Moved: Researching lexical core of Proto-Indo-European

Miscellanea Learning Proto-Indo-European Moved: Researching lexical core of Proto-Indo-European

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    AvatarAlone Coder
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    Hello Carlos! I’m searching for the lexical core of Proto-Indo-European. My position is as follows:

    – if PIE has existed as a language, its core lexicon was used in all dialects.

    – the core lexicon changed over time, but the roots unitially used in it are likely to remain in core dialects with some semantic shift. Peripherial dialects are more prone to vocabulary change (some of them can be even adopted by non-natives).

    – Armenian, Albanian, Germanic are peripherial due to their unique morphology. They also give little material as compared to Indo-Iranian, Balto-Slavic, Greek, and Celto-Italic. (This can be easily verified by counting pages in the index of LIV.) If we measure lexic distance by taking a constant number of roots from each branch (I tried 800 roots randomly selected by means of an electronic table) and counting pairwise matches, Germanic is again peripherial. (Its closest relative is Celtic, #2 is Italic, #3 is Baltic, and none of them counts German as closest, in their turn.)

    First I tried to extract the common lexicon from dictionaries, but there were too few roots common to all main branches.

    However, I’ve found that many Slavic and Greek words were not used for comparison at all. The reason is historical – initially indo-europeanists searched for cognates in bilingual dictionaries (mostly around Latin), then started to use polyglottic erudition (mostly around their own German, Dutch, or English), then developed phonetic rules (mostly around Sanskrit), then composed etylomogical dictionaries for individual branches using the data of previous steps. In that very order. This way Slavic and Greek are historically overlooked despite the abundance of material. And the Leiden dictionaries don’t help. I leafed through them, there are almost no new cognates, they only removed some of previously accepted cognates. And it looks like their project is not alive, but was closed in 2015.

    Using a routinely search method, mostly for roots starting with *g, *gh, *g’, *g’h, *gw, *w, I have already found around 500 roots common to 4 main branches. Proportions currently tell that there will be around 1300 such roots. (The review is currently in print, and the tables are available at my website. The method is described there in detail.) However, the full list will take around 10 years with my own speed.

    The Proto-Indo-European lexicon of your project is currently constructed like Pokorny, LIV and other similar dictionaries: a root is accepted if it’s found in some 2 or 3 languages. This is prone to random matches. This is also bad for an interlingua-like project (unfamiliar roots, everywhere). Is it possible to change the framework now?

    Carlos Quiles
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    @Alone Coder, Thank you for your message.

    The core idea of a Modern Indo-European language is to follow the mainstream reconstruction of PIE. The reason for this is precisely to avoid having a thousand Interlinguas or Esperantos being constantly created by different people to improve it. If we want it to be used, we can’t risk having a thousand. I know it’s difficult to accept one version, especially because the field is neither unitary nor static, so we also try to keep an eye on new developments to adapt it whenever necessary.

    Some conscious and potentially risky choices on our part are e.g. our preference for avoiding laryngeals and “palatovelars”, both decisions made because of their controversial nature (too long to explain here, you have probably read about it here and elsewhere). With regards to vocabulary, my aim has always been to select North-West Indo-European related ones, but Fernando’s lexicon chooses mainstream ones, as you say. I don’t think you can easily select which Indo-European languages are core ones, although I am sure he will be open to review vocabulary that consistently appears in more languages with the same meaning, to be used instead of other, less common words that he might have picked for the dictionary.

    Anyway, I decided long ago to let Fernando López-Menchero – who is formally trained on Classics and on Indo-European linguistics – take all decisions on linguistic matters. I suggest you contact him at [email protected], he might be very interested in having help with the lexicon, and maybe he can help you with yours at the same time. You can also use our Facebook Modern Indo-European group to discuss specific reconstructed vocabulary.

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