Comparative Semitic Linguistics: A Manual by Patrick R. Bennett

By Patrick R. Bennett

Because the name exhibits, this detailed source is a guide on comparative linguistics, with the examples taken completely from Semitic languages. it really is an leading edge quantity that remembers the sooner culture of textbooks of comparative philology, which, even though, completely handled Indo-European languages. it's suited to scholars with no less than a 12 months of a Semitic language.

by way of some distance the most important part of the ebook are the 9 wordlists that offer the information to be manipulated by way of the coed. Says reviewer Peter Daniels, the wordlists "constitute a different source for all of comparative linguistics--a massive volume of uniform information from a number of comparable languages. they might be precious for any classification in comparative linguistics, not only for these particularly in Semitic."

Scattered during the textual content are 25 routines in response to the wordlists that supply a very good creation to the tools of comparativists. additionally incorporated are paradigms of the phonological platforms of ten Semitic languages in addition to Coptic and a sort of Berber. A bibliography that courses the scholar into additional analyzing in Semitic linguistics completes the quantity.

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Simple and easy to grasp, the model is useful in formulating other hypotheses about linguistic prehistory. Unfortunately, this is not the way language relationships really work. In reality, linguistic differentiation begins before there is a real separation of communities, and linguistic contact, with mutual in˘uence, persists long after two languages are differentiated. Lexicostatistics necessarily re˘ects this reality. The vocabulary that we ˜nd shared by two languages derives in part from common inheritance, in part from borrowing between the two languages (in either direction), in part from borrowing (by both) from other languages, and we have no easy way to differentiate sources.

When we look for a conditioning factor for this set of correspondences, we ˜nd none. There is nothing in the shapes of the Syriac words containing t to support a split in Arabic. We therefore postulate two source consonants, to which we assign the symbols *Q5 and *t respectively. We assign *t to the set in Table 8 because the languages compared show identical re˘exes. While we could use any symbol not already in use for the correspondence t : z, we pick *Q5 to re˘ect the voicelessness of Syriac t and the fricative nature of Arabic z (an emphatic dental fricative for many speakers).

But if no two agree, we will not take the results seriously. The Linguistic List Vocabulary lists supply the raw material for most of the techniques we will use. It is, of course, possible to compare anything. One can (and does) compare phonological systems, or in˘ectional markers; one can (and does) compare syntactic patterns. But vocabulary is most often the focus because of the large number of items available and the manageable size of the items. The total number of units in any phonological system is small; in the Semitic languages, the total for a speci˜c language may be as low as 20 or as high as 35.

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