Linguistic Crackpottery

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Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Dan_ad_nauseam » Fri 25 Dec 2009 4:01 am

This is probably best category for this post.

Every field of study attracts its share of crackpots, and I think I’ve found a linguistic doozy. Premsukh Poonai, in Origin of Civilization and Language (1994), presents an astonishing series of claims that fall into the nowhere-near-right category.

Poonai’s claims go beyond linguistics to history and biology:

1. Human evolution occurred primarily in south and east Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Pp. 1-2.
2. The evolutionary sequence was treeshrew -> tarsier -> ape -> hominid. Pp. 2-11.
3. The Rig Vedas were a history of the early Aryas. P.21.
4. Homo habilis, Homo erectus, the Neandertals, and the Cro-Magnons were all unsuccessful migrations from Asia to Europe, and the Aryan population associated with the Rig Vedas were the ancestors of modern humans. P. 21.
5. The Harappan civilization began 13,000 to 16,000 years ago and was well-developed by 10,000 years ago. Pp. 41, 63.
6. The early form of the Hindu caste system was developed about 9,300 years ago. P. 45.
7. Maize was among the grains grown in early India. P. 50.
8. Aryas had reached Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Turkey by 10,000 years ago. P. 53.
9. Communication between India and Greece began as early as 9,500-10,000 years ago. P. 127.
10. Aryas reached western Europe before 2000 BCE. P. 133.
11. Among the cultures founded by or descended from Aryas were Harappan, Hittite, Mitanni, Babylonian, Assyrian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Mede, Parthian, Phrygian, Elamite, Amorite, Hurrian, Illyrian, Macedonian, Thracian, Greek, Roman, Cisalpine Celtic, Etruscan, and the early agricultural cultures at Anau, Siyalk, Jarmo, Hassuna, Karim Sharhar, and Ghar-i-Kamarbund. Pp. 59, 63, 66-69, 71, 78-80, 93-94, 103, 107, 121-24, 134, 214.
12. The Arya decimal system was transmitted to Mesopotamia through early (pre-Sumerian) caravan routes. P. 67.
13. The early settlers of Alaska and the Americas descended from a hybrid of Aryas and proto-Mongols. P. 73.
14. The Sumerian ziggurat was an emulation of the Himalayas. P. 88.
15. Hammurabi and Zarathustra were Aryas. Pp. 93, 229.
16. Troy was settled by Aryas. P. 102.
17. Hellenic culture was based on Arya family/clan structure. P. 124.
18. The Greek philosophers were familiar with Arya literature, philosophy, and art. P. 129.
19. The Greeks borrowed metric verse and epic poetry forms from the Aryas. P. 130.
20. The Romans and Cisalpine Celts were related. P. 134.
21. The early cultures of northern Italy were of west Anatolian, notably Phrygian, origin, and displaced indigenous peoples of Iberian/Mediterranean origin to south of the Tiber. These, in turn, were displaced by the Etruscans, who migrated from western Anatolia. Pp. 134-35.
22. The Etruscans were familiar with Arya learning, used Harappan-influenced pottery and tools, and borrowed their architecture from the Harappans. P. 135.
23. The Etruscans were descended from Arya traders who used Harappan-style iron and bronze ware and pottery. P. 214.
24. The phalanx was an Arya tactic. P. 137.
25. Papyrus was imitative of Indian palm-leaf papers. P. 160.
26. The Avestas direct Zoroastrians to honor the writers of the Rig Vedas and directly quotes the Vedas. P. 170.

On the linguistic side, Poonai claims:

27. Sanskrit was deliberately synthesized more than 12,000 years ago. See pp. 41-42, 143, 145-46, 153.
28. Alphabetic writing was invented for use with Sanskrit and was subsequently transmitted to Phoenicia. Pp. 42, 68, 146-49.
29. Vedic Sanskrit was designed to be written in cuneiform. P. 171.
30. Sanskrit was designed as the first inflected language. P. 43.
31. Prakrits began to develop about the sixth to eighth millennium BCE. Pp. 155, 159.
32. An early Prakrit reached Egypt about 6000-8000 BCE. P. 159.
33. Sanskrit had been stable for 8,000 years when it arrived in Greece and Rome. P. 158.
34. Languages (Indo-European and non-Indo-European) derived from Sanskrit or a Prakrit include Hatti, Hittite, Hurrian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Elamite, Assyrian, Arzawan, Luvian, Mitani, Phoenician, Phrygian, Zend, Persian, either Pashto or Dari (Poonai uses “Afghan”), the Caucasian languages (Poonai treats them as one language), Paleic, Greek, Latin, Celtic languages, Etruscan, Coptic, Armenian, Tocharian, Sogdian, Bactrian, Scythian, Albanian, Kurdish, the Germanic languages, the Baltic languages, the Slavic languages, and the Dravidian languages (described as “South Indian languages”). Pp. 65, 92, 102, 115, 119-21, 127, 134-35, 157, 160, 163, 171, 175-77, 189, 207, 222, 225, 231. (But note slightly different claims for Luvian, Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan, and Latin, see infra.)
35. Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, and Assyrian were “compatible,” using similar phonetic inventories, including Sanskrit consonants, and scripts, grammars, and vocabularies indicating descent from Sanskrit. Pp. 92, 182-84. (Obviously, he doesn’t know that Sumerian was an agglutinative isolate.)
36. Akkadian and Babylonian descended from Persian. P. 66.
37. The languages at the Behistun monument are Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. P. 175.
38. Old Persian cuneiform is alphabetic (with vowels) and correlates to a Devangari check that that’s what Sanskrit is written in] ancestor. P. 178.
39. Hieroglyphics date to the 8th Dynasty; hieratic to the 18th dynasty. Pp. 163-64. (Demotic he got roughly right.)
40. Hieroglyphics are a degeneration of Devangari [check that that’s what Sanskrit is written in]. P. 164.
41. A hieroglyphic script used by the Hittites before cuneiform descended from Luvian and was a degenerate form of Devangari [check that that’s what Sanskrit is written in]. Pp. 105, 191.
42. Hittite descended from Akkadian or Hatti. Pp. 66, 119-20.
43. Hittite was understood over a range from the Indus Valley to the Aegean and the Nile Delta to the Black Sea. Pp. 189-90.
44. Phoenician descended from Hittite (or from Sanskrit, Persian, or Akkadian) and contains many loanwords from Sanskrit. Pp. 66, 68, 116.
45. The Ugaritic cuneiform was used for Phoenician. Pp. 196-97.
46. Luvian descended from Sanskrit, Persian, or Akkadian. P. 116.
47. Lycian descended from Luvian. P. 116.
48. The Anatolian languages and Phoenician were “intercompatible,” and both used a digital system. P. 201.
49. Greek descended from Hittite, Phrygian, Arzawan, Hattic, Luvian, Phoenician, Mycenean Greek, and Sanskrit. P. 207.
50. Greek and Latin were influenced by Hittite and Phoenician. P. 66.
51. Consolidation of Greek from earlier dialects was influenced by Attic loanwords as a result of military alliances, but did not consolidate until modern Greek. Pp. 125, 210-11.
52. Greek phonetics were similar to Sanskrit, and Greek vowels borrowed outright. P. 130.
53. Aryas brought languages from Phrygia to Hellenic areas as early as the second or third millennia BCE. P. 126.
54. Lydian and Persian invasions brought languages related to Hittite, Hatti, and Luvian into Hellenic areas. P. 125.
55. Linear B is descended from Devangari [check that that’s what Sanskrit is written in]. P. 157.
56. The Linear B syllables each consist of an Indo-Aryan consonant and an Indo-Aryan vowel. P. 203.
57. The Greek alphabet descended from Devangari [check that that’s what Sanskrit is written in] and Luvian script as well as the Phoenician alphabet. P. 116.
58. Latin was influenced by Etruscan, Ligurian (identified as a Celtic dialect), Venetic (identified as an Indo-Aryan language), Illyrian, the Celtic languages, Greek, Umbrian, Oscan, and Sanskrit. Pp. 213-15.
59. Etruscan writing was in Luvian or Hittite hieroglyphic, and Etruscan was a mixture of Luvian and Hittite. P. 213-14.
60. The Mesopotamian languages of the early first millennium BCE were “uniform” and “compatible” as a result of common descent from Vedic Sanskrit. P. 96.
61. The various languages of Italy of the first millennium BCE were “intercompatible” as a result of common descent from Sanskrit. P. 134.
62. The following languages can be dated to the following dates. Pp. 226-27.
a. At least six major Indo-Aryan languages, not clearly identified, fourth millennium BCE.
b. Greek, 800 BCE.
c. Latin, 400 BCE.
d. Celtic languages, 500 BCE.
e. Germanic languages, 350.
f. Baltic languages, 1100.
63. The following historical and semi-historical figures’ names had Sanskrit cognates:
a. Mes Annipada, King of Ur, c. 2700 BCE (asserted cognate: Mahesh Annibal Das). P. 82.
b. Aannipadda, King of Ur, c. 2660 BCE (asserted cognate: Aham Annibal Das). P. 82.
c. Meskiag Nannar, King of Ur, undated (asserted cognate: Maheskar Varuna). P. 83.
d. Sargon I, King of Sumer and Akkad, undated (asserted cognate: Sarva-gun). Pp. 93, 104.
e. Naram Sin, King of Sumer and Akkad, undated (asserted cognate: Naram Singh). P. 93.
f. Hammurabi, King of Babylon, c. 2100 BCE (asserted cognate: Amaravi). Pp. 93-94.
g. Ur Nammu, King of Uruk, c. 2079 BCE (asserted cognate: Om Namah). P. 84.
h. Tabarnash, Knig of the Hittites, c. 1650 BCE (asserted cognate: Avinash). P. 186.
i. Tusrath, King of the Mitanni, undated (asserted cognate: Dasrotha). P. 95.
j. Artatama, Pharaoh, undated (asserted cognate: Ashwathama). P. 187.
k. Telepinush, King of the Hittites, r. c. 1500-c. 1450 BCE (asserted cognate: Tad Avinash). Pp. 109-10.
l. Burra Buriash II, King of Babylon, c. 1475 BCE (asserted cognate: Burra Buriah). Pp. 193-94.
m. Shubiluliubeliuma, King of the Hittites, r. c. 1380-1346 BCE (asserted cognate: Sabhi-se-bare-balwan). P. 111.
n. Shalmaneser I, King of Assyria, c. 1265 BCE (asserted cognate: Vishalman Assur). P. 113.
o. Tiglath Pileser I, King of Assyria, c. 1100 BCE (asserted cognate: Dowlat Pal Assur). P. 95.
p. Wasu Sharruma, King of Tabal, undated (asserted cognate: Basu Sharma). P. 114.
q. Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria, c. 838 BCE (asserted cognate: Vishalman Assur). P. 115.
r. Tiglath Pileser III, King of Assyria, c. 740 BCE (asserted cognate: Dowlat Pal Assur). P. 95.
s. Sargon, King of Babylon, c. 711 BCE (asserted cognate: Sarvagun). P. 187.
t. Shalmaneser IV, King of Assyria, undated (asserted cognate: Vishalman Assur). P. 95.
u. Sin Bal Attu, Assyrian governor of Babylon, c. 650 BCE (asserted cognate: Singh Bal Assur). P. 90.
v. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, c. 600 BCE (asserted cognate: Nabhuchanasar). Pp. 90, 96.
w. Nabonidus, King of Babylon, c. 540 BCE (asserted cognate: Naveni Das). P. 90.
x. Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, c. 290 BCE (asserted cognate: Purush). P. 136.
64. The following historical or semi-historical figures spoke Sanskrit or a Prakrit. P 155.
a. Wasu Sharruma.
b. Sargon.
c. Tusrath.
65. The Hittite ruling class spoke Sanskrit. Pp. 157, 189.
66. The following place names are Sanskrit in origin or have Sanskrit cognates (some of which are identified only by asserted cognate):
a. Sumer. P. 169.
b. Assyria (asserted cognate: Assur). Pp. 156, 222.
c. Akkad (asserted cognate: Aggar). P. 156.
d. Parthia. P. 156.
e. Persia. P. 156.
f. Elam (asserted cognate: Eyam or Ayam). Pp. 93, 156, 180.
g. Purushunanda. Pp. 103, 108, 222.
h. Kumani. P. 103.
i. Ahhiyawa (asserted cognate: Aham yah wah). P. 107.
j. Millawanda (asserted cognate: Mila varna). P. 107.
k. Mira. P. 107.
l. Luka (asserted cognate: Loka). P. 107.
m. Hapalla (asserted cognate: Hari pala). P. 107.
n. Tum-Mana. P. 107.
o. Kassiya. P. 107.
p. Narak. P. 107.
q. Marasantiya. P. 107.
r. Kushala. P. 107.
s. Kadesh. P. 107.
t. Keshovarna. P. 108.
u. Aleppo (asserted cognate: Alalah). P. 108.
v. Babylon (asserted cognate: Bhupalan). Pp. 108-09, 156.
w. Kuldeep. P. 222.
x. Marasantiya. P. 222.
y. Nerik. P. 222.
z. Ahhiyawa. P. 222.
aa. Mesopotamia (asserted cognate: Madhyam-pastaranam). P. 222.
bb. Harpala. P. 222.
67. The origins of the following place names not directly from Sanskrit:
a. Lycia, from Luka. P. 116.
b. Caria, from Karkisa. P. 116.
c. Mysia, from Masa. P. 116.
68. Cognates asserted as evidence of Sanskrit origins of various languages include:
a. Deepam (Hittite for oil lamp) and deepam (Sanskrit for lamp). P. 104.
b. Tripos (Mycenean Greek and Greek for three-legged pot) and tripes (Latin for three-legged pot) and tripadam (Sanskrit for three-legged pot). Pp. 157, 204.
c. Triowee (Mycenean Greek for three-handled) and tiriwa (Sanskrit for three-handled). P. 204.
d. Getorowe (Mycenean Greek for dour-handled) and chaturwa (Sanskrit for four-handled). P. 204.
e. Anowe (Mycenean Greek for handleless) and anowa (Sanskrit for handleless). P. 204.
f. Furnos (Greek for smoke), fumus (Latin for smoke), and dhumas (Sanskrit for smoke). P. 212.
g. Erythros (Greek for red), rufus (Latin for red), and rudhras (Sanskrit for red). P. 212.
h. Zend Avesta (title of Zoroastrian holy text) and chhand vida (Sanskrit for verses of wisdom). P. 170.
69. Latin and Sanskrit declension patterns are asserted as evidence of Sanskrit origin of Latin. P. 216.
70. The following words are predicted as Sanskrit loanwords:
a. Yahwah (Coptic name of God), and presumably (but not stated) cognates in other Afro-Asiatic languages. P. 163.
b. Ra (Egyptian god, predicted derived from Mitra, Hindu god). P. 163.

There’s a reason Poonai had to use what appears to be a vanity press for this book.

So, what’s your favorite linguistic claim by a kook?

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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Dan_ad_nauseam » Sat 26 Dec 2009 10:11 pm

Oops. Forgot to finish editing before I posted.

Where I said Devangari, substitute "an unidentified Indian script." Poonai is unclear which one he is referring to.

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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Jeisuke » Sun 27 Dec 2009 7:51 am

Yeah, there are a number of Linguistic Crackpots out there. My personal favorite is Clyde Ahmad Winters, who claims everyone and everything originated directly from Africa (Afrocentric World).....You've really got to do a websearch on this guy....he's worth a million laughs. The sad part is he has a number of believers and has even gotten some of his articles published in lingustic journals (so much for peer reviews).

One of his most ridiculous claims is that he deciphered the Epi-Olmec script and found that it was a dialect of the Mende/Mandingo language of West Africa, and that the Kikaku syllabary can be used to decipher Epi Olmec (the syllables are hidden inside the Epi Olmec glyphs).

He also claims that the Harappan culture originated in Africa. I think it would be fun to put Clyde and Premsukh and let them duke it out for the title of Linguarium Cracpotus Maximus.

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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby formiko » Mon 28 Dec 2009 7:07 am

This is something I read 20 years ago, and I can't give you a reference right now, but when I was an undergrad, I read a dissertation from a tenured professor of a college in Oregon which "proved" the vikings visited North America and intermarried with the Cree Indians. I remember one example of Historical Linguistics: "toboggan" to Old Norse road, path vagon Old Norse car, wagon

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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Stosis » Fri 22 Jan 2010 12:51 am

Formiko, you might hate me for saying this, but 20 years later it has been proven that Vikings did come to North America and likely established (or tried to) a short livid colony. As for linguistic evidence for this, I don't know. It seems unlikely since we know that they couldn't have been there long.

Personally I hate all "academic" crackpots. They discredit science and can be extremely dangerous both in the public's perception of science and, even more so when people actually believe them (I'm looking at you ID)

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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Delodephius » Fri 22 Jan 2010 1:07 am

I'm both sceptical of mainstream academians as well as those who they call "crackpots".

Also, in my personal view it is unacceptable to call someone a crackpot and/or his/her ideas and claims ridiculous, ludicrous or any other similar name. Using such words (with the intent behind them) simply makes me loose respect for the scientist who said it.
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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Talib » Fri 22 Jan 2010 1:36 am

If they completely disregard the scientific method and commit breaches of academic honesty (dubious sourcing, plagiarism, lack of peer review) then I don't think it's inappropriate at all.
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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Delodephius » Fri 22 Jan 2010 1:53 am

First of all calling someone a crackpot is impolite. Second of all it makes a scholar look unprofessional, in a way making him/her fall to the same level as the person they are calling a crackpot. To me it is outright barbarism.
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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Talib » Fri 22 Jan 2010 2:15 am

I agree it's unprofessional, but it can be justified.
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Re: Linguistic Crackpottery

Postby Dillon D » Fri 22 Jan 2010 3:16 am

Talib wrote:If they completely disregard the scientific method and commit breaches of academic honesty (dubious sourcing, plagiarism, lack of peer review) then I don't think it's inappropriate at all.


True, it can sound unprofessional. But. The academic world is filled with less-than-perfect people, and their ideas need to be exposed as false. NOW, you can call someone's ideas crazy without calling them a crackpot, unless their intent is to purposefully falsify information for whatever reason.
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