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How Fast Do Languages Change? (Linguistics)
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Komorikid


In: Gold Coast, Australia
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Syntax Theory
Language, like the humans that speak it, is an evolutionary process. It does not exist in a constant state but is in an ever-ongoing process of change. Where it became insular it fed on itself and changed very little for a long time until it was influenced by invaders who added another dimension to its vocabulary. Where it was expansive it grew beyond its original vocabulary and evolved into slightly different versions of the original, and as it expanded it was influenced much more quickly than where it had remained insular.

In time the expansive language became regionalised and developed its own unique style. Beyond natural borders like mountains and seas (and later political boundaries) these styles became the national languages we are left with today.

Language has evolved as the people who spoke them evolved and travelled from their various origins in the distant past to the places where they reside today. But one thing never changed. The way they spoke was so ingrained into their psyche it became the true marker of the evolution of languages.

That marker is Syntax; the way people naturally speak, the way we all put a sentence together irrespective of what language we speak. Syntax is the way we were taught to speak by our parents and our parents' parents. We didn't need to read any directions in a book; language requires no instruction manual because we can all speak without having to read. No one has a clue what a noun or verb is as a child they just know how to communicate with speech they were naturally taught.
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Komorikid


In: Gold Coast, Australia
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Now if we look at the current theory of language evolution we find that it is divided into three basic groups based largely on ethnic not logic criteria. They are the Aryan-Semitic-Altaic super-family. According to orthodox linguistic theory the three great language groups are:

1) Indo-European (English, Russian, Hindi, Hittite etc)
2) Semitic (Arabic, Berber, Hebrew, Akkadian etc) and
3) Altaic (Mongolian, Turkish, Finnish etc)

This theory is based largely on word association and racial background and the unproven assumption that all modern languages started somewhere in central or northern Iraq then spread outwards from a central point to where they can be found today.

This theory seems to be based solely on the presumption that spoken language started in the same place as written language as the only way to make word associations is through written script. How and why language started in this region has never been fully explained but the presumption has virtually been written into stone as fact by modern linguists.

Syntax Theory places linguistic groups differently. There are also three linguistic groups which are:

1. The SVO Group: Subject - Verb - Object = John ate apples (English, French, Italian)

2. The SOV Group: Subject - Object - Verb = John apples ate (Persian, Latin, Turkish, Korean)

3. The VSO Group: Verb - Subject - Object = Ate John apples (Arabic, Berber, Welsh)

Which correspond to the following designations:
1. Euro-Mongol (SVO)
2. Asio-Indian (SOV)
3. Afro-Arabia (VSO)

By rejecting the present paradigm and relying on the assumption that people and the languages they spoke came from the West and travelled in an Easterly direction we are able to more logically explain the spread of language and the people that spoke them.

The Afro-Arabic Group (VSO) crossed the Atlantic and settled in central North Africa which was at the time a lush fertile area surrounding an inland sea fed by the Nile River which flowed into the Atlantic until its course changed. An offshoot of this group colonised the Atlantic islands, Galicia in Spain, and the west coast of Ireland and Britain

The Euro-Mongols Group (SVO) crossed the Atlantic further north and settled Ireland, Britain, then coastal Europe. They spread north along the Channel through the Low Countries and into the Baltic then east through what is now Russia. This group also spread south along the Atlantic coast and into the Mediterranean.

The Asio - Indian Group (SOV) set out from west coast America and settled the coastal areas of north and south East Asia and into the subcontinent.

In time these three groups converged and eventually met in the cradle of civilisation: ancient Iraq.
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Ray



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This theory's been in the air for some time. I'm pleased that it's being aired at last as I very much want to know more about it. Do you mind if I kick off with a few questions?

Is syntax the only pointer to a west to east migration?

Bearing in mind what you said about the immutability of syntax I would guess that at least some of the Atlantic crossings must have happened a very long time ago. Have you any ideas about when any of them might have taken place?

Would I be right in thinking that an implication of this theory is that the Americas, not Africa, were the cradle of humanity?
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Komorikid


In: Gold Coast, Australia
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Until reading THOBR I hadn't thought that much about the origin of the English languages although I have always had extreme doubts about the Into-European language theory. I was researching Irish and Manx and couldn't understand how they could possibly be derivatives of English/Anglo-Saxon, when I discovered the so-called Celtic languages has no syntactic link to English.

I found this very odd as supposedly they were all cut from the same cloth. I found that Q and P Celtic share much more in common with Arabic syntax than English. Not long after I found there was a genetic link between Berbers, Basques and inhabitants of the western extremities of Ireland, Scotland and the Hebrides; they all carry a very strong strain of Rh Negative blood. This link can be traced back to North Africa. This was the clue that started me on the road to Syntax Theory.

Syntax is something that is hard wired into our brains. As children it can be modified very easily to encompass other language types but as we mature the dominant language overrides this. That is why it is easier for young foreign children to assimilate a new language (irrespective of syntax) but as the child grows the new language takes precedence over the old tongue, so much so that eventually the old language will become harder for the child to speak.

Language in an insular environment retains its form for a long time and only changes when outside influences encroach but the basic syntax remains true. New words are incorporated and old words fall out of use or become distorted but the way in which the language is spoken doesn't change. English has retained its form from ancient times which means that Britain has remained insular for quite a long time, whereas continental Europe has changed and evolved to a much greater extent.

As for 'Celtic' which I will henceforward refer to as Ancient Irish, this was a different language spoken on the western extremities of Ireland and isolated parts of north western Briton by descendants of the Afro-Arabic group of languages. These people quite possibly predate the first English speakers but remained isolated until both languages intermingled. The stronger SVO strain became dominant but the weaker VSO strain never lost its syntax. Ancient Irish spent so much time removed from its source, almost all of its core words have disappeared but its syntax could not be changed.

The Americas was A starting point for the journey of the three primary language groups. Whether it was the starting point of humanity is entirely open to debate. Something in the distant past provided the impetus for this migration; again this is open to speculation but migration patterns are usually driven by need or forced by irreparable change.
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Mick Harper
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Coupla points, Komoro. When you say that Indo-European/Semitic/Altaic are the three big divisions of orthodoxy, you are I presume referring to the Big Three so far as Europe, most of Asia and parts of Africa are concerned.

There are other just-as-big categories like Chinese, Malagasy, Amerindian and so forth. (According to Orthodoxy). But I am all in favour of concentrating on, as it were, our own Big Three rather than getting lost in the byways of linguistic diversity.

I'm especially interested in your Celtic-is-not-an-Indo-European-language thesis since I've been dying to say this for years but have never been able to pluck up the courage.
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Komorikid


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Mick

Relating to Ancient Irish and its derivatives, I believe there are no Celts in Britain and never were. The Celtic invasion is a myth and so is the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Ancient Britain was influenced by outside cultures, which is only natural when you are the dominant trading nation of the era.

Britain and Ireland were originally forested islands.
Who cut down all the trees and what were they used for?
And what was done with the land that was cleared?

Current archaeology hits a stone wall at the Anglo-Saxons and no one is prepared to push through to investigate the ample evidence of older and more complex societies. To do so would not only jeopardise their tenuous position, but open a floodgate of evidence that would call into question the entire history of ancient Britain.
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Mick Harper
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On the question of aforestation we should always remember that, at this distance, we cannot tell what was cut down and what was planted. I think it's pretty well agreed that there is not a single piece of known-to-be-virgin-forest anywhere in the British Isles, so it remains open to speculation what the status of any trees are. There is even talk (over on the other site, which will appear here eventually) that the British Oak might be just that -- a domesticated tree invented by the British!

But generally speaking I always start from the proposition that only farmers clear forested areas but once cleared farmers never change (until the Agrarian Revolutions of the 16th and 18th Centuries AD). So that Britain arrived at its full medieval landscape -- open fields and discrete villages -- at the time of the Neolithic Revolution -- or whatever they currently call the arrival of agriculture in Britain. Only the language of the geezers in the Big House changed during that seven (?) thousand years.
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Komorikid


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Excavations of Barrows in Wiltshire in the late 19th century by John Thurnam discovered that long barrow and round barrows showed significant differences. He found (based on the grave artifacts) that the long barrows appeared to be of the Neolithic period and the round barrows appeared to belong to the Bronze Age.

He also discovered that the skulls of the long barrow burials were dolichocephalic or long headed and the later round barrow skulls were brachycephalic or round headed. The earlier graves were almost devoid of grave artifact while the latter round barrow graves were rich in artifacts; most noticeably a distinctive type of pottery, the "beaker" style. Also found in association with these burials were a selection of other artifacts, these included; barbed and tanged flat arrow heads, copper axes, small gold, jet or bone ornaments, and stone objects commonly referred to as archers wrist guards.

The emergence of the Beaker People in Britain gave rise to what is now termed as the "Wessex Culture". This is the name given to a number of very rich grave goods under round barrows in Southern Britain. The grave goods include well-made stone battle axes, metal daggers, with elaborately decorated hilts and precious ornaments of gold and amber. Some of the loveliest prehistoric objects to be found in Britain come from the Wessex Culture graves. Some of the golden cups found in the graves were so like those of the Mycenae that it used to be quoted to prove the existence of trade between Wessex and Greece. It was once suggested that the designer of the sarsen trilithons at Stonehenge was a Mycenaean. This is the view of R.J.C. Athusa, who, in 1956 noticed a similarity between the shape of Mycenaean daggers and that of a carving discovered by chance on one of the stones (not a sarsen) at Stonehenge which has been dated at 2600BC. Although current doctrine has the building of the Trilithons at around 1400BC, Athusa believed they were much older.

Again the mysterious dolichocephalic Not-Celtic dwellers raise their long heads as inhabitants of Britain in the earliest of times.
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Mick Harper
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This is interesting for all the "wrong" reasons i.e. the History of Archaeology once again turns out to be a more fruitful study than the History of Ancient Man.

I had not known that "Beakerism" was a British coinage, and that is surely significant. The clear impression I had always gained was that the Beakers were a Continental European culture discovered by Continental European archaeologists but Komoro indicates that this is not the case.

Why is this important from an Applied Epistemological point of view? Well, European archaeology (indeed, world archaeology) is/was dominated by English public-school types whose brains were completely captive to the Classical School i.e. everything in Britain (indeed, the world) came out of the Mesopotamia/Egypt/Greece/Rome template and that consequently Britain oscillates back and forth between mud huts and whatever the Mediterranean Überpowers cared to give us.

Just to avoid charges of nationalism, I hasten to point out that this "Classical" Syndrome effects the whole of the non-Mediterranean world so that if, say, Bulgaria turns up something nifty and early, it will be either ignored or assigned to cultural transmission from the usual sources. Most of what we call Alternative History is in fact the efforts of non-academics to overcome this rather loopy view of what was really going on.

Hence, when, in Komoro's words

a number of very rich grave goods under round barrows in Southern Britain

are discovered, British archaeologists do not cry, "Wow! Lookee here! The Brits were doing some groovy things" they say "Wow! Lookee here! The Brits have been importing some groovy things, let's go look for where they came from."

And it's Mycenae or La Tene or Cro-Magnon or Out of Africa. Always some damn place far away. That's one of the reasons for British dominance of world archaeology, we're un-nationalistic to a fault.
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DPCrisp


In: Bedfordshire
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Is it fair, as a sweeping generalisation, to say

(1) dolicocephalic, long-headed = gracile, Mediterranean type
while
(2) brachycephalic, round-headed = robust, northen European type?

And, in Britain,
(3) neolithic long-barrow remains = dolicocephalic
while
(4) Bronze Age round-barrow remains = brachycephalic?

Do these not simply imply the earliest, essentially megalithic tombs were occupied by Celts, let's say the WELSH; while the Beaker Folk, in their round barrows, were the ENGLISH?
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Mick Harper
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This would be fabulous news, if correct, Dan. I will leave the skull-measuring business to others, I am more concerned with cultural continuity.

The Beakers seem quite reasonable candidates for the original English-speakers, once the absurdities of orthodox history are dispensed with. There seems to be a real continuity in and contemporaneity of, for instance, cereal agriculture. I would personally date Merrie England to c 3000 BC.

However, I have great difficulty reconciling Celtic-ness with megalithic-ness. It is true that the Modern Celtic Revival (from the eighteenth century AD onwards) lays great stress on the connection but I have never seen any Welsh/Irish/Highland Scottish/Breton cultural connectivy to the stones.

But then again I daresay the English stopped making beakers pretty early on.
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DPCrisp


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However, I have great difficulty reconciling Celtic-ness with megalithic-ness.

This is one for the Cynesian thread, but if they're not one and the same, you'd have to explain why the Keltoi described by classical writers coincide so exactly with the Megaliths.

What kind of cultural continuity would have the Keltoi occupying megalith country - and only the megalith country (with only slightly blurred edges, as noted) - without being the descendants of the megalith builders?
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DPCrisp


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I would personally date Merrie England to c 3000 BC.

But per THOBR, the Welsh must have arrived after the English. By my reckoning, that places Merrie England long before the first megalith was erected here. (I believe the Germanic/Romantic cline was in position before the Megalithers arrived.)

The only sensible cut-off between the English and earlier Doggerlanders that I can think of is the formation of the Channel and North Sea.

The sudden appearance of the Beaker culture looks like the English throwing off the cloak of oppression and doing their own thing. (Dunno how many times this might have happened. Were the civil wars, just before the Romans came, English-English or English-Celtic affairs?)
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Mick Harper
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I still remain baffled, Dan, as to why you continue to mix up the Classical Keltoi and the Modern Celts. So far as I am concerned the former are "tall, blond, wandering Valkyrie types" who seem to live along the northern tier of the pre-Ceasar Roman Empire, whereas the latter are "short, dark, home-loving types" living in Northern Scotland, Wales, Western Ireland, Brittany and north-eastern Iberia.

The only reason they could possibly be confused is because
a) the proto-Gaelic nationalists of the 18th and 19th Centuries were determined to give their tiny remnant populations a glorious past, and chose the Celts as their ancestors because nobody else had laid claim to them. (It might just as well have been Scythians or the Hyksos or any other band of mystery figures from the past)

b) the Orthodox historians of the 19th and 20th Centuries exploited the confusion in order to cover the unfortunate lacunae in their own pre-histories caused by their determination to give all Western Europeans a "classical" language (Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse etc) for all our "modern" languages to have evolved from.

That being so, I cannot allow your statement

you'd have to explain why the Keltoi described by classical writers coincide so exactly with the Megaliths.

to go unchallenged. The Classical writers never said exactly where the Keltoi lived, they only say where they arrived butchering and plundering--and few of those places (Italy, Greece, Asia Minor) are associated with megaliths. As far as I know no Classical writer mentioned Keltoi living in the north of Scotland, the chalklands of England, Ireland etc--places that are associated with megaliths.

I'm not nearly as sanguine as you when you say

The sudden appearance of the Beaker culture looks like the English throwing off the cloak of oppression and doing their own thing.

because, as you know, AE principles forbid this kind of "and with one leap they were free" explanation. Of course I accept the possibility that the English suddenly became revolutionary innovators and exported their culture to Europe (where, let us not forget, Beakerism also sprouted at roughly the same time). AE principles demand we assay an explanatory paradigm based on familiar principles, rather than on gee-whizz.

As it happens, cereal cultivation allows for a vast increase in population but requires an extraordinary shift in all kinds of cultural determinants. It seems to me therefore to make far more sense to assume that English-speaking Beaker folk came to Britain c 3000 BC and, via cereal cultivation, rapidly became overwhelmingly the local population. Rather than English-speaking natives, here since the Ice Age, who suddenly and for no apparent reason became cereal-cultivators.

I am with you 100% though on all this egg-head business. I am not completely au fait with the history, but I think measuring skulls went out of fashion before the whole backlash-against-Nazi-methodologies took off. Actually the problem went back to Victorian criminologists trying to come up with "criminal types" which seemed to come down to a scientific version of "Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief". The backlash from that meant that measuring skulls was considered "a bad thing" long before physical anthropology became academically untouchable.

I might add, for our own purposes, that trying to get the relevant non-historical academic subjects to proceed on a properly scientific basis (like NOT assuming that the pre-Roman British population was Celtic) is virtually impossible. They ALWAYS rely on the historical academic subjects knowing what they are talking about when establishing their datum samples.
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Komorikid


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The only reason they could possibly be confused is because
a) the proto-Gaelic nationalists of the 18th and 19th Centuries were determined to give their tiny remnant populations a glorious past, and chose the Celts as their ancestors because nobody else had laid claim to them. (It might just as well have been Scythians or the Hyksos or any other band of mystery figures from the past)

b) the Orthodox historians of the 19th and 20th Centuries exploited the confusion in order to cover the unfortunate lacunae in their own pre-histories caused by their determination to give all Western Europeans a "classical" language (Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse etc) for all our "modern" languages to have evolved from.

That being so, I cannot allow your statement

I totally agree with this.

What Dan is proffering is guilt by association and if this is to be the raison d'être of his proposition, he is obliged to include ALL the associations. Megalithica extends way beyond his Collis Confines to include all of North Africa and when this is added to the mix his conclusion about who the Megalithics were is unsupportable. North Africa was never Celtic in the misconstrued logic of Dan. There had been a cultural continuity in North Africa (which has a written history) just as long if not longer than Northern Europe yet they were never described as Keltoi. It would seem the cultural continuity argument is moot.

If we study the WHOLE map we can see that that Megalithics are predominantly marine in context. They are coastal-, estuarine- and inland waterway-derived. Added to this is the predominant linguistic and genetic make up of West Britain and as I see it the origin of the Stones is a Phoenician or proto- Phoenician culture. The proposition that the assumed present day Celts (Irish/Welsh/Scots/Bretons/Cornish) are the descendants of the Keltoi is untenable. The Goidelic languages are not Indo-European they are Semitic/Hamitic and derived from Phoenician/Berber.

Phoenician in the Med, the Atlantic coasts of North Africa, coastal Iberia and France, Ireland and West Britain is a known fact, trade between the Med and the Mid/North Atlantic coast is well-attested in archaeological finds. Only the assumptions drawn by archaeologists are flawed, not the evidence.
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