“Stable typological traits and possible phylogenetic connections of Basque to the languages of the world”
Hizlaria: Peter Bakker, Aarhus University, Denmark
Eguna: azaroaren 26an
0.14 “Elurreta” eraikineko 214 gela
Hona hemen hitzaldiaren laburpena:
Basque has been known as an isolate for a long time. There have been many proposals to link Basque with other languages or families, without any success.The most intriguing of these have been Berber (North Africa), Caucasian languages (Caucasus, South West Asia), Burushaski (isolate in the Himalaya), Na-Dene (subarctic North America), Algonquian (east coast, North America) and Mande (West Africa).
Proposals for genetic affiliations of Basque were based on two types of data: similarities in lexical roots, or similarities in the types of grammatical constructions. All attempts failed on two grounds. It is more or less known how fast words are replaced by other words in languages. After ca. 6,000 years (some suggest 10,000 years in some cases) so many words have been shifted out with others, or changed their form and/or meaning so much, that lexical similarities are very low. If two related languages share no more than 3-4 % similarities in the lexicon, then that is close to the level of chance, and hence a genetic connection based on lexicon alone cannot be proven after six, perhaps ten millennia.No language shares more than 3-4 % of its basic lexicon with Basque. Hence, Basque must have split off from other language groups at least 6,000 years ago.
The other failure relied on similarities in grammar, for instance the presence of many cases, ergativity or complex verbal morphology. However, these grammatical comparisons were often unsystematic, arbitrarily chosen and fragmentary. The choice of features was not informed by the considerable body of knowledge on language typology gained in the recent past. It is time to take up the challenge of Basque origins again on the basis of structural data.
Typological databases of the languages of the world such as the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS) have facilitated the identification of stable typological features. Some researchers have claimed that certain grammatical traits can detect genetic connections perhaps as far back as 30,000 years.
In my presentation I will focus onthe conservative typological properties of languages that have been established recently. These enable us to find the patterns of similarities between Basque and the languages of the world, and they will facilitate links of Basque to geographical areas around the world. Theresults can be combined with an automated comparison of some conservative lexical meanings and with the results of programs mapping global phylogenies. These variousnew techniques point to different regions of the world, with a certain overlap. The results show the position of Basque among the languages of the world. The result of this study would constitute the best possible suggestion of the origins of Basque as far as currently feasible.
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