I have asked a few questions before relating to PIE, proto-languages theory and the comparative method. As these are technical areas I am unfamiliar with but thanks to some previous answers I am gaining a better grasp of some the technical parts too. However, I am somewhat more familiar with Philosophy and philosophically analyzing things at a conceptual level. My new question more pertains to the Philosophy of Linguistics and the validity of the comparative method in Historical linguistics. As reconstruction is used to derive proto languages which then are used to write histories of the world, establishing the validity of the comparative method and reconstruction of proto languages becomes crucial.
So based on my own observations and some critiques by others the following critiques have been made:
- The comparative method is pre-scientific or non-scientific.
The scientific method is based on empirically testing a theory that is falsifiable. It was a response to and ultimately defeated deductivism where truths were derived from other alleged truths or logical axioms. It emerged as the scientific consensus in early Modern times that we cannot derive particular truths from universal truths, that particular observations only lead to particular statements and they can only be tested against empirical reality. However, the proto languages created using the comparative method, which I have been told here are only hypothesis are not falsifiable because they are not attested and unless we build a time machine we can never find out how true our reconstructions are. However it seems linguists postulate the hypothesis, but then proceed to derive other truths from the hypothesis such as sound laws on how a sound changed in its daughter languages. This seems to be positing an unprovable, and deriving more unprovables from it which seems to be deduction based.
Many linguists have raised this objection, including some of the founding fathers of linguistics like Sauserre that doubted the validity of reconstructions and whether they pointed to any real realities. It seems like he was not the last to make this criticism and the criticisms have been made over and over till present. Brugmann(1849-1919), a eminent linguist that worked on Indo-European linguistics expressed his skepticism whether whether reconstruction could ever reflect a linguistic reality. Recently, Pulgram(1959) has said PIE reconstructions are "just a set of reconstructed formula, that do not represent any reality" Pokorny echoes the same and call are linguistic reconstructions pure abstractations and thinks PIE is nothing more than a system of isoglosses shared by languages in close proximity and not a uniform language. The most damning criticism comes from Kaznas that says ""The first fallacy is that the comparative method is “scientific” and can offer predictions" and "Another fallacy is very subtle: it is the tacit assumption that the reconstructed forms are actual and experts in this imaginary field discuss and argue among themselves as if they are realities"
Overall, to summarize the criticism above, they make a damning case against historical linguistics. Suggesting it is pre scientific or not scientific, It seems to exist only as an abstract or hypothetical field with no necessary real entailment, which puts the existence of having such a field and departments for it into question. This is bound to upset many linguists, but there is no reason to be, because it is a philosophical critique and in Philosophy no field is sacrosanct and immune from criticism. However, can you defend linguistics from this critique.
As this is both a Philosophy and Linguistics question, it could go in either the Philosophy and Linguistics community, but it is better placed in the Linguistics community because it presupposes knowledge of linguistics and specifically historical linguistics. With permission I may cite your answers in a future publication I am writing on the Philosophy of Historical Linguistics.
Edit: In light of the comments below I have removed criticisms 2-5 and just left 1 to make this topic more focused on the method itself. However, in answering the question, please make reference to the subjectivity involved in adducing sound laws using the method and distinguishing natural sound changes from other ones.