Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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Gadianton
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Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by Gadianton »

This post regards the substance of Stubbs' response and not the wager, epic as the wager was...

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeters ... oints.html

BoL is not satisfied with the lengthy response:
Brother of Logan wrote:This is very cool and I enjoyed reading the article. I was not able to see, however, how Stubbs addressed Hansen's general criticism. Hansen claimed that there is a method for determining a long-term "genetic" relationship among languages, but there is no accepted method for establishing a "borrowing" relationship except for showing that there had been close contact, like French and English. The cognates were not, according to Hansen, evidence of borrowing. They can only be evidence of a genetic relationship and since Uto-Aztecan began before Aramaic, there can be no relationship, genetically.
The Proprietor and bookie of Sic et Non responds:
DCP wrote:Perhaps you should post a comment on the Interpreter site, where Stubbs might respond.

As a logical matter, though, this is how it looks to me at first glance:

BofL: "Hansen claimed that there is a method for determining a long-term "genetic" relationship among languages, but there is no accepted method for establishing a "borrowing" relationship except for showing that there had been close contact, like French and English."

Granted that the matter is clearer when there is undisputed evidence of close contact, like English and French, Arabic and Persian, Arabic and Spanish, etc. But numerous apparent cognates or influences would seem to be evidence for either genetic relationship or contact.

BofL: "The cognates were not, according to Hansen, evidence of borrowing. They can only be evidence of a genetic relationship and since Uto-Aztecan began before Aramaic, there can be no relationship, genetically."

If statistically significant numbers of genuine cognates indicate either a genetic relationship or close contact and a genetic relationship has been ruled out, that would seem to point strongly toward close contact, even in the absence of other direct evidence for such contact.
Seems like we're back to square one, although I haven't surveyed Stubbs' response yet. "Sound laws" show genetic relation. Borrowing is put on the table by exclusion. That's the fatal point that seems to be missed when making the statement "genetic relationship or contact". If it showed either, then it would be a useless tool.

Or maybe I'm missing something also.

Symmachus?

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by Lemmie »

This is a point regarding the statistics; Stubbs incorrectly interprets Lyle Campbell’s results, and then uses his incorrect numbers to attempt to refute a section of Rogers‘ review.
Stubbs” wrote: 24. Connections between Mesoamerican languages and South American languages

Rogers claims that “any connections between Mesoamerican languages and South American languages have been definitively disproved,”70 referring us to Lyle Campbell’s American Indian Languages.71

...While Rogers cites Campbell’s book for his authority, Campbell actually seems to leave open a few possibilities.
Stubbs then incorrectly defines how Campbell determines probabilities:

Campbell provides his own assessments of several such proposals, giving a number within a 200-point range from +100 (definitely proven) to -100 (definitely not). Campbell gives the possibility of a connection of Misumalpan (in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador) with Chibchan (South and Central America) a +20, meaning a 60% chance (120/200).
And here is Campbell’s result:

The Misumalpan-Chibchan Proposal
+ 20% probability, 50% confidence
Stubbs is incorrectly defining a “+20” as “a 60% chance,” instead of as a probability of 20% that a relationship does exist.

He seems to be incorrectly understanding what a probabability means; it’s strength lies in its distance from zero, adding the sign only indicates whether the probability reflects a positive or negative relationship. For example, using Stubbs’ definition, a positive 20 (120/200) would be a 60% chance of a relationship, while a negative 20 (80/200) would be a 40% chance, also of a relationship. Stubbs does not seem to understand that a negative 20% and a positive 20% are two assessments of equal strength in predictability, just predictions in opposite directions, one is a 20% chance of a relationship, the other is a 20% chance there is NOT a relationship.

Campbell himself makes this clear at the beginning of the chapter Stubbs footnotes multiple times:

In each of the proposals considered here, I report my estimation of the strength of the hypothesis (the probability that there actually is a genetic relationship) and the level of confidence I feel is warranted in making this judgment. Percentages are given for both probability and confidence.

For example, the hypothesis that the Germanic languages are related would be assigned a probability of +100% and a confidence of 100%; the hypothesis that Turkish and Quechua are related would have a probability —95% and confidence 95%. The plus sign ( + ) indicates that the languages are more likely to be related than unrelated (or not demonstrable) (the larger the plus percentage, the greater the probability of relationship); the minus sign (—) indicates that it is more likely that no relationship exists than that one does exist (the larger the minus percentage, the less likely the relationship).

However, there is a danger in interpreting the pluses and minuses too literally; the difference between, say, a +5% probability and a —5% probability is not large, for both are on the borderline, where one cannot determine if it is more likely that the languages are related or unrelated (or, put differently, that any relationship that may exist has not been and perhaps cannot be shown). The difference is so slight that it would be misleading to present one language as related and the other as unrelated. A probability of 0% means totally uncertain— that is, the languages are equally as likely to be related as to be unrelated.

https://amerindias.github.io/referencia ... indian.pdf
His example about a positive and negative 5% being almost the same indicates he intends for distance from zero to indicate the strength of the probability. Stubbs use of a 200 point scale misses that point entirely. In Stubbs assessment, a zero % probability of a relationship or not is egregiously misinterpreted as a 50 % chance of a positive relationship!

Stubbs applies his misinterpretation in several examples:
72 [Campbell] gives much lower probabilities to Tarascan-Quechua (5%)73 and Maya-Chipaya (10%),74 the latter of which Campbell was the main critic after others had viewed the proposal favorably.75 I do not support any of the above.
Here are Campbell’s actual probability assessments:

The Tarascan-Quechua Proposal
-90% probability, 80% confidence


Maya-Chipaya
-80% probability, 95% confidence
Stubbs has misinterpreted two extremely negative %ages as representing Campbell giving them a slightly positive likelihood.


Stubbs continues:
Yet to none of the above does Campbell give 0% chance, as he does to some other proposals; and thus his assessments, though not [Page 259]supportive, are far from saying, as does Rogers, that all such possibilities are “definitively disproved.”
In fact, at times I am a stricter judge than Campbell, who gives the UA-Tanoan tie a 50% possibility.76
That is an absolutely incorrect assessment. Campbell gave the first two examples percentages far, far worse than a 0% chance of a relationship, he gave them, respectively a 90% and 80% chance of NOT having a relationship! Additionally, he gave the UA-Tanoan relationship exactly what Stubbs says Campbell never did: a ZERO percent chance of a relationship. From Stubbs’ footnote:

Aztec-Tanoan
0% probability, 50% confidence
The Aztec-Tanoan hypothesis, which attempts to link Uto-Aztecan and Kiowa-Tanoan....
Stubbs continues the error:
.... I would give a possible UA-KT genetic tie 10%, much less than Campbell’s 50%.77

This error by Stubbs is something that the Interpreter peer review process should have noted and corrected.

Oddly enough, in the very next paragraph, Stubbs CORRECTLY uses Campbell’s percentages when they refute a different point:

. Therefore, Campbell puts Subtiaba with Otomanguean and gives that tie a 95% probability.80 So not only is Rogers’s and Sapir’s Hokan-Subtiaba tie discounted by Campbell, but Hokan itself is a hypothesis “still undemonstrated and controversial,” says Campbell.81
Campbell’s percentages:

Tlapanec-Subtiaba as Otomanguean
+ 95% probability, 90% confidence

Using statistics incorrectly when they don’t help your case, then suddenly using them correctly when they do is NOT a good approach. Again, I blame this on the peer review process. Even a copy editor or a sharp fact checker could have caught this.

Maybe the Interpreter editors were in a rush to publish?

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by Symmachus »

Brother of Logan wrote:This is very cool and I enjoyed reading the article. I was not able to see, however, how Stubbs addressed Hansen's general criticism. Hansen claimed that there is a method for determining a long-term "genetic" relationship among languages, but there is no accepted method for establishing a "borrowing" relationship except for showing that there had been close contact, like French and English. The cognates were not, according to Hansen, evidence of borrowing. They can only be evidence of a genetic relationship and since Uto-Aztecan began before Aramaic, there can be no relationship, genetically.
Correct.
DCP wrote:Perhaps you should post a comment on the Interpreter site, where Stubbs might respond.

As a logical matter, though, this is how it looks to me at first glance:

BofL: "Hansen claimed that there is a method for determining a long-term "genetic" relationship among languages, but there is no accepted method for establishing a "borrowing" relationship except for showing that there had been close contact, like French and English."

Granted that the matter is clearer when there is undisputed evidence of close contact, like English and French, Arabic and Persian, Arabic and Spanish, etc. But numerous apparent cognates or influences would seem to be evidence for either genetic relationship or contact.

BofL: "The cognates were not, according to Hansen, evidence of borrowing. They can only be evidence of a genetic relationship and since Uto-Aztecan began before Aramaic, there can be no relationship, genetically."

If statistically significant numbers of genuine cognates indicate either a genetic relationship or close contact and a genetic relationship has been ruled out, that would seem to point strongly toward close contact, even in the absence of other direct evidence for such contact.
Well, we can also rule out the possibility of close contact, can't we? I mean, one scenario requires rewriting the archaeology of two continents over two millennia; the other requires rewriting the history of two language families. Take your pick!

Gadianton wrote:
Fri Jun 05, 2020 5:33 pm
Seems like we're back to square one, although I haven't surveyed Stubbs' response yet. "Sound laws" show genetic relation. Borrowing is put on the table by exclusion. That's the fatal point that seems to be missed when making the statement "genetic relationship or contact". If it showed either, then it would be a useless tool.
Bull's eye! as the apologists like to say. Regular sound change implies genetic relationship; violation of regular sound change indicates borrowing (among some other possibilities).

Stubbs, in a manner somewhat redolent of his name, simply refuses to admit that any critic has even the slightest point. That kind of stubbornness tells a tale. And it leads him to some yarns, like when he writes:
Stubbs wrote:However, Syriac and Coptic should not be added to the count, because Syriac is simply Aramaic. Early/Old written Aramaic is limited, whereas a great deal of Syriac literature exists, and Syriac is not removed from its ancestor Aramaic like Spanish is from Latin but is a dialect very similar to Aramaic. Syriac should be counted as Aramaic; most of what we know of Aramaic is in the descendant dialects.

Misleading, or written by someone with a very tenuous grasp of the history of Aramaic dialects. There is a great deal of Egyptian/imperial Aramaic not far removed from the period when Lehi retired to Costa Rica—why doesn't Stubb limit himself to that? It would help his case. The reason is that he wants to be able to pick as he chooses and he has much more material to work with in Syriac—he admits this openly!—but it's not true that "most of what we know of Aramaic is in the descendant dialects." That doesn't even make any sense (perhaps he means most of the literature comes from Syriac). Aramaic exhibits dialectical differences from its earliest records near the turn of the 1st millennium BC, but the differences are not incidental. For example, let us consider Syriac. Syriac was an eastern dialect of Aramaic (northern Syria and Mesopotamia, so Iran/Iraq area) that had several features contrasting against western Aramaic dialects in Palestine/Israel. It's most distinctive features developed centuries after the Lehites went to Costa Rica, but the issue with Stubbs's use of Syriac is that he imports late features into a supposedly earlier Aramaic dialect in the west. Syriac has slightly different verbal forms (in the imperfect) from earlier and more western dialects; it has different demonstrative pronouns from those found in Imperial Aramaic (closer in time to Lehi); on a morpho-syntactic level, it has also largely elided the differences between definite and absolute forms (and even the construct form is not that productive in Syriac, in contrast to early forms of Aramaic), yet Stubbs quotes the later Syriac forms:
Most languages make nouns from verbs and make verbs from nouns, though some do so to a greater degree than others. In English we have ‘hoof it’ for ‘walk’; and ‘she mirrors her mother’s behavior’ for ‘she behaves like her mother’ from the noun ‘mirror’; and ‘he bicycled to Bluff’ for ‘he rode/pedaled a bicycle to Bluff’. These are called denominalized verbs because a nominal (noun) is made to serve as a verb. Even ‘pedal’ is a denominalized verb from the noun ‘pedal’. The term de-nominal verb means ‘from-noun verb’.
In the change from Semitic to Uto-Aztecan, many nouns were denominalized to become verbs. In fact, Uto-Aztecan *kuppa ‘shine (as stars)’ is a denominalized verb from the noun mentioned above:
Syriac kawkb-aa ‘star-the’ > UA *kuppa ‘shine (as stars)’ wherein the consonant cluster *-kb- > *-pp- as we talked about above, and the vowel a assimilated to w in *-aw- > -u-.
That is from section 1.17 of his book. Notice he has first wrongly analyzed the Syriac (because the definiteness was no longer a productive feature of Syriac, so it is not "star-the" but simply "star") and then implied that this Syriac form of an Aramaic word was borrowed into Uto-Aztecan along a phonologically predictable path. On a generous reading, he simply assumes the form existed in an earlier Aramaic dialect (not impossible). But it's worse. At section 1.22 he includes a pronoun chart with the Syriac enclictic pronoun -na, which his bolding indicates was borrowed into Uto-Aztecan. Well, the use of enclitic pronouns of this sort is marks later (and more eastern) dialects, so this feature is anachronistic.

The example he refers to in his rebuttal is another problem:
Stubbs wrote:Hansen accepts the phonological match of CN no’pal-li < Aramaic/ Syriac n’bl except for saying that I ignored the Nahuatl glottal stop. Actually, I highlighted the Aztecan glottal stop, as it matches exactly the Aramaic/ Syriac glottal stop; in fact, all four consonants are exactly in the same order in both, and the terms I bolded for primary comparison were CN no’pal-li and Syriac n’bl. For a fuller semantic picture, I mentioned Hebrew nebel ‘skin-bottle, skin’ (most frequent use is nebel yayin ‘skin- bottle of wine’). His main objection is with the semantic shift, though the shift is not that great: ‘skin, flask, bottle (of wine, most often)’ > ‘prickly pear cactus plant (whose fruit is used to make alcohol)’.
Hmmm. Well, interesting that he doesn't have the Syriac vowelled. Why do you suppose that is? To highlight the glottal stop was his intention, but there is an interesting thing about Syriac orthography (as opposed to earlier forms of Aramaic): it often uses the consonant aleph (the "glottal stop") to mark the vowels of borrowed words. When I look this up in Sokoloff's lexicon (the standard), I discover that, in fact, this spelling with the aleph (the "glottal stop" on which Stubbs's argument hangs) is from the marginal notes written by Bar Hebraeus in the thirteenth century AD to explain what he thought was a Greek word nevel in 1 Samuel 1:24:
"And she took him up with her, when she had weaned him, with a three-year-old bull (with stopping of the second t>"—Greek: three-yearling —"and a skin of wine"—Greek: a nevel, i.e., a measure of one hundred and fifty xestai which are put into two wine skins; or, as the Cypriotes say, a great cruse.
Here is the Greek text of 1 Sam 1:24 that Bar Hebraeus is referring to:
καὶ ἀνέβη μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ εἰς Σηλὼμ ἐν μόσχῳ τριετίζοντι καὶ ἄρτοις καὶ οἰφὶ σεμιδάλεως καὶ νέβελ οἴνου καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς οἶκον Κυρίου ἐν Σηλώμ, καὶ τὸ παιδάριον μετ᾿ αὐτῶν.
What is happening here, then, is that Bar Hebraeus is spelling this n'bl (the ' = aleph, the "glottal stop" that excites Stubbs) because he is treating this as a Greek word. Elsewhere in the Syriac corpus and in earlier centuries, it is spelled without the aleph, so no glottal stop, which is also what you have in Hebrew. It weakens Stubbs's equation between "CN no’pal-li < Aramaic/ Syriac n’bl." It also illustrates his general misuse of Syriac, because he treats it as simply interchangeable with Aramaic generally ("Aramaic/Syriac") while hanging his case on very late forms. In this case the Syriac evidence that gives him that glottal stop is at best a rough transliteration of word in the Greek bible (itself a transliteration of a Hebrew word) that is from the 13th century, closer to us in time than to Lehi. Moreover, the fact that this is a four-consonant word should have tipped him off that this needed some investigation, since most Semitic words are built on roots with three consonants. The older evidence, the Hebrew, has only three.

Every time I give a 20 minute glance at his bits of evidence, I find this same kind of sloppiness. I have posted plenty of examples of the years here. All of this is without even getting into the wider theoretical problems (which Gadianton has neatly and accurately distilled), let alone his special pleading on the semantics, which is always the refuge of the amateur linguist.

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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As usual, the *real* peer review occurs right here, on Mormon Discussions. Kudos to Dr. Shades for providing this service to the Mopologists. Don't you think they should donate $500 to the cause?

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by Symmachus »

A quick thing that just occurred to me about Stubbs's "CN no’pal-li < Aramaic/ Syriac n’bl" equation: the glottal stop is what he is hanging this on, but as I say the fact that there are four consonants should have tipped him off that he needed to think more about this. The Hebrew maintains three consonants, typical of Semitic languages, in a way that fits neatly with Hebrew phonology, and as we know the Masoretic text is so conservative that they did not make changes to that text. In fact, there are glottal stops that survive in Hebrew spelling but were no longer pronounced (the word for "head," for instance). But the glottal stop was nevertheless still a feature of Hebrew phonology with relatively few restrictions. So, we are expected to believe that the Hebrew text used by the compilers of the Septuagint, as well as the Masoretes, included an innovative form that had lost the glottal stop, but on the other hand we are asked to believe that the marginal notes of a 13th century AD commentator on the Greek text miraculously preserved a spelling in Syriac that kept that ancient glottal stop once used by the Nephites, even though in the intervening centuries Syriac writers had not used that glottal stop. Ok.

In any case, the 13th century spelling only makes sense as a rough transliteration (which it obviously is in context) and not a preserved archaism in Syriac. The glottal stop had practically disappeared by the time we get a sizeable Syriac corpus anyway except when doubled or between vowels. It would have been very strange to have it preserved. Initial glottal stops, for instance, are elided across morpheme boundaries, and the example of the enclitic pronoun -na that Stubbs think showed up in Uto-Aztecan is a great example of this, because this short form of the pronoun is spelled with a glottal stop (as ena, which is the long form of the pronoun) that was not pronounced because it was appended to the ends of words as a suffix. So he implicitly accepts the phonology of Syriac when it helps him get the Uto-Aztecan connection he wants, but then he ignores it—as long as it still gets him the Uto-Aztecan connection he wants.

In other words, Stubbs misreads the Syriac word n’bl as preserving a glottal consonant, but that would not fit with Syriac phonology. So, again I return to my question: why he doesn't include the vowels in this example—whereas he does add vowels to other examples taken from Syriac—is this suppression deliberate or, worse, incompetent?

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by I have a question »

Perhaps some of these points should be put into the comments section of the Interpreter article, to allow for Stubbs or the articles Editor (Peterson himself) to respond...

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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I have a question wrote:
Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:45 am
Perhaps some of these points should be put into the comments section of the Interpreter article, to allow for Stubbs or the articles Editor (Peterson himself) to respond...
Or perhaps issuing an invite to Magus Hansen to respond on either that board or Shades board? I imagine Symmachus or Shades would be good at such an invite.

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by Gadianton »

Here is part of the response from Robertson to BoL that was injected into Sic et Non:
Robertson wrote:Collin: A common thread among the objections to Stubbs 2015 is that predictable outcomes in borrowing are basically irrelevant because they are not systematic, which is your point. This claim cannot be taken at face value, because thousands of studies of "nativization" of speech
That wasn't his point. His point was that systematic sound changes show descent, not borrowing. Maybe Robertson has now convinced him that this, instead, was his point and he'll get his testimony back?
Robertson wrote:It has long been observed that language borrowing involves a process,“nativization,” which may be described as bringing the phonological content of forms of the donor language into systematic alignment with the phonological disposition of the recipient language. There is a huge literature on this with thousands of articles treating the predictability of the phonological passage from donor to recipient language. The only possible explanation for this long-observed consistency is to be found in the assessment of the phonological content of the donor and the inherent and rigid phonological laws that govern the phonological production of the receiving language.
Was this taken on previously? I don't remember. Grover and Robertson both gave examples (in response to my sock puppet* at Interpreter and to others) in linguistics literature that sort-a could possibly fit the bill for what Stubbs is doing by analogy, but my impression then was that Stubbs wasn't doing anything strictly textbook, nor has he alluded to anything textbook that one could simply look up to get a primer on, and then delve into Stubbs' work. Does Stubbs ever say, "Hey guys, I'm talking about nativization here as you should all be aware!"

My biggest objection to Robertson was that they couldn't pinpoint exactly what Stubbs is doing in reference to established linguistics work, and if he's inventing an original method, then start by just saying so.

Has Robertson corrected course here? Is "nativization" what we should have been looking into all along?

(okay I seem to recall something about 'sound changes in language borrowing, but they are under-determined, and without direct evidence of contact, they can't establish borrowing.)

*it goes without saying that my SP only tried to distill the most important and tractable points Symmachus made over here. And appreciation to the continued efforts of Symmachus and Lemmie to explain things in this thread.

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by Lemmie »

“Gadianton” wrote:
*it goes without saying that my SP only tried to distill the most important and tractable points Symmachus made over here. And appreciation to the continued efforts of Symmachus and Lemmie to explain things in this thread.
Thank you for adding my name, Gadianton, and obviously Symmachus is doing the heavy lifting here! My complaint is an error on Stubbs’ part, yes, but it is the kind of error that good editing or even proofreading catches, let alone the peer review Interpreter says they do. It is worrisome that Stubbs would make such a large error in interpreting basic statistical analyses within his own discipline, but it is equally damning that the error has been in Stubbs’ response to Rogers’ review since the first time it was published last year, and that in the half a year or more of Interpreter’s implied peer review process no one had him correct it.

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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Gadianton wrote:
Sat Jun 06, 2020 9:52 am
And appreciation to the continued efforts of Symmachus and Lemmie to explain things in this thread.


Seconded.

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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Doctor Scratch wrote:
Fri Jun 05, 2020 10:34 pm
As usual, the *real* peer review occurs right here, on Mormon Discussions. Kudos to Dr. Shades for providing this service to the Mopologists. Don't you think they should donate $500 to the cause?
This is a fine idea. Lemmie, the statistics expert, and Symmachus, the linguistics expert, have provided valuable criticisms of Stubbs' response. Then, there is the complete take down that happened with the Dales' wishful thinking article that could have been done in private had experts such as the above been consulted prior to publication. However, Coach P knows this and deliberately chooses to have believing persons perform what he calls "peer review."

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by Symmachus »

Gadianton wrote:That wasn't his point. His point was that systematic sound changes show descent, not borrowing. Maybe Robertson has now convinced him that this, instead, was his point and he'll get his testimony back?
Robertson
It has long been observed that language borrowing involves a process,“nativization,” which may be described as bringing the phonological content of forms of the donor language into systematic alignment with the phonological disposition of the recipient language. There is a huge literature on this with thousands of articles treating the predictability of the phonological passage from donor to recipient language. The only possible explanation for this long-observed consistency is to be found in the assessment of the phonological content of the donor and the inherent and rigid phonological laws that govern the phonological production of the receiving language.
Hmm. Well, I guess we can consider it progress that Robertson has moved beyond his fallacious appeal to the "comparative method," which is a discovery tool of the genetic relationship between one language and another. Still, whether it's a deliberate suppression of the full picture or incompetence—personally, I hope it's not the latter—what he presents here is not the full story. It is simply not the case that borrowing follows laws in the way that Stubbs has laid out his evidence in order to advance his argument. Borrowing involves alignment, as Robertson correctly terms it, but it is not systematic in that it follows a system-wide pattern. Otherwise, to pick some obvious examples, you wouldn't get doublets in English like guarantee/warranty or guard/ward, and you wouldn't have the diversity of phonological realizations that occur with the Spanish suffix -illo/-illa (flotilla and guerilla and armadillo on the one hand vs. tortilla and quesedilla on the other). It is inconsistent and non-systematic, which is one indicator of borrowing (among others). The issue is not the predictability of phonological transfer but the predictability conditioned by constraints.

For example, English phonology has one kind of unvoiced "s" sound, which we spell with "s." Arabic has two kinds of "s" sounds (called unvoiced sibilants). Now, English is more constrained than Arabic in this regard, because it only has one unvoiced sibilant in its phonological system. Therefore, we can predict that English speakers, when borrowing a word from Arabic and aligning Arabic phonology to English, will use the English unvoiced sibiliant for both the Arabic unvoiced sibilants. Thus, English uses the same sound in sofa and safari, even though both of these reflect different "s" sounds in Arabic (the history of these words in English is a bit more complicated, but the point still stands because the languages that served as intermediaries, Turkish and Swahili, have the same phonological constraints as English in this regard). On the other hand, how would you predict things the other way, English to Arabic? In certain cases, the proximate vowels as perceived by Arabic speakers will condition how they perceive the English "s" sound, but in other cases (particularly with mid back vowels and consonants), there is variation, and you really can't predict. All you can say is that it will be perceived as some kind of "s" sound. Another instructive example is the Arabic realizations of "p," a phoneme which it doesn't have. In many words borrowed from Persian, it was realized as an "f" because Persian is "p" aspirated (hence, the province of Pars—where we get the word "Persia" from—becomes Fars in Arabic, which was re-borrowed into Persian, so that you get Farsi as the name of the language of Persia). But English, too, has an aspirated "p," so why do Arabic speakers today perceived it as "b" but not an "f" like borrowings from Persian? As in the case of borrowings from Spanish into English, the reasons are often extra-linguistic or at least socio-linguistic, and it would be a mistake to structure these as laws in the way that Stubbs does with UA and Semitic, or to deduce the existence of dialects based on them. If we were to apply Stubbs's method, we would imply that people who say quesadilla and tortilla speak a different dialect of English from those who say armadillo and guerilla.

In any case, the constraints I refer to are not only the limits of a given phonological system but also the constraints of the phoneme being transferred. In order for a speaker to adapt non-native phoneme to his/her native phonology, there must be some element of the phoneme that already has some phonetic linkage that a speaker perceives. For example, there is an old joke among Arab-speaking English learners: an Egyptian in New York, desperate to park his car, rolls down the window to ask a pedestrian, "where I can bark?" to which the ____ New Yorker says "wherever you want, just don't bite." Arabic speakers often articulate an English "p" as a "b" because "p" is foreign to Arabic phonology, as I mentioned, but English "p" and Arabic "b" are distinguished only by two features, voice and aspiration, and they are otherwise articulated in about the same way (they are both labial plosives). The nature of one phoneme evokes that of another because of similar features. On the other hand, when there are few or no shared features, you get variety that is not predictable. Arabic, for example, has three sounds that English speakers perceive as some kind of "h" sound, but one of them is particularly difficult for English speakers especially before consonants, the voiceless pharyngeal fricative. It occurs in the name Muhammad, and in that case English speakers just treat it as an English "h," with which it shares some characteristics. But it also occurs in the name Ahmad, and in that case you get it realized as a "kh" sound (a sound not native to English but easy to imitate for English speakers for various reasons) or as a "k" (so one used to hear of some terrorist named "Akmad"), or it is deleted (i.e., it is simply ignored). Can Robertson tell me what "systematic" law operates here? I doubt it. The point is not that you can predict how a phoneme in language A will be realized in language B but that you can isolate a range of possibilities derived from the constraints of the phonology against the constraints of the phoneme: if language A has "t" sound then any "t" sound in language B will likely be realized with that and not, say, as an "f" sound (leaving aside, for the moment, constraints imposed by syllable structure, prosody, and morphology). Even then it can be tricky, because historical or social forces can intervene, or it is also possible that the phonemes will simply be borrowed into the new language without any "alignment." This happened with Berber, which borrowed several phonemes from Arabic which it did not previously contain.

According to Stubbs, the Uto-Aztecans did not borrow any phonemes from the Egypto-Hebraeo-Aramaic of the Nephite settlers, despite borrowing a great deal of their core vocabulary from the Nephites. That in itself typologically improbable: I'm supposed to believe that the mixed language that became Uto-Aztecan was in such deep contact with Nephitish that Uto-Aztecans borrowed the Nephitish words for "head" and "finger" but they could never articulate the Nephitish "b" despite its differing from Uto-Aztecan "p" by only a single feature and despite the fact that there are Uto-Aztecan languages with that phoneme that Stubbs culls evidence from? Nothing is impossible. Certainly not for him. But there is a reason for that: the basic inventory of phonemes that he reconstructs for Uto-Aztecan contains about 18 phonemes. Combining Egyptian, Aramaic (at any period!), and Hebrew yields between roughly 35 phonemes, depending on how you treat certain consonants and how you treat vowels and diphthongs. It's roughly twice the size of the Uto-Aztecan set (in addition to that, Stubbs isolates clusters of consonants, as well as consonants and vowels in different positions, in the Egypto-Hebreao-Aramaic hybrid spoken by the Nephites, but we don't need to get into this to illustrate the point). What this means is that each of his U-A phonemes gets multiple possible matches with each of the Nephitish phonemes: it's the equivalent of double dipping. So consider what his U-A phoneme "t" does: it was the realization of 1) Proto-Semitic "d-h," 2) Semitic "d," 3) Semitic initial "r," and 4) Egyptian initial "r" (the articulation of which is actually unclear and changed over time). So, the Uto-Aztecans realized all 4 Nephite sounds as a "t."

But, wait—there's more! In the very section of the introduction where Stubbs summarizes his rules/laws, he uses Uto-Aztecan words that he reconstructs with an "r." If that were so, why didn't the Uto-Aztecans simply realize Nephite "r" as their "r"? Thus, we see the very first entry:
Stubbs wrote:The other voiced stops also devoice, that is, Semitic b, d, g > UA p, t, k; also Semitic q > k:
(606) dubur "buttocks, rear" > UA tupur, "hip, buttocks"
That looks compelling, doesn't it? Well, firstly, you'll notice he doesn't tell you here that "dubur" is an Arabic word, and he simply assumes that it existed in Hebrew or Aramaic, which it most certainly did not, since this structure did not exist in Hebrew or Aramaic (there are syllabic and prosodic constraints that would prevent it; Stubbs ignores it here but elsewhere makes phonological rules/laws based on the structure of certain Syriac words—if he had picked the Arabic form, his law wouldn't have worked; see his use of Syriac kawkba—ignoring spirantization!—rather than Arabic kawkab in section 1.17). But as everyone knows, the root d-b-r in Hebrew and Aramaic, while distantly related to the Arabic, has no semantic relation to it and generally refers to 1) speaking and 2) grazing, and only the word debīr means anything like "behind": it is the word used for the inner sanctum of the temple. I wonder how many of the pious Nephites who built that temple would appreciate the connection with "buttocks" that Stubbs has hit on here by appealing to the Arabic. But I digress: because the real issue, as you can plainly see, is that he has used a word in Uto-Aztecan with an "r" phoneme, which makes us wonder how the Uto-Aztecans heard it as "t" sound. One could wiggle out of that in all sorts of ways, but what it illustrates the inherent meaningless of the exercise, since we don't even know what "r" means in some of these contexts (Egyptian) and Stubbs isn't really clear whether it existed in Uto-Aztecan as such. No matter—just lump it all in with a "t" as is convenient. Except of course when it isn't—as in the case of an "r" at the end of words, since no "t" existed in that environment in Stubbs's reconstruction of Uto-Aztecan, he decides that the expected "r" just disappeared rather than becoming a "t." All this despite the fact that "r" apparently existed in some words in final position in Uto-Aztecan ("UA tupur, 'hip, buttocks'").

The short of it is, each of the reconstructed Uto-Aztecan phonemes gets to play multiple roles in the play. Just as English has one phoneme of "s" to fill in for the two of Arabic, Uto-Aztecan apparently has one to capture four phonemes of Nephitish. That is very convenient. And when it is not, there are further convenient rules to explain whatever inconveniences that have arisen. It would be amazing if it weren't so typical of every single argument made by the apologists.
Gadianton wrote:Was this taken on previously? I don't remember. Grover and Robertson both gave examples (in response to my sock puppet* at Interpreter and to others) in linguistics literature that sort-a could possibly fit the bill for what Stubbs is doing by analogy, but my impression then was that Stubbs wasn't doing anything strictly textbook, nor has he alluded to anything textbook that one could simply look up to get a primer on, and then delve into Stubbs' work. Does Stubbs ever say, "Hey guys, I'm talking about nativization here as you should all be aware!"
Stubbs is not very clear in his 2015 work, except for a few phrases here and there work what he is arguing for; at section 1.18 he says that Uto-Aztecan is a language mix, and then you get the closest thing to a thesis:
Nevertheless, the intensity of the contact during French rule in England caused English to change rapidly, and to end up as quite a language mix of Old English and French. Yet that kind of mixing of languages and peoples happens regularly. In fact, the Norman French themselves were a mixture of at least four peoples: the Viking (Germanic) Norseman (source of Norman) who settled their area of France, and they mixed with the French, who descend from the Celtic Gauls, the Germanic Franks, and the Romans who brought the Latin language which in that area became French. UA is also a language mix, as shall be seen later.Such mixing happens often among Native Americans as well. In my classes, I ask my Navajo students how many of them have all four grandparents’ being Navajo. Few raise their hands. Then I ask how many have one or two grandparents who are of another tribe or ethnic group. Most raise their hands. Most have one or two grandparents who are Ute or Hopi or Walapai or Sioux or Hispanic or Irish, etc.
Besides words being borrowed, language influences alter the grammar of a language as well. These grammatical changes are sometimes harder for native speakers to identify or even perceive, because, as we said previously, we mostly do grammar subconsciously, and so when bilingualism is prevalent in a border area between languages, the subconscious grammatical patterns of the two tongues can and do influence each other slowly enough that native speakers are hardly aware. For example, English whom, as accusative (object) form of who, is nearly dead as a last survivor of the Old English case system, yet most English speakers do not know how to use it and so do not, or if they do, they often use it incorrectly, because the case system in which it fits or which used to be part of the language, has all been lost for centuries.
This is all very applicable to a hypothesized arrival of Mediterranean speakers in ancient America, because the languages would differ enough that it is to be expected that such an arrival in a very different language environment would change very much. The derivational detail being lost would not be surprising, just as the Germanic case endings were lost in Middle English. The simplification or loss or fossilization of some verb conjugations would be expectable, just as English lost most of its verb conjugations.
There is a thesis buried in this fluff somewhere. Some of this is simply incorrect: the constant appeal to the example of English and French among Stubbs and his admirers reveals just how ignorant they are of the history of English. French had very little influence on English until the 14th century, three hundred years after the Norman conquest, as anyone who has ever read Middle English earlier than Chaucer knows well (see Layamon's Brut, for example, or Ancrene Wisse or any other number of English texts before the mid fourteenth century). in fact, the greatest influx of French and Latin spanned the 15th century to the 18th century because French held the dominant place in international life that English holds today. Excuse me for thinking that a linguist like Stubbs or John Robertson should remember that historical linguistics involves knowing history as well, and that they should know more about the history of English than the average History Channel viewer, especially if they are going to use it as a touchstone for their own claims.

Anyway, I truly wonder how many of his Navajo students speak a mixed language of Sioux and Irish—which is what we should logically expect, if this is supposed to be a corollary to his thesis—but in any case you will notice how he slides between discussing the mixing of human beings and the mixing of languages. The one does not necessarily imply the other: I myself am married to someone from land quite distant from Parowan whose native language is not English or even Indo-European, yet our offspring does not speak a mixed language derived from my native English and my spouse's native language, even though both are spoken at home.

To be clear, a mixed language is not the same thing as borrowing; one is the result of language contact, the other is but one of many processes that occur when languages are in contact. What I have seen is Stubbs/Robertson playing around with these terms as it suits them.
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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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Symmachus wrote:I wonder how many of the pious Nephites who built that temple would appreciate the connection with "buttocks" that Stubbs has hit on here by appealing to the Arabic.
It's probably just a Mopologetic Freudian Slip: ala "Metcalfe is Butthead." Also: LOL!
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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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Professor Symmachus, you offered here an enlightening peek into a field about which I admit to knowing just slightly more than nothing.

In doing so, you've opened the door to what I feel is the most appropriate reaction to Stubbs' work, which is to ignore it out of hand until he manages push that work through the arduous process of publication in a respected in-field journal. Period.

Why?

Because it can't be trusted otherwise. He may be right, or he may be wrong about one point or other. But that's irrelevant. If the whole of his process, methodology, and bringing clues together into a conclusion fails the standards of experts in his field, then his work is at best pseudo-science, and at worst, deceptive bunk. Or as Midgley might put it, "rubbish."

I listened to the entirety of Stubbs' audio podcast, in which he reads all of his "44 points" Interpreter paper. It is alluringly detailed, and I have to admit that some of the correspondences he brings up sound convincing and believable. When he applies Baysian probabilities to support those correspondences with alarmingly impossible odds of his discoveries being coincidence, woah baby! It seals the deal, right?

Is it just me, of is this new "1 in a trillion" argument a newly discovered apologetic maneuver? If so, it's a poor commentary on the state of the art.

This all reminds me of something a smart friend of mine realized after starting his career in the business world. It is this: when faced with resistance to a budget request, you can often win by overwhelming the conversation through brute force, bringing so much data, analysis and specialized terminology to bear, that the decision maker becomes confused to the point of conceding because (a) you obviously know more than he/she does, and (b) your conviction is high.

Stubbs falls into using a similar fallacy deployed by pseudo-scientists (including the "Greatest Guesser" authors), precisely because it makes something sound more scientific, believable, and all based on a brute force attack of overwhelming and, to the lay person, confusing data and analysis. The casual reader can easily get caught in the trap of debating probabilities, when the real problem lies deep in the ground, in the fundamental assumptions and guiding framework.

After listening, I re-read the introduction to his paper, and found this:
Stubbs wrote:While skepticism has always been the initial reaction, the 40 Uto-Aztecan specialists, linguists, and Semitists who received preliminary editions to preview it offered favorable assessments, silence, skepticism, or contempt, but none refuted it with specifics.
(emphasis mine)

Wow! This is the last thing a credible academic would ever write about his/her scholarship -- that reviews are mixed, "but none refuted it with specifics."

The statement is a damning reveal: Stubbs knows that believers will take his statement to mean, simply, that the skeptics are skeptical because of what the conclusion means (ie, that the BofM is literally a true history), but no-way, absolutely not because of bad scholarship. After all, skeptical scholars have nothing better to do than, and indeed they relish every opportunity to invest their time debunking bad scholarship. They're not lazy, they are just haters -- heathens.

But Stubbs kills his own credibility with that single caveat -- that "none refuted it with specifics."

Serious scholars, in any field, don't waste time going point by point on bad scholarship. Why debate the health of the bark on every tree when the forest is clearly dying of fungus?

By the way, Stubbs added a similarly subtle faith-bolstering (but hand revealing) proviso in the previously (2019) published version at BMSLR, containing parts of what became this Interpreter article:
Though skepticism was always the initial reaction, those who actually examined the data, among both LDS and non-LDS linguists, UtoAztecanists, and Semitists, offered favorable assessments or silence.
Stubbs is sounding the mating call of pseudo-scientists.

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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I'm grateful, good doctor, if my little commentary is intelligible.

Stubbs's work is black hole of special pleading: no light escapes.

He has written 400 self-published pages of what are, effectively, a series of data dumps on those uninitiated. If you are coming to historical linguistics for the first time, much of it seems prima facie convincing (e.g. Semitic dubur vs. U-A tupur), but the fact is that the core of his claims are contained in a series of rules/laws that occupy a few pages. The rest is mostly commentary on those few pages, and when you delve into that commentary you see just how much special pleading there is (just a few that I've pointed out: an anachronistic Arabic word here and there; a violation of one of his rules leads him to invent another to explain the discrepancy; using a 13th century Syriac word and other late forms here while ignoring evidence much closer in time to the Lehites in other places; simply ignoring one's own rules so that final "r" drops away except when it doesn't; ignoring Semitic syllabic patterns as evidence in this case but totally ignoring it in another; and on and on). His final appeal is to authority ("those who actually examined the data...offered favorable assessments") or deformed version of an appeal to authority ("..or silence," taken to mean, what exactly—agreement?), without actually receiving any such support except from fellow believer John Robertson. Hugh Nibley was also very fond of claiming that people like Matthew Black, Klaus Baer, W. F. Albright and other such luminaries were shocked into silence by his dazzling revelations about the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham. They usually admitted this to him over dinner or in the car on the way back to the airport following a talk at BYU. I'm sure it's true.

And yet the response to anything is: "no one has refuted anything." Well, this must be the greatest piece of scholarship since Hugh Nibley wrote Lehi in the Desert, which I believe was also met with silence or contempt, and I doubt any of the Interpreter crowd would say it's been refuted. I do see critics or skeptics saying, "hmmm, some of this seems actually compelling," but I have yet to see Stubbs admit that his 400-page book contains a single error. Mashallah!

Qur'ān 11.13.
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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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One last thing.

The game Stubbs is playing is a rigged one. Up above Gadianton hit on a significant point:
Gadianton wrote:Borrowing is put on the table by exclusion. That's the fatal point that seems to be missed when making the statement "genetic relationship or contact". If it showed either, then it would be a useless tool.
A clue that you are dealing with a borrowed word is that it doesn't fit patterns otherwise expected in the language, even if it has been "nativized." For example, we know that the Latin name "Rufus" is not nave and is borrowed from a neighboring language family (Sabellic) because Latin words don't contain "f" between vowels. What became "f" in Sabellic is "d" in Latin or "b" depending on whether an "r" sound is involved. So while the name has been "nativized" to Latin, it's unexpected phonological pattern shows that it was borrowed. This is something apologists have had a hard time grasping before (e.g. the name Gidgidonni and their erroneous understanding of the Canaanite vowel shift).

For the kind of scenario Stubbs is offering we would have to know more about Uto-Aztecan, the supposed recipient language of the Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-maybe Arabic hybrid spoken by the Nephites: how can you tell the difference between a native Uto-Aztecan word and something that is not Uto-Aztecan? If you can't answer that, you can't actually say whether it was borrowed.

How does Stubbs know all these borrowed words, which supposedly constitute the mixed language in the first place, really were borrowed? What is his U-A baseline against which he is comparing these borrowed words? If he is using anything he wants from Uto-Aztecan (which appears to be the case), then he is effectively claiming that Uto-Aztecan genetically descends from the Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-sometimes Arabic hybrid, and all the criticisms leveled at that version of his thesis apply. The current version, the mixed language, is an attempt to evade some of those criticisms while reaping the rewards of applying the comparative method, and yet if a mixed language means Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-sometimes Arabic on the one hand and Uto-Aztecan on the other, he should tell us more about this Uto-Aztecan in the second column, the language which supposedly received all of these borrowings and adapted them to a pre-existing phonology. What is evidence for that pre-existing phonology? If his answer is something like "pre-Uto-Aztecan" without offering any specifics that isolate just what that was, then again, we are back to claiming something that is effectively genetic descent because it would mean that the Nephitish hybrid was the intermediary filter through which all of our knowledge about a pre-Uto-Aztecan flows.

Now, here's the trick: if there is such a corpus of Uto-Aztecan words that are not impacted or influenced by the Nephitish hybrid (which would be necessary to establish any borrowing), then what were the criteria for exclusion from that corpus? Obviously, anything that doesn't match his sound rules! Anything of Uto-Aztecan that doesn't fit his rules and is therefore without a source in his hypothetical Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-sometimes Arabic hybrid—well, that gets to be excluded as counter-evidence against his claim. How convenient.

The only way to make a case that could be considered (not saying convincing, just considered) is if he were to have a corpus of the pre-existing Uto-Aztecan recipient language, or even just features of it, that was reconstructed along criteria independent of his thesis of the Nephite hybrid donor language. If he can't do that, the whole thing is rigged, and all we can talk about his misuse or misunderstanding of the data (which is what I've mostly illustrated). It is the sort of thing that simply cannot be refuted because of the terms upon which his thesis is founded. Thus, I am not impressed by his claims that it has not been refuted. Scholarship is about understanding; faith is about belief. Scholarship is open to refutation on its own terms; belief is sustained by reaffirmation according to its own terms. I am not bothered at all by people's faith or by anyone's scholarship. But Stubbs's work remains, like all apologetic attempts at scholarship, ultimately an act of faith and not actually work of scholarship.
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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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It would be interesting for a BYU graduate student to hypothesize the relationship between the Norse-Icelandic language and its past relationship with the ancient Dwarvish language based on names in the Elder Edda.
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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hans

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“Symmachus” wrote:
For the kind of scenario Stubbs is offering we would have to know more about Uto-Aztecan, the supposed recipient language of the Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-maybe Arabic hybrid spoken by the Nephites: how can you tell the difference between a native Uto-Aztecan word and something that is not Uto-Aztecan? If you can't answer that, you can't actually say whether it was borrowed.

How does Stubbs know all these borrowed words, which supposedly constitute the mixed language in the first place, really were borrowed? What is his U-A baseline against which he is comparing these borrowed words? If he is using anything he wants from Uto-Aztecan (which appears to be the case), then he is effectively claiming that Uto-Aztecan genetically descends from the Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-sometimes Arabic hybrid, and all the criticisms leveled at that version of his thesis apply. The current version, the mixed language, is an attempt to evade some of those criticisms while reaping the rewards of applying the comparative method, and yet if a mixed language means Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-sometimes Arabic on the one hand and Uto-Aztecan on the other, he should tell us more about this Uto-Aztecan in the second column, the language which supposedly received all of these borrowings and adapted them to a pre-existing phonology. What is evidence for that pre-existing phonology? If his answer is something like "pre-Uto-Aztecan" without offering any specifics that isolate just what that was, then again, we are back to claiming something that is effectively genetic descent because it would mean that the Nephitish hybrid was the intermediary filter through which all of our knowledge about a pre-Uto-Aztecan flows.

Now, here's the trick: if there is such a corpus of Uto-Aztecan words that are not impacted or influenced by the Nephitish hybrid (which would be necessary to establish any borrowing), then what were the criteria for exclusion from that corpus? Obviously, anything that doesn't match his sound rules! Anything of Uto-Aztecan that doesn't fit his rules and is therefore without a source in his hypothetical Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-sometimes Arabic hybrid—well, that gets to be excluded as counter-evidence against his claim. How convenient.
Symmachus, thank you for your continuing posts, they are fascinating to read!

This section above cleared up a question for me, if I am interpreting things correctly. My concern was that Stubbs’ sets find “matches“ across 30 or so UA languages with some overlap but not all, so, given such a broad set of possibilities, even if the analysis is done correctly, how do you rule out the vastly increased possibility of coincidental matches?

To me, either there had to be an underlying commonality among the 30 languages, which I see you are defining above as a “U-A baseline” or a preexisting “pre-uto-azrecan,” or, the specific consideration of a very much larger probability of coincidental matches. Or, far less likely, something like multiple individual meetings of semitic speakers and various UA languages.

Here’s where the math side of the problem kicked in for me, because it seemed that Stubbs was assuming a starting condition of a semitically-influenced UA language group, and then using his matches to conclude ....a semitically-influenced UA language group, which I think was what you are saying here:
If he is using anything he wants from Uto-Aztecan (which appears to be the case), then he is effectively claiming that Uto-Aztecan genetically descends from the Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-sometimes Arabic hybrid, and all the criticisms leveled at that version of his thesis apply.
Regarding the pre-existing issue:
“Symmachus” wrote: yet if a mixed language means Hebrew-Aramaic-Egyptian-sometimes Arabic on the one hand and Uto-Aztecan on the other, he should tell us more about this Uto-Aztecan in the second column, the language which supposedly received all of these borrowings and adapted them to a pre-existing phonology. What is evidence for that pre-existing phonology?
This seems like a really extreme version of the sharpshooter fallacy, where you draw the bullseyes on the side of the barn after you see where the arrows land. The extreme part of it is that if the barn is the pre-UA language that is not extant, then the barn is invisible, and Stubbs is claiming that ANYWHERE an arrow sticks is by definition the barn, and therefore a match. All he has to do is add the bullseye. Why? because, as he assumed in his preexisting conditions, arrows only stick in the side of a barn.

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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

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Some really good stuff continuing to flow in. I had some time tonight to take a couple passes at the denser material. I don't totally get it but the picture is filling in. The part about borrowing vocabulary but not phonemes was especially interesting, as was the examples of dealing with multiple S <> single S. And if there's an r then why isn't it just r?

eventually i'm going to have to make a flowchart or something.
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Re: Stubbs Responds to Hansen

Post by Gadianton »

Lemmie wrote:Here’s where the math side of the problem kicked in for me, because it seemed that Stubbs was assuming a starting condition of a semitically-influenced UA language group, and then using his matches to conclude ....a semitically-influenced UA language group, which I think was what you are saying here:
Well, what do we mean by influenced? if he assumes a starting condition of Nephite, then I think there is this very problem you mention about coming away with lots of coincidental matches. I think this is a key criticism of deriving "distant genetic relations". Why not assume Russian and see how you can line it up? It lines up as far as it lines up and then no farther, just like Nephite. Give Symm a couple days to come up with model for Russian descent and see how it fares against Nephite.

But Stubbs is emphatic that he's NOT showing descent from Nephite (therefore not subject to the problems of doing 'distance'). So I think Symm is also saying that if Uto-Aztecan is this undefined glob, then he's claiming decent, whether he wishes to or not.

Stubbs position is that the "influence" is borrowing and not descent. If this were geology, then descent from one language to the next would be like layers of sediment on the earth's crust. languages devolve in predictable ways as the speakers move away from each other like ice and wind erode rock. Features of language not accounted for by descent would be like uncomformities in the geologic record. Borrowing would be an interruption to the process of descent.

So what does it mean to have matches that show a feature of language was borrowed from Nephite, if you don't first know that feature can't be there by descent?
FARMS refuted:

"...supporters of Billy Meier still point to the very clear photos of Pleiadian beam ships flying over his farm. They argue that for the photos to be fakes, we have to believe that a one-armed man who had no knowledge of Photoshop or other digital photography programs could have made such realistic photos and films..." -- D. R. Prothero

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