39

The claim cited in the quote is definitely wrong. The existence of language families is inferred from the data on extant and ancient languages, and there is a rigorous methodology used in this inferential process. So, it does not matter who looks at the data, experts from all over the world should come to an agreement on the existence and membership of a ...


30

No, this is not generally assumed. In fact, it is assumed that any human (of any ethnic background) can learn any language as first language or second language. Large language families often cross ethnic boundaries, the speakers of Semitic languages comprise both light-skinned Causasians and African people from Ethiopia, the Austronesian languages are ...


21

If you really want to pursue this line of enquiry you need to compare proto-Afro-Asiatic with proto-Indo-European. You cannot just compare Arabic with English or Italian. Taking the etymology even a small step further demolishes most of your examples. E.g. Italian detto (not “ditto”) comes from Latin dictum, which does not look at all like Arabic ḥadīϑ. The ...


21

The script has nothing to do with the origin of the language. In fact, every script can be used to write any language. Usually a language adopts the script that is associated with the religion and/or dominating cultural influence. For example, Malay, which belongs to the Austronesian family of languages, used the Arabic script (with some variations) when the ...


19

The Indo-European family is completely made up, yes. But not for the reason cited in that comment. And the fact it's made up doesn't mean it's not real. Sciences often posit the existence of things we can't actually directly observe, just because these things explain what we can observe. In Ancient Greece, some simple thought experiments showed that atoms ...


17

They aren't mutually intelligible at all. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, Romanian is a Romance language. Yes, they're related (both are Indo-European), but no more so than, say, English and Russian.


15

There's this controversial hypothesis about a genetic relationship between Indo-European and Semitic languages. The Wikipedia article that deals with it concedes that it "has never been widely accepted by contemporary linguists in modern times". At the end it tries to salvage the hypothesis by moving the goalposts: The Indo-Semitic hypothesis has thus ...


14

A proto-language is a hypothesis - it's a theory about the history of a language family. A proto-language is a model of the closest common ancestor of the daughter languages, but which is not directly attested itself (ie, we don't have anything written in it.) So neither Latin nor Italian are proto-languages, because we have direct written evidence of both. ...


13

I am reminded of the famous story about how the young Max Planck was told by his professor to steer well clear of a career in physics, as there was nothing new to be discovered in that field. In historical linguistics, or specifically Indo-European studies, since the 1990s a whole new corpus of texts in a hitherto virtually unknown language were discovered, ...


13

The theory is that there is a community, whose members speak "a language" (one language). They go about life, roaming the plains of whatever, and their children learn that language. As long as they remain a coherent community whose members are in contact with one another, everybody speaks the same language. The language might change a bit, but it ...


11

It does not, it only establishes that there was some communicative contact between the ancestoral populations (which before the interwebs was invented meant "living in proximity"). However, the notion of "ethnic relatedness" is itself vague enough that it may well be the case that "ethnic relatedness" exists in all such cases. As an example, we would say ...


10

If your want a user-friendly program to use on the go you can check Cmaptool from good people at the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) it's really easy to use straight forward and you can export your data to variety of extensions. If you TeX you can use qTree package from CTAN. \Tree[.IP [.NP [.Det \textit{the} ] [.N\1 [....


9

I wouldn't say that mixed languages are particularly rare, we can observe them in language contact situations all over the world, as pidgins, creoles, and vernaculars of specific ethnic groups. But it is in the nature of most mixed languages that they aren't stable over time. Pidgins become creoles, and creoles often undergo decreolisation becoming a variety ...


8

The alternative to the Altaic theory is that every language group included in there (that is Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Japonic and Korean in its widest form, any theory that directly links Uralic with Altaic has been dead for a century now) constitutes an unrelated language family and any similarity (which is undeniably there) is due to borrowing and ...


8

It's not at all clear what the term "language isolate" means: one could think it means that the language is not related to any other known language. People mistakenly say "not related" when they mean "I can't show that it is related", in other words people sometimes confuse lack of evidence and knowledge of non-relationship. As long as you understand "...


8

Your question isn't entirely clear, and Greg Lee has implicitly answered one version, namely how do we determine the subgrouping of languages that we know to be related, for example how do we know that Hindi and Farsi are more closely related that Hindi and English – shared grammatical innovations. Typically there are more innovations in the form of ...


8

So, I've seen many answers to this question, but few which actually make reference to specific vocabulary of Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Semitic. I'm not terribly acquainted with PIE, but I am familiar with Proto-Semitic and the Semitic languages. The ultimate answer is no, there is no direct linguistic connection between Afroasiatic and Indo-European, but ...


8

There are very many things remaining to do in historical linguistics. If you set aside certain language families which have been "mostly figured out", there are still very many areas in the world where our knowledge of language relations and especially reconstruction is, shall we say, less than ideal, especially in the New World. Plus, even in a family that ...


8

One of the most significant recent discoveries in historical linguistics is the first link between Eurasian and American language families: the Dené–Yeniseian languages. A link between the Na-Dené and the Yeniseian families was first proposed in 1923, but the first peer reviewed publication proposing the Dené–Yeniseian language family was published in 1998. ...


8

As for the title question, the answer would be "many languages, including proto-Chinese". Focusing on the question in the body, the language spoken by the historical ancestors of proto-Turks, there are two main options. One is that they spoke "pre-proto-Turkic", that is, an undocumented language whose properties are not presently recoverable. As for the name ...


8

First of all, Chinese is not an isolated language, but a member of the well-established Sino-Tibetan language family. Relationships beyond Sino-Tibetan aren't well established although the Tai-Kaddai language or the Hmong-Mien languages are included in some proposals of a larger Sino-Tibetan family. Sino-Austronesian was indeed proposed by some linguists (...


8

I think the prior question should be, who gets to vote? The difference between agnosticism and dogmatic nihilism, as I interpret the concepts, is that the agnostician simply says "I don't know", and the dogmatic nihilist would say things like "The question doesn't even make sense / the entire foundations of the enterprise are corrupt....". I have spent most ...


7

Actually, Zuckermanns hybridisation hypothesis is not as extreme as the relexification approach suggested by Horvath & Wexler (1997: Relexification in Creole and Non-Creole Languages). Zuckermann rejects the notion of Modern Hebrew (or, as he likes to call it, 'Israeli') being a Slavic language with a Hebrew lexicon, but he also rejects the traditional ...


7

Usually we are applying a tree model of language evolution, i.e., we assume that languages change over time producing splits into more and more branches, some of them becoming extinct, others to thrive. Within that tree model, proto-languages exist at each splitting point and they can be reconstructed when the modelled tree is good and enough data are ...


6

As a matter of fact, there still are a number of linguists believing that some or all of the families considered to belong to the putative Altaic stock are related one way or another. "Core Altaic" and "Extended Altaic" The traditional "core" members were Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic, with Japonic and Koreic being added in more recent decades. As to ...


6

I grew up the in the former Yugoslavia, and the language I studied in school was called Serbocroatian, which was spoken in four out of the six republics of the union. You were basically studying the standard, 'literary' language. And then, you were mostly focused on your version of Serbo-Croatian [SC]. There were at least 4 versions. They were called '...


6

Sure, it's entirely possible. There are already quite a lot of different dialects of English, with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility. And you can certainly draw a family tree of them and their relationships. The thing is, the difference between a language family and a set of dialects is more of a political issue than a linguistic one. Linguistically,...


5

Albanian is not a Romance language but has a large Latin vocabulary. It also shares, along with Romanian (also Bulgarian and Macedonian), the core features of the Balkan Sprachbund. Dan Alexe in Dacopatia şi alte rătăciri româneşti (part of that here) argues that beside the few tens of terms only common to Albanian and Romanian, Albanian has a Latin ...


5

The basis of the traditional classification of IE, since the 19th century, has been neither shared grammar nor shared vocabulary, but rather shared sound changes.


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible