Neolithic or Paleolithic roots for this putative language family.

In any case the debate remains open. I did not know that Tolosa would be an Iberian toponym. Never thought Iberians reached so far NE.

Jesús Sanchis said...

Sorry, I got confused about Tolosa de Languedoc (Toulouse). It was not an Iberian territory, therefore its etymology is not an example of 'vascoiberismo'. Sorry about the mistake.

Octavià Alexandre said...

Toulouse (Tolosa: Basque for "the bend", cf. "tolestu": to bend, Tolosa, Gip.: similar river feature) first of all.

Basque toles, toloz 'fold; deceitfulness, hypocrisy' (hence tolestu, toloztu 'to fold') is a Romance loanword related to Spanish doblez id. < Latin duplex 'two-fold', so it can hardly explain the toponym Tolosa.

Of course I would benefit from some knowledge of Basque, but it's impossible to do so many things at the same time really.
I think this would benefit both of you. :-)

Maju said...

Hi, Octavia: what you say is a reconstruction, a hypothesis held maybe by some linguists. It's not the absolute truth and we know well how Basque linguistics has been held and is still being held captive by pro-Latin and pro-Celtic linguists.

If you ask me, I'd even suggest to consider if duplex is not the indoeuropeization of some pre-IE Vasconic root by Italics but it'd be impossible to demonstrate. One thing is clear even Latin seems to have Vascoid influences such as the particle bi-, clearly related to Basque bi (two) and not to PIE *dwos or its Latin derivate.

However the trend is to see everything of this kind as loanwords from IE into Basque, when at least in some cases it may be the other way around, specially if there was ever such thing as Vasconic linguistic family spanning a much larger area of Europe, which I strongly suspect to be the case (I'm still everyday finding suspicious words and constructions in English for example, like ash - compare to auts, same meaning, or black, compare to bel(tz), etc.)

The Linguistic community has to open their minds to that fact: that IE languages in West Europe must have some substrate influence from pre-IE and that part of it at least can and probably must be Vasconic.

Jesús Sanchis said...

IE languages in West Europe must have some substrate influence from pre-IE and (...) part of it at least can and probably must be Vasconic.

This is of course Vennemann's theory, which is not very popular among linguists. In this article (chapter 6 of the book), it is possible to take a glimpse at his theory. His main theme is that Krahe's Old European is not IE, as Krahe himself thought, but pre-IE, in fact Vasconic. Are his arguments acceptable? One of the things he says is that in those Old European river-names there are too many /a/ vowels for an IE language. For someone like me who doesn't believe in PIE laryngeals and in other aspects of PIE phonological reconstruction, the frequency of /a/ phonemes is probably quite irrelevant.

Maju said...

I am not a linguist, Jesús, so I normally avoid linguistic discussions and have not researched the matter in sufficient depth as to be able to argument in length.

I have read about Venneman's theory but have not read his papers or books as such. So my knowledge is limited.

But I sufficiently familiar with Basque and some IE languages as to be able to identify inconsistencies in what seems to be mainstream linguistic doctrines. And can't remain silent when I see such rather unbelievable argumentations.

I am also familiar enough with linguistics as to know it is not any exact science and it is subject to interpretation.

I tend to sympathize with Venneman's Vasconic theory on my own fragmentary perception of toponymy and words. Sadly I'm not qualified to argue in extension. That task I must leave to linguists of course.

I must say I do not sympathize instead with the other theory of this researcher about the Semitic substrate. I find highly unlikely on light of available historical and linguistic data that there was ever a Semitic language as such spoken in Europe (other than the historical but restricted cases of Phoenician and Arabic). Alternatively I would think that the grammatical trait that opened this line of thought may well be some other West Asian Neolithic language feature that stuck by sprachbund to Semitic and other languages (AFAIK Turkish also has it but Semitic was never spoken in Turkey, except some minor border areas or minorities like Assyrian and Jewish traders). He may be onto something but IMO can't be Semitic as such.

Octavià Alexandre said...

Hi, Octavia: what you say is a reconstruction, a hypothesis held maybe by some linguists. It's not the absolute truth and we know well how Basque linguistics has been held and is still being held captive by pro-Latin and pro-Celtic linguists.

Hi, Maju. Although you recognize yourself you aren't a linguist, you might be aware that Basque has lots of loanwords from Latin/Romance (and to a lesser extent from Celtic too). Of course that doesn't mean every etymology proposed by Vascologists is right (in fact, I've corrected quite a few).

In the case of Basque toles, toloz, there can be no doubt it's a medieval loanword from Spanish doblez (itself a compound from doble and the suffix -ez '-ness', not directly from Latin duplex as a I said earlier) or a related Romance form.

About Vennemann's "Vasconic" theory, I'll quote one example. Basque kanibet 'pocket knife' is a borrowing from Gascon ganivet, itself a Germanic loanword (PGmc. *knīfa-z > English knife). As this word has no IE etymology, Vennemann thinks this is a "Vasconic" substrate item. In fact (although unknowing to him), Basque also borrowed this word from a pre-Celtic IE language, giving nabas 'plough', the final -s being the reflex of the IE nominative suffix.

Maju said...

I'm sorry Octavia but I don't find your etymological proposal credible. You just repeat it without providing any single piece of evidence other than what seems an obvious sound similitude, so I think I am entitled to doubt it, specially on light of the toponym evidence.

"Basque kanibet 'pocket knife' is a borrowing from Gascon ganivet, itself a Germanic loanword (PGmc. *knīfa-z > English knife)".

In this I have to agree with you. It's a most likely case of erroneous etymology. But a grain does not make a granary, right?

We usually say labana (I guess that from laba, oven - and, btw, please consider this word in connection with Lat., Sp., Eng. lava: flow from volcanoes) but it's a word for regular knives as well. Ganibet is not known here: it seems to be northern word with, as you point, a Gascon origin and probably an ultimate Germanic origin, as is the case of landa (field).

I'm every day more inclined (though still not clearly positioned) in favor of a Neolithic origin of Basque language in the context of European Neolithic and specifically the Cardium Pottery culture and the somehow related (via Portugal) Dolmenic-Megalithic phenomenon.

For instance, I just stumbled in an unrelated discussion, on the most unlikely of grammatical coincidences: Aramaic languages! It seems that Aramaic for "I" is N/NY, compare with Basque NI, and that they use the suffix -a for the determinate article ("the"), exactly as Basque does. Is not a demonstration of anything but it looks very suspicious, right?

While I have already pointed to some odd coincidences in English (there are more), most of the apparent, mostly toponymic connections, seem to be scattered through the Mediterranean basin.

I have spotted some in the Balcans, particularly the now newsworthy river Ibar in Kosovo. Look at likely related Hebros/Maritza in Bulgaria, comparing with Iber(us)/Ebro in Spain and maybe even with Tiber in Italy and of course Basque ibar (river bank), ibai (river) and ibon (creek).

Also check Serbocroat for mountain (gora) and up (gore), cf. Basque gora: up, upwards - lit. "to high" (goi-ra).

Yesterday I was surprised (in yet another different discussion) by the claim that the name of Piamontese town Asti is derived from Ligurian "ast", meaning hill. Of course, this is surely a claim based on toponymy, as not much is known from the Ligurian language directly. But what really stroke me is that it resembles Basque aitz (often found in toponymy and some derived words as merely atx- or -az), meaining rock but often used to mean mountain (as in Sp. "peña").

I guess that if I had a deeper interest and dedication, I could go farther and create my own lists of such "odd coincidences". I still must have somewhere a list of possible and likely Vascoid river names of Europe (on my own criteria) but that's as far as I have reached.

In any case, I really think that there must have existed in pre-IE Europe (unsure about its exact extension) a Vascoid family of languages of which Iberian and Basque/Aquitanian were the last known survivors, probably also including Ligurian as well.

In this sense it's also interesting to read Krutwig's 'Garaldea' (in spite of the name it's written in Spanish). One doesn't have to agree with all he says but he sometimes points to very striking connections.

Octavià Alexandre said...

I'm sorry Octavia but I don't find your etymological proposal credible. You just repeat it without providing any single piece of evidence other than what seems an obvious sound similitude, so I think I am entitled to doubt it, specially on light of the toponym evidence.

There's no such evidence, because the meaning of the toponym Tolosa is unknown.

On the other hand, the evolution of Spanish doblez to Basque toles is straightforward: d becomes t and the consonant group bl is simplified to l. The meaning is also identical in both words.

You can't simply compare a word in a language X (say Basque) to another word of a language Y, because the probability of this being a chance resemblance is very high. That's why linguists use RECONSTRUCTED forms together with regular sound correspondences in comparisons. For example, Serbocroat gora comes from PIE *gWorH- 'mountain', so it has nothing to do with Basque gora, which is an allative form of goi 'high' < *goni. Likewise, the Basque definite article -a comes from the old demonstrative har 'that'.

I'm every day more inclined (though still not clearly positioned) in favor of a Neolithic origin of Basque language in the context of European Neolithic and specifically the Cardium Pottery culture and the somehow related (via Portugal) Dolmenic-Megalithic phenomenon.

In my view, the Neolithic farmers who came from Anatolia spoke Vasco-Caucasian languages, a family whose current survivors would be Basque, North Caucasian (Abkhaz-Adyghe and Nakh-Daghestanian groups) and Burushaski.

What's interesting is Basque (plus Romance languages and Latin itself) has loanwords from other (now extinct) Vasco-Caucasian languages once spoken in Western Europe. Therefore, there's not a single but several "Vasconic" languages.

Jesús Sanchis said...

Maju, I have browsed Krutwig's "Garaldea" (1978) and it looks quite unscientific in my opinion. Partly, it's because of the time when it was written: Krutwig starts by talking about differences based on blood groups, which makes little sense nowadays. Then, he picks up from one place and another in order to follow his original plan of proving the existence of a wide European Vasconic substratum. I think there's a lot of fantasy and wishful thinking in this. Let's take hydronyms for instance. There are thousands of them in Europe, so it's not so difficult to find a few hundred with 'connections' with Basque, or with any other language. These connections, as Octavià points out, must necessarily be explained in a coherent framework, rather than in loose comparisons.

The way Krutwig uses etymological comparison is sometimes ludicrous, especially when he takes into account Sumerian or other extra-European linguitic material. As Maju says, there might be some interesting suggestions in the book, e.g. some of the things about the Guanche language of the Canary Islands (I confess I know nothing about it but feel curious now, and I'll try to get more information). But in some cases, what Krutwig proposes is utterly absurd, e.g. his reading of the Caledonian Pictish corpus, written in the ogham script. Following Henri Guiter, he reads these texts as if they were Vasconic, and the results look spectacular at first, but they are based on completely wrong assumptions. In this regard, it is interesting to read what Robert Trask wrote about Guiter's Pictish-Basque interpretation in "The History of Basque". Fortunately, the passage is available online, here (page 391).

Maju said...

"You can't simply compare a word in a language X (say Basque) to another word of a language Y, because the probability of this being a chance resemblance is very high".

I know that. I'm just throwing some hints around but I know well that they are not evidence on their own and need more work (work that I don't consider myself able to do).

However the "Aramean connection" (a very unexpected "finding" to me, sincerly) looked more than just a coincidence because of three traits mentioned in the article, two were striking coincidences, which is well above statistically significant. But whatever.

"Likewise, the Basque definite article -a comes from the old demonstrative har 'that'".

That sounds like a far fetched hypothesis to me, specially considering that Basque is a declinative language and that -a is interchangeable with -e depending on the dialect.

You claim such things as if they were absolute truths, just as certain as the sun rises every morning and water is made of hydrogen and oxygen. I think that is a serious fault of mainstream Linguistics (you are not the first linguist who I find speaking that way), which often tends to work on authority basis rather than scientific method, which is based on systematic doubt.

"In my view, the Neolithic farmers who came from Anatolia spoke Vasco-Caucasian languages, a family whose current survivors would be Basque, North Caucasian (Abkhaz-Adyghe and Nakh-Daghestanian groups) and Burushaski".

Could be. I certainly tend to support some sort of very remote connection between Basque and NE Caucasian language families (which would include Hurro-Urartean and possibly Sumerian too) but so far I have not found any clear support for any connection with NW Caucasian nor Burushaski (nor Georgian, which is also sometimes mentioned). AFAIK, current linguistic consensus does not allow to speak of any single Caucasian linguistic family but of three, whose connections may well be product of sprachbund, right?

Considering how distant would be the connection with NE Caucasian, almost invisible, I used to think of an even older link (Paleolithic - after all Eastern Epigravettian expanded to Caucasus and Zagros in the Epipaleolithic) but I can concede to a Neolithic one, I guess.

However, considering the absolute lack of genetic or archaeological direct connection of Basques and Caucasus/West Asia/East Europe since Gravettian, we would need to think of intermediate populations, which would surely be Mediterranean ones (Cardium Pottery and such), which would in turn add some support to Vasco-Iberism.

One of my problems with Basque being of "recent" (Neolithic) arrival to the area is that it has a highly complex grammar, which is not the typical trait of newly expanded languages at all, and also aboundance of internal etymologies. That's why I used to favor the Paleolithic origin hypothesis in the past (also because of no evidence of connection with any of the various post-Neolithic languages know to us other than Iberian and maybe the remote NE Caucasian, neither one particularly suggestive of Neolitic origin).

West Asian Neolithic shows clearly three provinces, which were culturally quite homogeneous (and hence surely spoke their own languages): Palestine, Zagros and South Anatolia. If anything we would expect a flow into Europe from the Anatolian area, maybe from the Palestinian one to lesser extent but not from the Zagros nor the Caucasus. But of all the language families that we can historically connect to that area (Hattic-NW Caucasian, Etruscan, Semitic, the obscure Eteocypriot and Eteocretan), we find nothing of that over here.

So I don't really know. But thanks for your opinion anyhow, Octavia.

Maju said...

"Maju, I have browsed Krutwig's "Garaldea" (1978) and it looks quite unscientific in my opinion. Partly, it's because of the time when it was written".

Totally in agreement. And as his all buddy Felix Likiniano said at a conference here years ago (or was it his widow?, can't recall): Krutwig talked a lot.

I think it's value, like much of what I have said here, is more as the value of a brainstorming exercise, of which maybe only a few ideas should be kept and refined.

"These connections, as Octavià points out, must necessarily be explained in a coherent framework, rather than in loose comparisons".

Totally! I am not able to do that but I'm in full agreement with this.

I maybe should not have mentioned Krutwig's work, specially because I read him long ago and have forgotten most of the details.

As for Guanche, I understand that he has been debunked and that it's now considered Berber and nothing else. But I remember that when I read his alternative reading of the 15th century compilations, it really impressed me because with just a change on where the words were split, it did work as Basque for more than 90% of words. I could understand myself almost all, exactly as Krutwig did.

In any case just another list of hunches to be sorted or discarded by someone with an open mind and a good method, nothing else.

Maju said...

Another thing not really related with linguistics, Jesús.

You say in the article:

"However, let's remember that at that precise moment the coastal line was different from the one we have today; the sea level was much lower, and the lowlands extended well into the Atlantic".

This depends on where and you can see in the very map of Europe you posted that the continental platform of Iberia falls sharply and that means that the coast was not much farther away (a few kilometers) in most places. In the Gulf of Lyon and along the western coast of France this was different.

This Wikipedia map (my creation years ago) shows quite accurately the extension of the land now under the sea in lighter green color.

Not sure if I mentioned before, but it's important to understand that archaeologically, the FC region was the demographic and cultural heartland of Europe in the Paleolithic (and very specially since Solutrean times) and not the sometimes mentioned "Iberian refuge". The Iberian province (excluding the Cantabrian strip) was centered in the Mediterranean coast (with offshoots in the Plateau and Portugal) and is essentially a cultural recipient from the FC area. The main exception could be the likely demic expansion into North Africa at the Oranian genesis (maybe with some backflow) and possibly an intermediate role in the Western variant of the Cantabrian Solutrean, affecting essentially to Asturias.

As for the FC region, I have argued more than once that more interest should be put in South French (Gascon, Occitan) peoples and very specially in the Dordogne area, which was the true heartland of the whole region, rather than the relatively backwater Basque subregion.

Octavià Alexandre said...

"Likewise, the Basque definite article -a comes from the old demonstrative har 'that'".
That sounds like a far fetched hypothesis to me, specially considering that Basque is a declinative language and that -a is interchangeable with -e depending on the dialect.


This isn't so weird as it seems. For example, although Classical Latin had no articles, most Romance languages developed their own from the distal demonstrative ille, illa. Basque just did the same, but with the demostrative postposed to the noun. In fact, the Biscayan dialect (regarded to be the most conservative by Vascologists) is the only one which still retains the demonstrative a 'that' from the old har.

You claim such things as if they were absolute truths, just as certain as the sun rises every morning and water is made of hydrogen and oxygen.

There's no such thing as "absolute truth" in Science. These examples are instances of scientific principles.

I think that is a serious fault of mainstream Linguistics (you are not the first linguist who I find speaking that way), which often tends to work on authority basis rather than scientific method, which is based on systematic doubt.

This is a fault of the formal academic system, in which most scholars rely on stablished, previous work (and are actually rewarded for doing so). This is more acute in Humanities, where money is scarce and courses disappear from time to time.

Could be. I certainly tend to support some sort of very remote connection between Basque and NE Caucasian language families (which would include Hurro-Urartean and possibly Sumerian too) but so far I have not found any clear support for any connection with NW Caucasian nor Burushaski (nor Georgian, which is also sometimes mentioned).

I think your linguistic picture is a bit rusty. Georgian is part of the Kartvelian family (formerly called "South Caucasian") and it's genetically unrelated to North Caucasian. Although still controversial, the relation between NWC (Abkhaz-Adyghe) and NEC (Nakh-Daghestanian) has been stablished up to a reasonable degree by Sergei Starostin (in collaboration with Sergei Nikolayev) and Viacheslav Chirikba.

The grouping of Basque, (North)Caucasian and Burushaski was already proposed circa 1970 by the geograph Bogdan Zaborski, which coined the term "Asianitic" for this family. Later, John Bengtson employed the term "Vasco-Caucasian" or "Macro-Caucasian" for that. You can find some of the relevant articles at http://www.nostratic.ru/index.php?page=main&lang=en and http://starling.rinet.ru/texts_new.php?lan=en.

I've also detected a Mesolithic substrate in NW Europe which belongs to the Paleo-Eurasian (aka Eurasiatic) phylum, that is, a more-or-less distant relative of Altaic and Indo-European itself. AFAIK, this is the oldest linguistic layer detectable by current means.

Maju said...

What can I say? The Basque declension system is highly extensive (many cases). It's not just -a/-ak/-ek. Also I find unlikely that articles would easily become declensions, do you know of any other case at all?

I can understand how creolization can cause the dropping of declension (as happened with Romances), taking articles and prepositions to replace them, or even some aspects of verbal conjugation (as in English) but I cannot imagine why the opposite would ever happen. Because adding declensions is necessarily an increase in grammatical complexity.

I forgot to add a link in the previous post but I found this paper most interesting, because it seems to demonstrate that unnecessary complexity is a trait of stable languages, while expansive languages tend to lose much of that, because of the differences between adult and children learning processes.

So the relative complexity of Basque grammar (including declensions but also the extreme precision of verbs, which essentially synthesize all the sentence structure) should be an indication of stability and long-time mother-to-child transmission. How long? That I cannot say.

Thanks for the links. I'll take a look. I'm anyhow reluctant to accept any of those proposed macrofamilies. I don't think Nostratic has any clear basis and I have read many dismissing it as mere speculation. Indo-Uralic instead may be (alternatively sprachbund). It would also need of a cultural-prehistorical model to be explained and that doesn't look easy to claim.

The infamous Sino-Dene-Caucasian has even worse reputation, and even more now that Na-Dene and Yenisean have been proven related (remember that Yenisean was once proposed as part of Nostratic).

Linguistics apart, the main problem for the credibility of all these highly hypothetical superfamilies is that they don't even make sense in relation to anything we know of Eurasian prehistory, with the East Asian and West Eurasian populations being separated quite strictly since the earliest human expansions in Eurasia (confirmed by population genetics). We should instead "see" macro-families splitting from Southern Asia into Eastern and Western groups, maybe with the occasional crossover through the steppe belt, and not macro-families that span the continent and even into America totally ignoring Prehistoric reconstruction and genetic structure.

Unlike Indoeuropean, Afroasiatic, Austronesian... these super-families lack of likely model to support them beyond the speculations of linguists. No cultural connection can be seen between China and Europe in all the archaeological record. Genetic distances may have been shortened a bit by the occasional steppe belt flows but it seems most unrealistic that before elite domination was possible, such cross-continental language migrations could happen without being part of major demographic migrations.

Sorry about using "Georgian" for Kartvelian. I know it's not exactly the same... but almost. In this particular case I'm tempted to sympathize with a "Nostratic" (Indo-Uralic?) adscription.

Maju said...

Btw, Octavia, I'm reading right now Bengtson's paper on Dene-Caucasian and Basque and, while some comparisons, specially with Caucasian (PEC) may stand, others are absolutely unbelievable.

For example, does not Basque (H)ARTZ (bear) relate better with Greek ARCTOS (seems almost the same word) or even Latin URSUS, both meaning also bear, than with:

"Chechen 7ešt ‘otter’, Dargwa ::arc! ‘marten, squirrel’, etc. (NCED 1073); PY *»a(€)s ‘badger’; Na-Dene: cf. Haida (Alaskan) xúuc ‘brown bear, grizzly bear’, Tlingit xúuc id."

??

Excepting Dargwa "::arc!", all the others seem totally unrelated (they don't even have the key consonant R!). I think I can easily discard many others like these.

(Shaking my head in disbelief)

Octavià Alexandre said...

You're right with regard to Basque hartz 'bear', which is an IE loanword from PIE *H2rºtk´o- 'bear' (interestingly enough, Balto-Slavic and Germanic have unrelated words for 'bear'). This is one of the countless blunders made by Bengtson.

But on the other hand, he opened my mind to discover long-range relatives of the IE word. On the one hand, we've got PNC *XHVr[tS']V 'marten; otter', whose sibilant affricate is reflected in PIE as the cluster *tk´. Then we've got Altaic *karsi 'fox, marten', with a velar reflex of the initial uvular. And finally, there's Yenisseian *Xa(?)s (~ k-) 'badger'. A nice case for a Wanderwort.

As I said on my blog, I'm skeptical about current reconstructions of macro-families such as "Nostratic" and "Dene-Caucasian", although I also think there's some truth behind them. This is why I'm using the term "Paleo-Eurasian" to describe a hypothetical macro-family whose possible members are IE, Altaic and some extinct European substrate languages spoken by Mesolithic hunters-gatherers, Possibly Kartvelian also belongs here, althoug I'm not sure. And definitely Uralic isn't a close relative of IE.

You must also be aware PIE itself has lots of Neolithic loanwords from some Vasco-Caucasian language. Also language families such as Celtic and Germanic have a Vasco-Caucasian substrate. My view is that Vasco-Caucasian languages spread along with agriculture à la Renfrew.

Octavià Alexandre said...

What can I say? The Basque declension system is highly extensive (many cases). It's not just -a/-ak/-ek. Also I find unlikely that articles would easily become declensions, do you know of any other case at all?

You can find these answers in any Basque grammar. What happened is the old demonstrative (now an article) was declinated and then became part of the case suffixes (please remember that the /r/ of ha(r) is soft). For example: *mutil ha(r) > mutila (nominative), *mutil ha(r)k > mutilak (ergative), *mutil hari > mutilari (dative), and so on.

Maju said...

Not only the Balto-Slavic and Germanic, but for what I can see, also Indo-Iranian, which is always a must check in European linguistics and specially in making the claim that something is Indoeuropean and not a substrate areal shared term, right?

Hindi bhaalo, bhālū (old good Disney's Baloo) should, if anything, be related to Germanic bear, björn... and Slavic medjev, etc. than to the SW European-Mediterraean arctos, hartz, ursus... However Persian, Romani and Pubjabi have words that vaguely resemple hartz (khers, richni, rich) - at least they have an R, though the Persian word is similar to the Finnic variant (see below), while the Punjabi seems quite evolved instead if not very different.

Gaelic is also different from the "hartz" variant ('mathan') looking much like the Slavic one, while Welsh instead uses 'arh', clearly in the "hartz" group.

And notice also Finnic 'karhu', that appears also in the line of "hartz", which logically is not borrowed from Balto-Slavic nor Germanic but has to be from other source, maybe an old local substrate. Other Uralic languages do not share this form but rather approach the Slavic variant, so it's probably not Uralic as such either.

I would personally put this family of words along with the somewhat mainstream *khar (stone, cf. Basque 'harri') into a series that are likely to be pre-IE. But I acknowledge that it's hard to discern on light of the available evidence and the hyperdominance of Indoeuropean in all the area.

"As I said on my blog, I'm skeptical about current reconstructions of macro-families such as "Nostratic" and "Dene-Caucasian""...

I'll check you blog. :)

"... although I also think there's some truth behind them".

Maybe there's something. I'd seriously consider areal flows through the steppes and or the agricultural belt of South Central Asia, without this meaning phylogeny.

But still I fail to see the connection between the "artz" family of words for bear and the "xas" one. They don't seem related or at least I cannot see any evidence of such connection. In one case we have the structure vowel-R-strong consonant (consonantic group), essentially: *ARKT or *ARHT, the other is X-vowel-S. The only thing they have in common is that both are monosyllabic and mean furry carnivore of some sort (not even "bear" in the second group, for what I'm seeing).

My Occam's Razor says: "cut!"

"You must also be aware PIE itself has lots of Neolithic loanwords from some Vasco-Caucasian language. Also language families such as Celtic and Germanic have a Vasco-Caucasian substrate".

That's exactly my point, I think. Even if I can only grasp some of the most evident signs of it, as I'm not linguist, not even amateur linguist.

"You can find these answers in any Basque grammar. What happened is the old demonstrative (now an article) was declinated and then became part of the case suffixes (please remember that the /r/ of ha(r) is soft). For example: *mutil ha(r) > mutila (nominative), *mutil ha(r)k > mutilak (ergative), *mutil hari > mutilari (dative), and so on".

I can't swallow that easily. I'd rather think that the "ha-ri" is as much part of the declension system since whenever the proto-Basque grammar was formed, probably not any time in the last few millennia.

It's a nice simple hypothesis but can't be demonstrated for lack of knowledge and comparison of other Vascoid languages. As I said before I'd need at least to see that process demonstrated in some other language (unrelated but similar in this). I find hard to think that declensions derive from mere articles/prepositions.

Octavià Alexandre said...

But still I fail to see the connection between the "artz" family of words for bear and the "xas" one. They don't seem related or at least I cannot see any evidence of such connection. In one case we have the structure vowel-R-strong consonant (consonantic group), essentially: *ARKT or *ARHT, the other is X-vowel-S.

PIE *H2 corresponds to a voiceless uvular fricative X (much like Spanish /j/). And the (affricate) sibilant is rendered in PIE by *(t)k^. Bearing these correspondences in mind, the evolution *rs > *ʔs (where /ʔ/ is the glottalic stop) is particular of Yenisseian.

The only thing they have in common is that both are monosyllabic and mean furry carnivore of some sort (not even "bear" in the second group, for what I'm seeing)

Yes, semantics seems somewhat loose, but this is typical of Eurasian Steppe Wanderwörter. For example, Balto-Slavic *tlāk(ʷ)- 'bear' is related to Altaic *t`ule(kV) 'fox; wolf' and Semitic *dalak'/g- ~ *dVk'al- 'marten; wild cat, lynx'.

I can't swallow that easily. I'd rather think that the "ha-ri" is as much part of the declension system since whenever the proto-Basque grammar was formed, probably not any time in the last few millennia.

No, har-i is the inflected form of the demonstrative (article). You can easily check this on any standard Basque grammar by looking at the demonstrative declensions.

I find hard to think that declensions derive from mere articles/prepositions.

I think you're confused on this. In Basque, when a noun incorporates the definite article (most cases), it automatically becames part of the declension. In cases where no article is used (e.g. proper names), the declension is like this: Aitor (absolutive/nominative), Aitor-k (ergative), Aitor-i (dative) and so on.

It's a nice simple hypothesis but can't be demonstrated for lack of knowledge and comparison of other Vascoid languages.

No, it's demonstrated by internal evidence. But if you want to know, Iberian (a Vascoid language) declensions are quite different from the Basque ones.

Jesús Sanchis said...

Maju, thanks for your comments on the LGm maps of western Europe. I didn't know you had made that Wikipedia map yourself! (How do you do those things?).

in the very map of Europe you posted that the continental platform of Iberia falls sharply and that means that the coast was not much farther away (a few kilometers) in most places

This is true. The stretch of land is not very wide at that point, but the relevant thing is that it gets wider to the north, actuallly forming a land bridge uniting the British Isles to the continent.

Another important aspect to bear in mind is the whole set of coastal activities, including fishing and navigation, which very possibly served as a linking factor in the Atlantic façade from ancient times (how ancient? that's a good question). This coastal front, most of it underwater today, could probably have been quite significant in terms of population, culture and language flow during the Mesolithic.

archaeologically, the FC region was the demographic and cultural heartland of Europe in the Paleolithic

Is it really possible to know if an area is the heart of an archaeological 'culture'? And if so, what does that mean exactly?

more interest should be put in South French (Gascon, Occitan) peoples and very specially in the Dordogne area, which was the true heartland of the whole region, rather than the relatively backwater Basque subregion

I agree with you, but the events connected with the LGM, which are still poorly understood, must necessarily be taken into account. The LGM is by far the strongest source of dicontinuity in every possible aspect of European prehistory, a real 'catastrophe', and not an invented one, like the incredible voyage of the PIE horse-riders. I think the LGM must be the starting point in any study of European linguistic prehistory. However, the agenda for historical linguistics has traditionally been set by linguistic reconstruction based on a corpus of extant written texts and an additional corpus of ad hoc pseudo-archaeological explanations.

Jesús Sanchis said...

Iberian (a Vascoid language) declensions are quite different from the Basque ones

As far as I know, saying that Iberian is a 'Vascoid' language and talking about Iberian 'declensions' is outside the scientific discourse.

I remember once I was in a conference about pre-Roman languages of the Iberian Peninsula. Someone had just presented a spectacular rendering of an Iberian text, full of Vasconic interpretations. When he finished, some of the scholars gave their opinions. Among them were some of the leading experts in the field, people who are really trying to ivestigate things in a coherent way, rather than promoting linguistic fantasies. When asked about his opinion, he just said: "I don't share your a priori assumptions". Full stop. No need for more words.

Maju said...

"How do you do those things?"

With a blank map borrowed from somewhere (the contour and rivers are not my creation, of course) and a simple graphic program. I think I used MS Paint for those, now I'd use GIMP, that it's more powerful (but also somewhat more complicated to use). Of course, I used prehistory books and online sources to document the data (shorelines, archaeological sites). Just blended extant academic data into a new map that could be released to the public domain. Probably the exact sources are reported in the file, I can't recall.

Another important aspect to bear in mind is the whole set of coastal activities, including fishing and navigation, which very possibly served as a linking factor in the Atlantic façade from ancient times (how ancient? that's a good question).

The coastline depicted in that and other maps I made seems to represent the lowest sea levels at the Last Glacial Maximum (c. 20,000 BP). By the Epipaleolithic (or 'Mesolithic') the coastline was very much like today.

As you say well some of the greatest differences affected the area around Britain and the North Sea, with a somewhat mysterious land existing once in most of the North Sea and serving as land-bridge between the various coastal areas around it, a fact that is often reflected in archaeo-cultural links as well.

Open Seas navigation is documented since the Cardium Pottery Neolithic, which have yielded deep water fish remains, however some sort of boats have also been discovered in peat bogs in Epipaleolithic Denmark, so it does seem that some sort of navigation existed before Neolithic. A fact ratified by the Magdalenian diet, rich in sea food per some research - what matches the curious proto-harpoons so typical of this culture and that resemble in design those used by the Inuit to hunt seals and sometimes even whales. Incidentally a recent revision of the materials used for bone points in Isturitz (Northern Basque Country, quite far from any coast) found that at least some were made of whale barbs, which apparently are optimal for such kind of weapons.

References here.

"Is it really possible to know if an area is the heart of an archaeological 'culture'? And if so, what does that mean exactly?"

That's necessarily a subjective evaluation, based largely on factors such as site density, likely origin of major cultures, etc. The more scientific approximation I can provide is the statistical work of Boucquet-Appel that certainly seems to prove that the FC region was all the time the most densely inhabited of Europe in the Paleolithic (by a wide margin). Within the FC region, Dordogne clearly shows a very unusual density of sites.

This statistical approach can of course can only be used where archaeological work has been extensive and regionally equivalent but it is the case in Europe or most of it. It has also been used later to estimate changes in Neolithic demography in Britain and Northern Europe, a very interesting matter.

...

Maju said...

...

"The LGM is by far the strongest source of dicontinuity in every possible aspect of European prehistory, a real 'catastrophe', and not an invented one"...

It was a gradual worsening of conditions. Anyhow there is now evidence of people living some parts of NW Europe in that period and they may well be the ones from which the Magdalenian techno-culture may have arisen ultimately. Because in that area Aurignacian (from which Magdalenian is clearly derived, though till recently it was not known how) survived for all the Middle UP period. No links here because I'm telling from memory. In any case, again, Dordogne appears to have been the center of the Magdalenian expansion as was mostly of the Solutrean one earlier (there's a story about Valencian Solutrean but comments sections are always short of space).

A true sudden catastrophe did happen instead at the time of Aurignacian expansion and the demise of Neanderthals, c. 40 Ka ago: a supervolcano exploded in Campania, throwing rocks and ash to as far as Ukraine.

In any case, the LGM alleged depopulation would only have affected the Rhine-Danube region, and not the FC region (not at all), which is rich in sites for this period. But probably some areas of Central/NW kept pockets of population (Moravia for example).

"... like the incredible voyage of the PIE horse-riders".

Not incredible at all, specially if you look at the archaeology in detail and understand it took several millennia (essentially all the time since c. 3500 BCE in Europe), had bursts of activity followed by long periods of stability, etc. Nobody claims that IE riders made all the way from the Volga to the Tagus in a few years; even taking over Central Europe and most of the Balcans took them about a thousand years if not more. In the process they became partly Europeans (culturally Danubized) and they did not always seem to have got the upper hand (at least in my opinion). Once they controlled all the Eastern 2/3 of Europe, taking the rest was relatively easy, I guess. But for a whole millennium after taking over the Balcano-Danubian zone (as well as Scandinavia), they remained quiet.

Again, it's too complex to discuss here in depth, I fear.

"... ad hoc pseudo-archaeological explanations".

You can agree or not with Gimbutas but she was one of the greatest archaeologists of her time. Even Renfrew, who spouses a different theory, is also an archaeologist and worked with the Lithuanian in at least one occasion.

We are talking here of genuine top quality archaeology and prehistorical reconstruction, no 'ad-hoc' nor pseudo-anything. However these people were interdisciplinary enough as to use the knowledge provided by linguistics and integrate it into their prehistoric work, which, agreed or not, I think is laudable.

Maju said...

"No, har-i is the inflected form of the demonstrative (article). You can easily check this on any standard Basque grammar by looking at the demonstrative declensions".

We're saying the same but with different conclusions. Anyone who has studied some Basque knows that the declensions are named by the corresponding question particle (nor, nori, nork, noren, nora, nondik, etc.), as you can see there's no -a in these particles even if it may appear in other words (depending on ending vowel of the root, number).

That the demonstrative har also follows that rule is meaningless, as everything in Basque does. The only partial exception would be verbs, which anyhow also approach the rule with the complex synthetic grammar that has to include the nork (nom. tr.), nor (DO/nom. int.) and nori (IO) of the sentence (if they exist) within them.

"In cases where no article is used (e.g. proper names), the declension is like this: Aitor (absolutive/nominative), Aitor-k (ergative), Aitor-i (dative) and so on".

You (or whoever is responsible of this idea) are exporting a concept, articles, to a language that does not have them (except demonstratives). Latin does not have articles either and I never heard that Latin declensions have anything to do with them at origin.

It can't be 'Aitork' anyhow. If it ends in consonant it needs a vowel, so it'd be Aitorr-ek, Aitorr-i, Aitorr-aren(a), etc.

I would, and actually I do, demand proof in verified examples from other languages where this transition is attested. Would it be a phenomenon that has been detected in other languages with solidity, then I'd be prepared to accept that Basque declensions derive from "articles" but AFAIK that has never been observed, unlike the reverse trend.

Octavià Alexandre said...

Anyone who has studied some Basque knows that the declensions are named by the corresponding question particle (nor, nori, nork, noren, nora, nondik, etc.), as you can see there's no -a in these particles even if it may appear in other words (depending on ending vowel of the root, number).

These are mnemotechnic words taken from the declension of the interrogative pronoun nor 'who'. Of course, it has no article, so it's no wonder there's no -a here.

That the demonstrative har also follows that rule is meaningless, as everything in Basque does.

In any Basque grammar you can pick up the demonstrative hura 'that' < *haur-har, which has substituted the old har in the absolutive (NOR) form. The other forms are still the original ones: ergative (NORK) har-k, dative (NORI) har-i and so on.

It can't be 'Aitork' anyhow. If it ends in consonant it needs a vowel, so it'd be Aitorr-ek, Aitorr-i, Aitorr-aren(a), etc.

Yes, you're right. I took this example to illustrate the declension of a bare (that is, without article) noun.

You (or whoever is responsible of this idea) are exporting a concept, articles, to a language that does not have them (except demonstratives).

Actually they exist, but you don't see them because they're integrated into noun declensions. The "proof" you're asking for is one can readily differentiate between bare nouns such as Aitor and determined ones like liburua.

I don't think this is so difficult to understand, even if you aren't a linguist (as you recognize yourself).

Octavià Alexandre said...

As far as I know, saying that Iberian is a 'Vascoid' language and talking about Iberian 'declensions' is outside the scientific discourse.

I refer you to the existing literature on the subject. You might also visit Jesús Rodríguez Ramos' (one of the leading experts) webpage: http://www.webpersonal.net/jrr/indice.htm

Maju said...

Let's see, Octavià: we are getting a little trapped in how each explains things with details and such, so I'm tempted to avoid examples from now on in this particular matter.

What I mean is that I understand the theory as you explained it first but I see absolutely no purpose to speculate about a hypothetical archaic article "har" when everything in Basque is declensive and, even to explain all other declensions, you have to say that that's because the hypothetical "article" was anyhow originally declined.

IMO it needs to be demonstrated at least indirectly by pointing to other known languages in which articles have been lost in similar manner. The null hypothesis is that, as everything else is made of declensions/suffixes in Basque, -a/-ak is also a "natural" declension of unknown origin and that Basque never had articles as such, just declensions.

I need to confirm this is even possible at all from comparison with other languages. Otherwise I'd rather suspect that linguists ethno-biased by their own native languages with articles (product of creolization in the cases I know of) are projecting that ethnocentric bias into Basque unconsciously.

If you tell me that the same process is known to have happened in, say, western Malay, northern Mandinga and a branch of Tupi-Guarani, and only then, I'd be prepared to accept this as not merely speculative but as likely. But if the phenomenon is not observed anywhere else, nor in Basque itself, then it's nothing but a conjecture.

"I don't think this is so difficult to understand, even if you aren't a linguist (as you recognize yourself)".

I don't want to offend but I think that a risk of Linguistics is to fall victim of its own increasingly complex theoretical constructs. Some reality check is always good. Just because the theory says something, that is not necessarily true. In fact, it means that it needs to be proven as much as possible.

I am an enthusiastic reader of The Speculative Grammarian, it helps me laugh but also helps me remain highly cautious about theoretical linguistics.

Maju said...

PS - I have been reading Rodríguez Ramos' materials since some years ago. Particularly because it's freely available online and he deals with Iberian, which is a most interesting subject. However I don't tend to agree with him too much and one of the reasons is that he seems inclined to think that the hypothetical Vasco-Iberian language family arrived somehow mysteriously in the Bronze Age, what is simply unbelievable on light of both non-liguistic and linguistic data.

Octavià Alexandre said...

What I mean is that I understand the theory as you explained it first but I see absolutely no purpose to speculate about a hypothetical archaic article "har" when everything in Basque is declensive and, even to explain all other declensions, you have to say that that's because the hypothetical "article" was anyhow originally declined.

IMO it needs to be demonstrated at least indirectly by pointing to other known languages in which articles have been lost in similar manner. The null hypothesis is that, as everything else is made of declensions/suffixes in Basque, -a/-ak is also a "natural" declension of unknown origin and that Basque never had articles as such, just declensions.

Sorry, but I think you don't understand matters.

The thing is Basque (unlike Latin, for example) is an aglutinative language, whose segments can be made of several lexical and grammatical units. That is, in bare (w/o article) nouns (eg. Aitor), the segment is NOUN + case suffix, while in determinated (w/ article) ones (e.g. liburua), the segment is NOUN + ARTICLE + case suffix.

The Basque article is then POSTPOSED to nouns, and derives from the distal demonstrative har, reduced to a in its absolutive (NOR) form (Biscayan has still the demonstrative a 'there'). I'm affraid there's nothing hypothetical nor speculative here.

Maju said...

I understand perfectly the agglutinative nature of Basque declensions and conjugations, specially the regular ones.

This however does not seem to prove that your theory is correct. It could be for example that it was the other way around, such as har (hura) (remote that, Sp. "aquel") and, why not, hau (this) deriving from some conjectural archaic article such as *a (or *ha).

This would also allow to explain those words that use the alternative variant inclusive declension in -ok (potentially from an inclusive/proximal sing. article *o), which would be visible in demonstratives such as the already mentioned hau (<*ao - proximal "that", assuming that that was *a) and hori (true proximal that, "ese"), as well as the declensional root of hau which is curiously hon- (honi, hona), except in locatives, where all three demonstratives are irregular (hemen, hor, han).

Of course this hypothesis is just an ad-hoc one that I built up as counter-hypothesis for this discussion and I'm not the least sure it is correct or not. But sounds as good as yours if not much better.

What I demand, again, is evidence of this evolution of articles into declensions (agglutinative or not) is proven with actual examples, as there are other agglutinative languages than Basque, which can be studied for this purpose.

As for Latin declensions, I would not be the least surprised if it'd be argued that they are also agglutinatively formed (at least the 1st and 2nd ones are very obvious, considering gender differentiation in Latin and other IE languages) at some early stage of its evolution. As far as I can see all declensions and conjugations should have such agglutinative origins, just that they are lost in the random evolution of expansive languages, with their many instances of adult learning and creolization, while preserved best in the mother-to-child transmission of non-expansive languages such as Basque, where the intrinsic logic of the language is assimilated to the detail it really deserves by the young brains.

Octavià Alexandre said...

This however does not seem to prove that your theory is correct. It could be for example that it was the other way around, such as har (hura) (remote that, Sp. "aquel") and, why not, hau (this) deriving from some conjectural archaic article such as *a (or *ha).

Sorry, but your counter-hypothesis doesn't make any sense. I can't possibly see how such an "article" could became a demonstrative and the same time gain and /h/ and a /r/. It's simply absurd.

This would also allow to explain those words that use the alternative variant inclusive declension in -ok (potentially from an inclusive/proximal sing. article *o), which would be visible in demonstratives such as the already mentioned hau (<*ao - proximal "that", assuming that that was *a) and hori (true proximal that, "ese"), as well as the declensional root of hau which is curiously hon- (honi, hona), except in locatives, where all three demonstratives are irregular (hemen, hor, han).

AFAIK, the article -ok (plural) comes from the MEDIAL deictic hor 'there' (=Spanish allí), also related to the MEDIAL demonstrative hori.

You're right about the proximal demonstrative being "irregular", because the inflected forms of haur 'this' has been replaced by hon-.

In fact, Basque has two set of demonstratives, of which IMHO one is native and the other one was borrowed from another language:

PROXIMAL 1
hau(r) 'this'
*hau-en:, *heu-en: > amen, hemen, heben 'here'

PROXIMAL 2
hon- 'this' (oblique stem)

MEDIAL
hor-i 'that'
hor 'there'
(h)ok 'these ones' > article -ok

DISTAL
ha(r) 'that' > article -a
hura 'that' < *haur-har
han 'there'

On top of this, East Navarrese dialects (Aezk, S, R) have an initial velar k, g instead of h

I won't go further this topic here, but I'm planning to write something on my blog.

Maju said...

"Sorry, but your counter-hypothesis doesn't make any sense. I can't possibly see how such an "article" could became a demonstrative and the same time gain and /h/ and a /r/. It's simply absurd".

I understand that the /h/ is recent Occitan influence. Most Basque dialects do not have /h/ at all, except in the conjugated verb 'zihoan/zihoazen' (3rd person simple past tense of 'joan': to go).

Batua (standard Basque, an academic creation based on real dialects) chose to include "h" in many words to please the speakers of some Northern dialects but in most dialects and in Batua itself (main accent) it's as mute as in Spanish. It's a dialectal variant of foreign influence and surely not genuine proto-Basque.

Forget about the letter h.

I have no particular explanation for how har (pronounced ar normally) arose but guess it happened deep in the Paleolithic and that the why of such changes has been obscured by millennia of evolution. There are many other words and elements like that.

Also, Spanish "aquel" seems a relatively innovative form in comparison with "este/ese", suggesting it's not as old (and most languages only have this/that distinction), so one can easily suspect that har/hura is as well the last to appear of the demonstrative triad, not the firts one, right?

I really can't say but why would har be more ancient than the other demonstratives and why would it be chosen above this or proximal that to become the nominative declination?

"On top of this, East Navarrese dialects (Aezk, S, R) have an initial velar k, g instead of h"

If the abbreviations mean Aezkoa, Salazar and Roncal... then these dialects have been extinct for some time. Never heard before that anyone said gemen or kemen for hemen or anything of the like (kemen means vigor but that's a different story altogether).

Kau, kori, kura... sounds funny but IMO unlikely.

Gau, gori, gura... sounds even funnier because it actually means night, incandescent, desire. Sounds almost porn... ;D

Guess that inquisitors were right when they thought mountain Basques were all lusty witches :p

Seriously, if you change the null phoneme or /h/ by /k/ or /g/ in many cases you get totally differently meaning words. K/G may one have been the same phoneme but if you change this one by anything else, then it's the true confusion of languages, because phonemes are often most important in Basque, not just consonants, vowels too.

Some other examples:

Gor: deafening (very different from hor: proximal there)
Gar: flame (very different from har: several meanings, most commonly take)
Gari: wheat (different from hari: to there)
Gaitz: illness (different from haitz: rock)

My counter-hypothesis can of course be questioned but it's not really worse than yours, IMO.

"I won't go further this topic here, but I'm planning to write something on my blog".

Cool. I'll take a look. :)

Octavià Alexandre said...

Batua (standard Basque, an academic creation based on real dialects) chose to include "h" in many words to please the speakers of some Northern dialects but in most dialects and in Batua itself (main accent) it's as mute as in Spanish. It's a dialectal variant of foreign influence and surely not genuine proto-Basque.

You're completeley wrong, Maju, because the h it's found on Aquitanian inscriptions, which correspond to the time of Proto-Basque.

If the abbreviations mean Aezkoa, Salazar and Roncal... then these dialects have been extinct for some time. Never heard before that anyone said gemen or kemen for hemen or anything of the like (kemen means vigor but that's a different story altogether).

I'm sure Roncalese is now extinct, but I'm not so sure about the other two. And forms with initial velar are recorded in Basque dictionaries such as Azkue's.

My counter-hypothesis can of course be questioned but it's not really worse than yours, IMO.

Not really, it doesn't make sense at all. I remind you recognized you aren't a linguist and thus incapable of keeping linguistic discussions.

Jesús Sanchis said...

As far as I know, you are not a linguist either, and in any case I think we've had enough of this endless discussion about Basque matters, which has become quite off-topic, so I would ask you both to stop it here before I use moderation. Thanks.

Maju said...

From what I know the Roman letter H is found in words like Aherbelts ("Aherbelts Deo"), that now would read as Akerbeltz (Black He-Goat, a well known symbol of good luck and protection, though satanized by Christians, and a manifestation of Goddess Mari per mythological tradition, along with red animals such as cows or rams).

From what I recall, the interpretation is that the transcription into Latin alphabet was slippery and phonetically imprecise, yet still recognizable.

In any case that ancient H stands for today's K... and not the other way around.

"... but I'm not so sure about the other two".

I am sure. I've spent some long and nice time in Aezkoa, the westernmost of those three valleys. At best you can find people who speak Batua and maybe even who might want to revive the old Aezkoera based on records and such but most speak just Spanish. Sadly enough Aezkoera and the other two dialects you mentioned are pretty much dead.

"I remind you recognized you aren't a linguist and thus incapable of keeping linguistic discussions".

I said I did not want to be offensive but, sincerely, I doubt many linguists are able to keep linguistic discussions properly either. Linguistics is a very sloppy and difficult discipline and certainly not a science in the usual sense. Linguistics has the potential to produce interesting research but most linguists seem just too arrogant and stuck to authority to do what society expects from them, what they have been trained for.

Linguistics, as the other humanities demand humility to be able to achieve something.

And anyhow, my Basque is surely much better than yours. ;)

Of course your proto-Vasco-Caucasian is surely better than me... but it can well just be an imaginary tongue.

Paraphrasing April's issue of The Speculative Grammarian:

How to do field work in Proto-Vasco-Caucasian.

Step one: find a native speaker
.

(There's no step two, of course). :)

Octavià Alexandre said...

I know this "off-topic" discussion has been going on for much long, so I hope Jesús will excuse me if I reply to you, Maju.

From what I know the Roman letter H is found in words like Aherbelts ("Aherbelts Deo"), that now would read as Akerbeltz (Black He-Goat, a well known symbol of good luck and protection, though satanized by Christians, and a manifestation of Goddess Mari per mythological tradition, along with red animals such as cows or rams).

In any case that ancient H stands for today's K... and not the other way around.

By no means. You actually chose the ONLY exception to the correspondence between "Aquitanian" h and Basque h. This apparent exception has an explanation, although I can't go into details now and here.

Linguistics, as the other humanities demand humility to be able to achieve something.

As you've got no formal training on linguistics, your own vision of the subject (for example, confusing articles with "declensions") is simply amateurish (please don't get offended by this).

And anyhow, my Basque is surely much better than yours. ;)

Sure, but being a native speaker not necessarily makes you a better linguist. BTW, you seem to have forgotten what you wrote on your last paragraph.

Maju said...

You are apparently right about the H (it was just the only inscription I could recall but now I checked and you're right, no K/G anyhow in place of H that I can see though) and you are of course right that I'm an amateur (that's for granted).

However there are no Hs that I know of in the Veleia inscriptions and I'm each day more persuaded of their authenticity (and that's one of the reasons I have a bad vibe about how linguists overstate their beliefs, specially the ones of Gorrotxategi and Lakarra camarilla, who are lowly, unscientific and we could well say really evil).

Additionally, I must say I'm not even a native speaker of Basque (for historical/political/family reasons, sadly enough). And I don't really dislike your Vasco-Caucasian pet theory, Octavià, even if I understand that connecting West and East Caucasian is problematic and controversial because of the most complicated sound system of the Western Caucasian family.