Montag, 30. Juli 2012

Burushaski and Indo-European?

In the past few months, I've seen several mentions of Ilija Časule’s theory that Burushaski is related to Indo-European. See Memiwayanzi for some discussions, comments and links. I repost here a short summary, which I originally posted on the ZBB, of an article by John D. Bengtson and Václav Blažek in the “Journal of Language Relationship (JLR)” No. 6 (August 2011) in which they look at the evidence presented in Časule’s 2003 JIES article. Bengtson and Blažek dismiss the evidence as not satisfactory and argue for including Burushaski in the putative Dene-Caucasian group. The bigger part of the article is taken up by demonstrating the Burushaski-DC relationship and arguing that there is much more evidence vor the latter than for a Burushaski – IE relationship. As I know almost nothing about both Burushaski and the languages of the DC macrofamily, I cannot really judge the quality of that evidence. I'll give a short summary of the points Bengtson and Blažek make concerning Časule’s evidence for a Burushaski – IE relationship; judging by what they adduce, the evidence is pretty feeble and Časule’s argumentation is not up to basic comparatistic standards. (All following quotes are from Bengtson & Blažek's article):
Phonology At first glance Časule’s comparison of IE and Burushaski phonology seems impressive. An ample number of examples is cited, and superficially it seems that Časule (henceforth “Č”) has made a good case for a correspondence between IE and Burushaski phonology. However, on closer examination a number of problems appear. (a) Some “Bur” words cited for comparison are actually loanwords from Indo-Aryan or Iranian languages Thus, dumáṣ “cloud of dust, smoke, water” (p. 31) is clearly borrowed from Old Indic dhūmáḥ “smoke, vapor, mist” (even the accent is the same); púrme “beforehand, before the time” (p. 34) is isolated in the Bur lexicon and looks like a derivative of OI *purima- > Pali purima- "earlier" (CDIAL 8286, cf. Eng. former); badá “sole, step, pace” (p. 40) appears to be from OI padám “step, pace, stride” (CDIAL 7747), and perhaps others. (b) Some comparisons adduced in support of the correspondences are sematically tortuous if not utterly dubious. For example, IE *dheu- “to die, to lose conscience (sic)” ~Bur diú “lynx” (p. 36); IE *h2erĝ-ṇt-om “white (metal), silver” ~Bur hargín “dragon, ogre”, etc. (c) The proposed correspondences are not consistent and do not form a coherent system. For example, IE ĝ, ĝh are said to correspond to Bur g (voiced velar stop) or ġ (voiced uvular fricative) (p.39), apparently in free variation, but in Bur bérkat “summit, peak, crest; height” (pp. 30, 35) IE ĝ is matched with Bur k (voiceless velar stop), in Bur buqhéni “a type of goat” (p. 31) IE ĝ is matched with Bur qh (aspirated uvular stop or affricate), and in Bur je, já “I” (p. 72) IE ĝh is matched with Bur j [ʒ´ = ]. IE *kw is said to correspond to Bur k (voiceless velar stop) (p. 38), but in Bur –śóġut “the side of the body under the arm, bosom” (p. 30) it is matched with Bur ġ (voiced uvular fricative), while in Bur waq “open the mouth, talk” (p. 38) it is matched with Bur q (voiceless uvular stop). PIE *w becomes Bur w in waq “open the mouth, talk” (p. 38), but b in budóo “rinsing water, water that becomes warm in the sun” (p. 31). For Č the Bur uvulars (q, qh, ġ) are merely variants of the velars and do not form an historical class of their own. (…) (d) Č totally overlooks (or minimizes) many distinctive features of the Burushaski phonological system. These features include (1) the retroflex stops, (2) the phoneme /y./, the uvular consonants, (3) the tripartite sibilant contrast /ṣ ~ ś ~ s/, and the cluster -lt-, and the t- ~ -lt- alternation (corresponding, we think to Dene-Caucasian lateral affricates).
B&B adduce a table of the Bur. consonant system (p. 27), which is indeed more complex than the PIE system, so any hypothesis would need to explain how we get from the simpler PIE system to the more complicated Bur system. Especially, as Časule seems to derive Bur from Phrygian, a daughter language of PIE – if Časule would assume a Proto-IE-Burushaski (PIB), he could of course postulate the more complicated system for PIB and derive PIE from there. He doesn’t seem to do either. B&B over the next 16 pages go into the distinctions shown in (d), make some remarks how Časule ignores them and adduce material for showing how well the Bur material fits into a DC reconstruction.
Some extracts from the Morphology part of the article:
Nouns In the Burushaski nominal system the case endings, as admitted by Č himself, are the same for both singular and plural. Bur therefore has an agglutinative morphology, not the inflected morphology typical of IE. We find the Bur case endings far more compatible with those of Basque and Caucasian, including the compound case endings found in all three families.
Now, in principle it’s possible that a IE language would develop towards an agglutinative morphology – IIRC, Modern Armenian has tendencies in that direction, but there it can be due to the influence of neighboring Caucasian languages. AFAIK, the Indo-Iranian languages in the Burushaski area don’t show such morphology, so it’s more likely that this morphology is inherited than an areal feature, which would argue against an IE origin. B&B then point out that many Bur nouns are bound forms that can only occur with a possessive prefix – again not an IE feature, but they argue that Yeniseian (a language they include in the DC macrofamily) nouns are similar in this regard and even reconstruct the possessive prefixes 1Sg. (Bur a-, Ket ab-, PDC *aƞa) and 2Sg. (Bur gu-, Ket ug-, PDC *uxGu-). They continue:
This type of construction is totally alien to IE patterns, as is the enormous number of different plural suffixes: about 70, as noted by Č (p. 23). So is the multiple class system of Bur., which is far more similar to class systems in Caucasian and Yeniseian than to gender in PIE.
B&B then show the Bur personal pronouns for 1st and 2nd person, here indeed the only pronouns resembling IE are the 1st person plural pronouns featuring a stem mi- / me-. They write:
Here we see that the Bur system is suppletive, with different sets for direct forms and oblique forms, in both first and second person. Č (p. 72) attempts to connect Bur je, já with PIE *H1eĝ(H)- but he can do so only by violating the sound correspondence discussed above (PIE *ĝ, ĝh = Bur g, ġ)! He further tries to connect Bur un (~ um, uƞ ) (Etymolist note: direct form of the 2nd sg.) with PIE tuHxom, emphatic form of tuHx = tū-, but again by requiring another unprecedented change: t > d > 0!
For good measure, they adduce the pronoun systems of the neighbouring IE languages (Dardic, Indo-Aryan, Iranian), which look very different from Bur.
Interrogative pronouns As stated correctly by Č (p. 74), Bur interrogative pronouns are built on bases containing the labials /m/ and /b/. Č connects the Bur interrogatives with the rare IE interrogation stem *me/o-, attested only in Anatolian, Tocharian, and Celtic.
That actually doesn’t look too bad to me – a feature attested only in these three languages has a good chance of being old.
We must point out, however, that the *mV- interrogative is much more richly attested in DC than in IE, and furthermore the m ~ b alternation is attested in DC, but not in IE:
(Examples from DC follow)
Verb In the verb the Bur variance from IE is just as pronounced as in the noun. The “typological similarity” claimed by Č (p.75) is only in regard to vaguely similar systems of aspects and tenses, without any material parallels pointing to common genetic origin. The verbal endings (Č, pp. 75-77) are similar only in that both Bur and IE have endings containing n and m, thogh there are no real correspondences between them. Most striking is the existence of the Bur template verbal morphology with as many as four prefix positions preceding the verb stem.
Table 14 on p. 48)
It is well known that Proto.IE had few verbal prefixes. The Bur prefixal template is far more compatible with languages such as those of the Yeniseian family, especially the well-documented verbal morphology of Ket, and of the extinct Kott; Basque, Caucasian (especially West Caucasian), and Na-Dene also seem to preserve distinctive features (multiple noun classes, polysysthesis, extensive verbal prefixing of pronominal and valence-changing grammemes) of the postulated Dene-Caucasian proto-language: …
Again, I’m not really able to judge the DC evidence, but even at first glance it looks much more similar to Bur than what Časule seems to adduce for a Burushaski-PIE relationship. At least anyone who judges the DC evidence as too weak would even more have to reject Časule’s hypothesis. Next B&B look at the numerals. They show the Burushaski system, which doesn’t look much like an IE derived system. Only the number “one” is a possible candidate for an IE link:
Now as to Č’s proposed material correspondences between Bur and IE numerals: the first, comparing PIE H1oi-no-s “one” with Bur hen / hin (class I, II) ~ han (class II, IV) ~ hek / hik (counting form) “one” is almost plausible, except that the form is characteristic of Western IE (Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Balto-Slavic), while forms with different suffixes H1oi-ko-s and H1oi-wo-s gave rise to the Indic and Iranian words for “one” shown above.
This looks indeed plausible, and it isn’t unthinkable that an IE language with Western characteristics would show up in NW India. After all, before the discovery of Tocharian, no IE scholar would have assumed that a centum language would be found in the Tarim Basin. But one numeral looking similar could be chance. And the word for “1” seems to be the only plausible candidate among the numerals:
For Bur *alto “two” Č suggests comparison with IE *H2al- “other” + ordinal suffix *-to-, in spite of the fact that this is not an ordinal but a cardinal number, and that the “suffix”-to- appears nowhere else in the Bur numerals.
B&B argue that “Bur /lt/ is a distinctive cluster that can be traced back to PDC lateral affricates” and compare alto to numerals in various DC languages. Whatever the merit of these comparisons, Č’s proposal is certainly weak.
Next, Č attempts to derive Bur altámbo “8” from PIE *oḱtō(u) “8”, “with a change of ak > al under the influence of the Bur numerals for 2 and 4” (p.75) In view of the holistic relationship of the Bur words for 2, 22, and 23, …, it seems unlikely to us that all the other IE numerals would be discarded and only “8” retained, with this odd change.
(Here B&B refer back to an earlier discussion where they showed how the numerals 2, 4, and 8 build on each other in Burushaski.)
Finally Č (p.75) tries to connect Bur hunti “9” with PIE *H1newṇ “9”, “with dissimilation”, presumably to eliminate the first nasal.
B&B argue that the numeral can be etymologized internally in Burushaski as “one from ten” and that the Burushaski numeral system has features that link it with DC languages. In any case, IMO it would be strange if Burushaski would have replaced its IE numerals from 3 to 7 and kept 8 and 9; normally, the lower numerals are more stable than the higher ones. In a final chapter B&B look at the lexicon, showing that almost none of the basic lexicon of Burushaski looks plausibly IE and arguing that many items can be linked to DC. As they don’t refer to any etymological proposals by Časule here, it seems that he hasn’t made any in the area of the basic lexicon, although it is in this area where one needs to look for evidence for genetic relationship, as the basic lexicon is normally the most stable. In total, from B&B’s argumentation it appears that Č totally ignores the phonological, morphological, and other systems of Burushaski; that he just picks elements that look IE, and even for those needs to assume many ad-hoc phonological developments and far-fetched semantic developments. Some of these might be acceptable if there otherwise were a solid bedrock of systematic relationships – after all, even in clearly IE languages there are phonological irregularities and strange semantic shifts -, but they are not a sufficient fundament to prove a genetic relationship between Bur and IE.