Saturday, December 29, 2012

haud violates *μμμ

hau máli videntur (Pseudolus 141)
So what's going on with haud? Is it that hinky first syllable allows for violations of *μμμ rule? I'd say so, given that it's monosyllabic. But then along comes Plautus, and throughout Pseudolus he routinely clips the d off of haud. Once he does that, he prevents a *μμμ violation. I wonder if the clipping is an artifact of stress in spoken Latin. Does haud carry no stress in ordinary speech? Does the lack of stress make it desirable to clip a mora off? Or is haud somehow clitic in the same way that Greek particles are thus making it desirable to clip off a mora? If haud is somehow clitic, why didn't the ancient grammarians mention this?

I hate it. More questions than answers.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Stress-based meter in Latin

It's not all about complicated mora stuff. Post-classical Latin uses a simple stress-based meter. Here's an overview of stress-based meter before I get into how mora might be a better way at figuring out meter in Latin.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reading Plautus

I've read Plautus before, but this time I'm doing it 21st century style: on a computer. Well, not entirely. I'm also using a Bristol commentary. Anyway, it's new for me.

My problem is that I really like reading on paper. I grossly prefer a book. Call me old school. But I've also been spoiled by Geoffrey Steadman. Have you seen his Greek commentaries? While I don't need the extensive support in Latin, I like having it available. Especially for vocabulary. I understand the value of looking up words, though the power of extensive reading outweighs that. Call me crazy.

Anyway, I'm reading Pseudolus. For fun. My goal is to finish it this week. Here's my progress bar, so you can hold me to my goal. I'll be updating.

1337 / 1337

So why do we set up our readers in such a way as to discourage reading for fun? Why do the very people who love Latin the most seem to be publicly hostile to reading for fun?

End note:
75 / 1335 on Monday
137/1335 end of night Monday (not strong progress, is it?)
230/1335 end of night Tuesday
370/1335 end of night Wednesday, I may not finish this week
537/1337 Thursday evening, I may read a bit more tonight
766/1337 end of night Friday
904/1337 Saturday evening
1337/1337 following Wednesday, holidays got in the way, but I'm done.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mora and accent

Since I'm on about Latin phonology as of late, I might as well talk about accent and mora. I found a paper talking about it. Lehman says this:
P12.  Latin word accentuation
     1. The weight of the last syllable is stipulated to be one mora.
     2. Word accent falls on the third-last mora.
     3. If the word is shorter, word accent falls on the first mora.
While this does not answer the question of whether the mora is a primitive or a derived unit of Latin phonology…
But I don't like the notion of counting the last syllable as one mora for accentuation purposes. It screws up poetic scanning and junks up the whole rest of the system of mora counting. It also fails to account for words that have exceptional accent locations, like illūc.

Making a slight modification to Lehman's rules clears the whole mess up. I propose this:
1. From the last syllable onset position (whether filled or not), count back two moras.
2. Stress the syllable with the mora penultimate to the last onset.
3. If no penultimate mora, stress the mora before the last onset. 
Here's why I like this: No exceptions. Here it is in action. To make things clear, I've turned the ultimate syllable onset red as well as the moras that are counted.

Standard orthography IPA with syllables IPA with moras indicated Onsets and mora count Stress placed
Antepenultimate stressed syllable paenitet paɪ.nɪ.tɛt paɪμμ.nɪμ.tɛμt paɪμμ.nɪμ.tɛμt 'paɪ.nɪ.tɛt
Penultimate stressed syllable amāre a.maː.rɛ aμ.maːμμ.rɛμ aμ.maːμμ.rɛμ a.'maː.rɛ
Ultimate stressed syllable illūc ɪ.lːuːk ɪμlμ.luːμμkμ ɪμlμ.luːμμkμ ɪ.'lːuːk

Presumably the first two rows look like standard action. The last row needs some explaining. First, the /lː/ is part of the second syllable, but it is also a participant in the previous syllable for the purpose of mora. I split it in the IPA with moras indicated column to make the bisyllabic participation explicit. So where do I get off on calling the final /k/ the onset of the ultimate syllable?

Well, for those of you paying attention to your Bennett's, check this:
6.3. When the enclitics… -ce… are appended to words…
And that is exactly what the situation with illūc is. The -c at the end is a remnant of the -ce enclitic. So the actual situation is that the word was originally illucce. Both the ll and the cc, as /lː/ and /kː/, would be ambisyllabic. Ok, so there's some sleight of hand going on by invoking the /k/ at the end of illūc as part of the onset of a non-pronounced syllable, but it kills the irregularity in Lehman's mora-based rule and syllable-based accentuation rules generally. (That said, now we've got a violation of *μμμ. Dammit, nothing works.)

Or am I missing something? I can't help but feel like I'm missing something when I'm putting forward a new idea.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tense/lax vowels redux

Well. Here's an expert speaking. Or rather writing. Here's the quote to save you the trouble of clicking through.
Short vowels (except a) were generally more lax, and were nearer to each other in articulatory space than their long counterparts. They form a non-peripheral group. The long vowel system was more spread out, and the individual vowels (except ā) had a generally tenser articulation. They form a peripheral group. (p. 251)
Now, I don't know who Philip Baldi is, but I may have to find out. I'm deeply curious to find out what he is basing his suggestion of a tense/lax distinction on. It's a very clean and uses a preexisting phonological distinction. The other nice thing is that it makes Allen's double triangles in Vox Latina make much better sense.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

*VVV? No, *μμμ

Well, I found what I was looking for. I was down the right trail with my suggestion that *VVV was a constraint in Latin. The problem is that I wasn't going far enough: I needed to take it all the way to the mora.

While searching, I found a research paper that focuses on six constraints. Brennan, the author, clearly has sunk more time in than I have. He went far enough to get to *μμμ (at least in syllables that aren't word initial). Makes sense to me. What's cool is that it fits in nicely with what Allen suggests for syllable weights.
canem ➝ [kanẽ:]
And that is ok. The [e] is one mora and the [:] is the other. But then
canēs ➝ [kane:s]
Wait. Isn't that last syllable eμμsμ? No. According to Brennan, /s/ and /n/ aren't moraic. So we've really got is eμμs. And that's not violating *μμμ. So far so good. It gets better. Sort of.

*μμμ solves the [ju:li:] problem quite nicely. In the nominative we lose nothing, and the constraints explain it all.

* μμμ



After all [juμμμʊμs] never has more than three moras in a row—even if the /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ are in separate syllables. But in the genitive we violate * μμμ, though admittedly across the syllable line.

* μμμ

So /juμμμiμμ/ packs three moras into the last two syllables, which, while it is allowed, seems not to be favored. But when we move to the dative we get this.

* μμμ



Three moras. No deletion. My suggestion is that /ɪ/ and /i:/ are somehow considered to be the same. And their orthography and presentation in textbooks would suggest that. The existence of stuff like nihil/nīl, pronounced [nɪhɪl̴] and [ni:l̴], also suggests that /ɪ/ and /i:/ are related quite closely.

The constraint of *μμμ  answers some questions, but brings me back to my initial question of just what is the nature of the relationship between long and short vowels in Latin? Something is afoot. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pleasure reading

Between kids and school and teaching, I feel like there's not a whole lot of time for pleasure reading. It's all just too much. So now that I have turned in my official last bit of homework, I need to pick something to read. 

I've got all sorts of actual books piled up. I'm thinking Mark Walker's Hobbitus Ille would be fun. I've also got a copy of a few of Plautus's plays kicking about I should read one. I've also got part of the Odyssey kicking about. I started in on it in September, but school quickly quashed that idea. But now I've got time.

So here's my pleasure-reading plan. Hopefully not too ambitious.
Week 1: Hobbitus Ille, a few chapters
Week 2: Pseudolus, the whole thing
Week 3: Book 9, OdysseyWeek 4: Something fun and new

Deleting the perfect v

In the last post I looked at syncopation in perfect verb forms. And then I remembered poor īre. It syncopates too, but it doesn't seem to have a theme vowel. So we get this.
īvī → iī
īvistī → īstī
īvit → iit
This reveals something about the v-deletion. First, *VVV is seemingly broken by . Second, if v deletes and takes ī to i, then something really odd, though by no means without parallel elsewhere, is going on with īstī. But then it doesn't happen with iit. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

But I got another reminder yesterday in class. v-deletion is even more widespread. Remember nōrit? That's right.
nōverit → nōrit
So now we've got -vi- and -ve- deleting. Now we've got some patterns to go hunting for. The question is this: can I find a -- or -- that deletes? If so, this is really simple. It's about front vowels. Will I find -vo- or -vu- deletion? Then it is short vowel deletion, but for now all I can say is -vi- and -ve- delete.
/wV+front+short/  → Ø / V_C
If only -vi- and -ve- deleting, then there are, as I said before, strange things afoot at the Circle K. Then it is confined to front short vowels. (And I really don't care for the terminology long/short since it also is a vowel difference.) What is is about v and these vowels that are prone to deletion? While something like nōrit isn't ambiguous, it isn't wholly clear either. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fall 2012: end of semester roundup

Sorry for the late semester silence.

I managed to make it through the ordeal of typology. Phonology was another story. I loved that. So now I am 3 down and 9 to go. Four more requirements to go and then it's all electives. First language acquisition and morphology are on deck for spring—both requirements.

Over the winter break, I want to blog a little about Latin phonology from a constraint-based perspective. I've already done some, but why not flesh it out a bit more? I'm sure it would get me a slot on the student research symposium in the spring. And I want to get it out of my system before it's time to get going on my thesis.

And then on the last night of class, a fellow student saw my Rockford College t-shirt and asked if I knew Ray DenAdel. Well, of course. I remember going to his office on occasion to talk. I remember his classes: he always spoke of long-dead Romans as if they were alive and just outside of class. If I'm half the teacher he was, I'll be alright.

Friday, November 16, 2012

You say Iuli, I say Iulii…

There is something to this *VVV constraint in Latin. If you remember, as I did this afternoon, there is an alternate genitive for 2nd declension -ius nouns, the constraint gets some more evidence for its existence. Exhibit 1: the most famous gens Romana: Iulius. But in the genitive it can be either Iulii or Iuli. Curious that. (And thank the dead language phonologist's friend, Latin grammarians, that surface forms got written down.)

What is interesting—to me, and since I write the blog, we look at what I find interesting—is that even though the /ɪiː/ at the end is two syllables, it is close enough to violating *VVV that the underlying /ɪ/ gets deleted.


While both forms pick up one violation the *VVV violation is worse, so [juːliː] is favored. Now tell me that doesn't make sense and give some strong evidence for the existence of *VVV in Latin.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A list of known phonetic tricks in Latin

I woke up and realized that there are a lot more phonetic tricks going on in Latin than had occurred to me yesterday. I'm going to use play loose with IPA here (mostly so I don't have to go fiddling with fussy characters. I'll tighten things up later when there isn't a child running amok). Part of what makes this tricky is that Latin's orthography hides the underlying representation by using the surface forms in writing.

/urbs/ → [urps]
/adfero/ → [affero]
/inperfectus/ → [imperfectus]
/adcusativus/ → [accusativus]
/obstare/ → /opstare/
/recapio/ → /recipio/
/inlatus/ → [illatus]
/abfero/ → [aufero]

This should be enough to keep my memory fresh. A lot of these tricks are mentioned in beginner textbooks, so their action is well known. The matter will be to see if there are any constraints that can be drawn out to explain the mess. Recipio could be particularly enlightening. /a/ becomes [ɪ] when the stress goes away?

The prepositions a/ab and e/ex are a trick. Which form is underlying? The worst part is that the divide is really easy to describe. Oral consonants get the short form. Everything else (i.e. /h/ and V) get the long form.

/e urbe/ → [ex urbe]

/a(b) te/ → [abs te]

Though given that the archaic form is abs te, my hunch is that [ab] is the underlying form.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Constraints in Latin phonology

In phonology we're moving away from rules, which seem to be language-specific, and towards constraints. I've got my objections to constraint-based phonology, but it also seems elegant. Or at least clean.

So here's a rule in Latin. It's not a hard rule, but it seems to be frequent enough that it works. And good enough to get to modern Spanish. Maybe some more tinkering would make it solid, but then the number of rules multiplies. Anyway, the rule. Or something really close to it. There's probably a morpheme boundary involved, but let's ignore that for now, shall we?
/w+ɪ/ ➝ Ø / Vː__
It is at least productive enough to yield parāstī from parāvistī. So that's the constraint table I'll put up. I'm going to focus on just a few forms to keep things under control.

Clearly there is a *VVV constraint in Latin. There are long vowels and diphthongs, which are effectively VV. There are short vowels, which are V. But no VVV—extra long vowels or long vowel diphthongs. Ever. So that's an easy constraint. It even seems fatal in all situations—unless you can somehow kludge in hiatus. That would violate DepIO (the constraint that says not to add things in), so I feel pretty safe in ignoring that possibility here.

There also seems to be a constraint against eliminating the conjugation's theme vowel going on. I can't put my finger on any scientific reason you'd want to do this, but it seems like a way to avoid creating ambiguity. In any case, syncopated forms in Latin preserve the conjugation's theme vowel in the perfect. If there's no theme vowel in the perfect stem, there's no syncopation.

On to the tableau.

*theme vowel deletion


An ugly problem turns up. The tableau predicts the wrong winner. We want to get [pɑrɑːstiː] as the clear winner so that it is the favored colloquial form to get passed to Spanish. The problem is that we need to violate MaxIO by deleting [] and still get the win. Meanwhile the full form [pɑrɑːwɪstiː] violates no constraints in the above tableau, but needs to lose. 

Or maybe no such problem existed in 1st century BCE Latin. You could use either form. The MaxIO violation must have been so weak that something like [pɑrɑːstiː] could start competing with the winner [pɑrɑːstiː]. After all, [pɑrɑːstiː] doesn't take information out of the verb: in fact, it eliminates redundancy. The -istī ending is unique to the perfect tense, so dropping the perfective -v- couldn't create ambiguity. From there all you've got to do is push the first i in -istī over to the stem and get an underlying second person perfect morpheme of -stī. Then there's no good reason to keep the first i. (Sounds simple when I put it that way.) But that's beyond phonology, no?

EDIT: I think there's something to all of this. Some goodies about SR in Latin orthography that may provide a springboard for further investigation. Some evidence for *VVV.

Double EDIT: Nemo Oudeis tells me that the v-deletion can also occur in other places (divitior > ditior; divitissimus > ditissimus), but not remembering these for sure I understated the matter.

Note about the table: Support for tables in Blogger poor. Nay, non-existent.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Creeping ergativity in English

Once again, I heard Rick Kogan on the radio. It's like a habit or something. Anyway, one of his guests said something like this (and I wish I could remember the exact quote, but it was like this).
Both me and her went to work.
I'm going to guess that in reading you wanted to * this. And indeed, if it hadn't been "me and her" this would pass muster. Tense is right. General arrangement of constituents is right. Case marking on the pronouns is wrong. Or is it? Here are some more examples.
*Me went to work.
*Her went to work.
I would bet that even the radio guest would reject that. I also suspect that this would be considered wrong too.
*Us went to work.
I also seriously doubt that this would pass muster too.
*Me and him saw the dog.
EDIT: Or maybe it would in non-standard varieties of English. Now that I think of it, I can't think of a situation where "me and him" is so outrageously wrong that you can't use it. So much for the notion of ergativity in English. Because…

But here my lack of corpus fails me, and I don't have a recent speech example. I'm not even sure that my native-speaker intuition will help me here. I wish it did. I'd love to be able to show that this is ergativity creeping in to English.

It looks like it is sensitive to pronouns, which would be the only place Ergativity could rear its head in English anyway, but not any old pronouns. It looks like it needs to be a compound subject with a first or third person (probably singular) in one of the subject slots. I also have a strong suspicion that it is sensitive to conjunctions.

Throw this into the just another thesis idea category.

Monday, November 5, 2012


I was driving home today and heard Rick Kogan interviewing Mike Daisey [ˈdiʲzi] on WBEZ about his current exhibit at the MCA in Chicago. During the interview they talked about monologues. Natural enough, since Daisey is a monlogist. And therein lies a tale.

I'm trying to figure out the Greek for it, so bear with me here. Here are the parts, with accents in place.
Which means that as a "native" Greek word might be something like:
With a pronunciation of something like:
Which brings us to English. We aren't going to pronounce that last [ɛːs] as it seems to have been lost for us English speakers. If it patterns like philologist—and I see no reason why it wouldn't—we would expect the accent to fall on the first lo.
And Kogan patterned monologist like that.
Daisey on the other hand said something else.
Now, I've never heard the word said before today. I knew exactly what Kogan meant the first time he said it. I knew that Daisey was using the same word when he said it differently too. Yet they both said it differently. Some background: Kogan is a white, Chicago native in his 60s. Though he doesn't have a college degree, he's been steeped in words via his parents and profession (or so the Wikipedia article would lead me to believe). Daisey on the other hand is a white, (presumably) East Coast native in his 30s. He apparently has a college degree from a small liberal-arts college (or so his Wikipedia article would lead me to believe).

Anyway I'm still not sure how to say monologist, though I'm strongly tempted by Kogan's pronunciation. It at least builds on the analogy of words I already know. Daisey maintains the /g/ as [g], which is no small appeal. All I know for sure is that the primary stress and secondary stress are separated by an unstressed syllable—like most polysyllabic English works. Oh well. Better than nothing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Of lice and men

Life again impinges on the blog. Since my daughter managed to get a few lice. It got me to thinking. Obviously delousing has given some interesting lexical items to English.

  • Lousy – denoting poor quality, initially implied lice-infested; it also shows the same voicing between vowels as knives and wolves
  • Nitty-gritty – the core of an idea; but the etymology is disputed and is early 20th century African-American, but may reduplicate gritty as easily as nitty
  • Nit-picky – overly pedantic, the way you'd want someone who is picking nits to be
  • Go over it with a fine-toothed comb – to really check the details, because this is how you catch lice and nits
  • Nitwit – a fool, though whether it means someone who has the wit of a nit, or is a nit (under another definition of a useless person) is disputed
  • Louse up – to screw something up, as in you've added lice to it

No less than Jonathan Swift give us this gem.

  • Three skips of a louse – something worthless

But this isn't all that interesting. It's fun coincidences of culture on the lexicon. So where did louse and nit come from that they've infested the language? Mind you, lice are a common phenomenon across mammals and birds, so people have managed to turn up not one, but three species of lice specific to us.

Looking at the OED, we get this as the progression of the word louse over time:
lús OE > lous ME > louse ModE
Looking at the other Germanic languages we see this at Wiktionary—and it's no real surprise.
Dutch, luis; German, Laus; Swedish, lus
Common roots for a common problem. Seems all the Germans had lice. Latin on the other hand gives us pediculus. What's this? A diminuitive of pes? And lice do have nasty feet, but no common root. Hmm. Or as its synonym, it could be serpens—but really that's any animal that creeps. Greek doesn't supply any likely candidates either: φθείρ. Oh well.

And nit at the OED shows this history in English.
hnitu OE >  nites ME > nit ModE
The other Germanic languages are likewise fellow travelers.
Dutch, neet; German, Nisse; Swedish, gnet
All of the Germanic languages seemed to have noticed lice eggs too—or rather our linguistic ancestors did and thus gave us the word. (And catch the English/German doublets: nit/Nisse, shit/Scheisse.) What about Latin? Lens. No dice. Grek is another story. The modern Greek for nit is (apparently) κονίδα. I see an /nit/ or more accurately /nið/. In any case, this could potentially be a really old word. Let's take a peek at some other Indo-European languages (and I kind of wish there were a better tool than Wiktionary for this, but there you have it).
Polish, gnida; Armenian, aniç (as Romanized); Latvian, gnīda
Here's the pattern I see (and I'm not going to get into Persian or Hindi as they screw up my point):
/_nid_/ or /_nit_/ – and /t/ and /d/ are the same except for voice
So this one looks to be a common Indo-European affliction. But enough nit picking, no?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ørberg for Ancient Greek

I've thought a bit about this sort of thing. I've written a few passages, but nothing good enough to share. And I realize that the project needs to be approached quite a bit differently than Lingua Latina per se Illustrata. In part this is an intellectual challenge. Polis, Athenaze and Reading Greek are all creditable books—and probably hard to really make an improvement on.

Some challenges
  • the alphabet
  • the pronunciation to use—though probably ignorable
  • not so many obvious derivatives
  • the dialects
  • contracts
I'm really not quite sure how to deal with the alphabet. It's not hard to learn, but teaching it through context is another story. Pronunciation is somewhat a moot point, as Ancient Greek isn't really a spoken language. On the other hand, sound recordings are valuable resources.

The derivatives are a major problem. Ørberg uses the preposition in on the first page. English, German, Italian, Dutch and Swedish use the same word to mean the same thing. Spanish is one letter off. There are no diacritics. Place names add yet another layer of familiarity to the first chapter. The fact that Latin's ablative case in the first declension looks like the nominative with a diacritic also helps too.

Greek on the other hand presents a challenge. ἐν looks more like ev—nonsense, unless you've thoroughly mastered the alphabet. While not difficult, beginning students will occasionally slip. Ἑλλάδα, on the other hand, doesn't look like any work a non-Greek student knows. Then there's the morphology involved with the dative case in Greek…

But that's no real matter. I don't think Ørberg's first chapter works with Greek. It would probably have to look more like Ørberg's chapter 2, but without the genetive case. I suspect that a different entry point would be necessary anyway.

The dialect situation is also a concern. Attic Greek is probably the best place to aim at. Epic has fierce morphology, since it is somewhat an amalgam of several dialects. It also has the disadvantage of being entirely in verse, which isn't the easiest way to present material to beginners. On the other hand, you can't completely ignore Epic either. Authors will quote it and figure you know what they're quoting. Koine is straightforward after Attic Greek, so no need to worry about it after Attic. Either Koine or Attic would work well, given that there are lots of examples of both written down. Lots of fodder for corpus mining. In any case, Attic is the best given the ease of entry into Koine and the availability of stuff to read. But the Attic dialect presents its own challenge.

Verb contracts. This is a major wrinkle. Verb contracts have to be taught and mastered. On the other hand, some dialects—Epic and Ionic in particular—don't contract. I think I know how to get around it: start with Ionic Greek. Herodotus, among others, is written in this dialect, and it solves the contract problem for a few chapters.

The angle

The story should probably start in Asia Minor and follow the characters across the Aegean to Athens. This story angle allows for a start in non-contracting Ionic Greek but also builds in the eventual shift to contracting Attic Greek. One problem solved.

Another story angle would be to work the Greek gods into the narrative in some way. From the beginning. If for no other reason than people are familiar, at least passingly, with Greek myth. It also solves, to some degree, the derivative problem mentioned earlier. People may not know Δημήτηρ right off hand, but at least sounding the word out will give them a chance. Ζεύς will be transparent to the newbiest newb. So that's got to be a consideration.

The other nice thing that the journey across the Aegean would solve is the sheer volume of nautical terminology that seems to pervade Ancient Greek.

The sequence

Here's one point that I've not gotten as far with. Or at least I've not gotten answers that satisfy me. The sequence of learning Greek is going to be much different than Latin's sequence. Naturally: it's another language. Indirect speech? No problem. Greek is virtually English on that point. The article is a problem. You've got to use it, but defining it isn't very transparent in an Ørberg-style environment. Since the article lines up so nicely with the first and second declensions, morphology on that point won't be too vicious. Same with the 3rd declension—the article to the rescue again.

I'm also not quite sure how to present verb tense. Clearly present at first. But which first? -μι verbs? Or add on the imperfect and aorist? Which of those two first? Imperfect seems obvious, but aorist is frequent and useful. The whole mess of the verb's principal parts is an ugly question too. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Latin vowels—do macrons tense vowels mark?

I've done some trawling around the internet and have yet to find any satisfactory answers.

So far as I can gather from Allen's Vox Latina the Latin's vowel space is something like this:

    \             |   |
     \   ɪ        | ʊ |
      \           |   |
        \         |   |
         \        |   |
          \       |   |
            \     |   |
             \    |   |
              \   |   |

The only true long/short difference would seem to be the difference between a and ā, represented as /a/ and /aː/ in IPA (at least in native Latin words). All the other seem to be a quality difference. e and ē are /ɛ/ and /e/. i and ī are /ɪ/ and /i/. o and ō are /o/ and /ɔ/. u and ū are /u/ and /ʊ/. (Or at least I think that's what it is. Allen didn't use IPA.)

Again, as far as I can tell, Italian doesn't make a tense/lax distinction the way English does. (Of course I can't find the source right now.) I mention Italian because it has the vowel space most similar to Latin—as well as some similar contrasts going on. This is, it uses e to mark both /e/ and /ɛ/ and o to mark both /o/ and /ɔ/ in the way that Latin did. Or course macrons are an addition by later scholars—no native Latin writer would have used them.

The reason I'm curious is that some consonant clusters can trigger the change of a vowel from one vowel to its long equivalent. Here's the easiest to follow situation.
/a/ -> [aː] / _ns
No problem. It happens pretty clearly when shifting from the root of something like amant- to the nominative of amāns. We've made the vowel longer when it occurs before an ns cluster. All good to go. Here's the hitch.
/ɛ/ -> [e] / _ns
So in a root form of vident-, we get vidēns when shifting to the nominative. Again, nothing unusual when you know about this particular macron rule. The problem is that we're going from /wɪdɛnt/ to /wɪdens/. If it were  */wɪdɛːns/, it would be a clear example of vowel (duration) lengthening.

Now, if Latin employed vowel tenseness, it would be really clear, and simple too, to state the rule like this:
/V-tense/ -> [V+tense] / _ns
But alas, there are not recordings or sonograms of Latin speakers… We may never know.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Using the language vs linguistics

I find myself struggling with a balance. Maybe you don't, but I do. Here it is: I'm fascinated by language, but I also enjoy learning new/firming up already-known languages to put to use. And it's hard to say which is more fruitful—personally and professionally. 

I've got some skill with Latin. One of my things with Latin is teaching it. And I'm exactly self-important enough to think you might want my help in reading Latin. What follows is a treatment of Cicero's de senectute chapters 6 through 9 (if the title didn't give it away) aimed at Latin students just wading into their first bit of classical Latin. 

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

One year

This is the first anniversary of the blog. Hooray blog!

Congratulations on me? Why not. Here are the statistics for those you who are curious:
•3,099 page views
•79 posts
•A G+ count of +1—thank you to whomever you are
•2 followers—thank you to both of you
•My most popular post is "Quid est hoc?", but it's not going viral yet.
I'm flattered that my ramblings about language, most of 'em dead, have rated this much attention. My degree is progressing—one class finished, enrolled in two, nine more after that. The kids are growing like weeds: Little Girl in school and Little Boy starting to talk. The road, while long doesn't seem so lost today.

I leave you with Dante:
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I just got done with a frustrating analysis of vowel duration in English. From what I can tell, the rules only count in theory. In measurable spectrograms, all bets are off.

This makes me want to make some spectrograms of Latin aphorisms to see if I'm putting the theory into practice. Praat much?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A bit of Aesop

A little something I cooked up for those of you walking out of the shallow end of the Greek pool. Should I make more?Fable of the Ants and Cicadas  

wh-movement in Ancient Greek

Last week for school, I wrote a terribly flawed paper about wh-movement in Ancient Greek. There are two problems.

First, I was limited to questions about the direct object. A necessary operation when most students are writing about English. Subject questions don't display much wh-movement in English. I had to throw out a lot of potential data points. I would have killed to find a question like this
poi-on     su    cyon.a akou.eis
what.sort you dog
What sort of dog do you hear?
Something relatively simple that showed strong wh-movement. I found one (sentence 1 on the paper), but it was complex. The qu-word related to a direct object alright, but the direct object of a participle. Probably not my hour of glory.

The other problem is that a lot fo the data looked like this
ti       ph-ēs
What are you saying?
Now this looks like wh-movement to me, but I'm a native English speaker. After all, the ti is the first word, how isn't is wh-movement? My intuitions probably aren't right here. But at the same time, I can't shake the feeling that Ancient Greek shows wh-movement even if it doesn't look like it.

The problem is that a speaker of a language that is 1) pro-drop (like Ancient Greek) 2) uses  SOV order (like Ancient Greek can) and 3) leaves interrogatives in situ may see things quite differently. As in anyone who speaks Persian. To them, most of my data points would appear to be in-situ questioning.

All I can say is this: Dammit. Why hadn't I thought of that sooner?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Asper spiritus

Rough breathing. δασὺ πνεῦμα. Spiritus asper. Whatever you like. It's all the same.

Sometimes I get down on Ancient Greek grammarians when compared to their Indian counterparts. After all, how am I supposed to take the Greek descriptions of the language seriously when they didn't know the proper difference between voiced and voiceless consonants. (/p/ and /b/ are the same except /p/ is voiceless and /b/ is voiced.)

On the other hand, they did get something quite right. Instead of inflicting a separate letter for /h/ like the Romans, they gave us the rough breathing because /h/ isn't a real consonant.

Wait. /h/ isn't a consonant?

Isn't /h/ called a glottal fricative on the IPA chart? Well…yeah…it is. We call it a fricative, even though we know better. The wikipedia article addresses the concerns well enough for my purposes. If you're all tl, dr on the wiki link the argument is this: the /h/ sound is produced at the glottis which is where the sound is made but there is no constriction of the vocal tract as with other fricatives like /s/ or /z/. It's all free flow. (Wait. It's a vowel?)

Anyway. The Greeks get it right with the breathing mark.The Romans screw it up. They promote /h/ to full blown consonant with its own letter—and then to keep things simple it later marks aspiriation. After all, "ph" represents /ph/ and not /f/.

(And yes, I'm aware of the development of the breathing marks out of actual letters. I'm just trying to give some credit to the Ancient Greeks for hitting on something kind of odd.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cisalpine Gaul's modern existence

I"m sure it's occurred to others, but am I the only one to notice that Cisalpine Gaul's border roughly corresponds to the La Spezia-Rimini Line?

On the east side of the red line, Italy juts north. Toward the middle Gaul just dips south of the line. On the west, the Rubicon flows to the Adriatic just north of the line. Of course this isn't quite the course the line takes on this map, but it's a reasonable first approximation.

Is it possible that this is some sort of relict of the Celtic language speaking population that lived here way back when? (Don't you hate these Latin/Celtic language contact posts? I always bring up questions and never give answers.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Universal Grammar

I'm taking a typology course. One of the focuses of the class will be the existence of Universal Grammar. UG is one of those ideas that has a lot of appeal on first glance.

Everyone you've ever met, with so few exceptions that it might as well be everyone, speaks at least one language. There is very little variance in basic language skills: do you know anyone who only knows part of their language? No one knows just the words but not the syntax. All adults are competent speakers of their native language. When children learn their first language, they seem to follow enough of the same track that you get presentations like this. Languages also seem to fall into a few basic groups (e.g. if verbs come before objects, your language probably has prepositions and not postpositions).

It would seem like there is something to this notion of UG.

On the other hand, I don't think I've seen any evidence of the particular circuitry in the brain that is associate with language in humans—and no other animal.

And that's the crux of it.  There's no physical evidence for UG—just a bunch of speech that might be more simply explained other ways. Don't get me wrong. If solid physical evidence for UG were presented, I'd get on board. Right now. Until then, color me skeptical. Right here and right now, UG seems like the ether that 19th-century physicists were proposing as a way to allow light waves to spread.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

What Latin Isn't

In a recent discussion about teaching Latin, someone made the comment, "The sooner students get past seeing Latin as encoded English, the better they will do." (I forget who said it, but it's a great comment and I want to give credit where it is due. Anyway.)

No matter what method you're using, this will be a road block: how do I get students to see that Latin is a language and not merely English in a tricky code.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why dead langauges?

Over at a language learners' forum, someone asked "what do you like about dead langauges"? And here, somewhat edited and expanded, is my reply:

Knowing dead languages allows me to gain a perspective that I otherwise couldn't get. I feel the continuity of humanity stretching over the centuries that I am a part of. I can touch artifacts of antiquity. I can engage them in my home without specialized scientific tools. I can see how we are all human through the centuries—facing the same challenges of our common humanity. I am connected to minds from the remote past who still have vital things to say. 

Does it get better than that?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Strike of the Modern Languages: Italian

I've been working on upping my abilities to read Italian lately. I've found a book I really like. For those of you who know about Lingua Latina per se Illustrata, it will look familiar. Really familiar.

Since I've primarily only seen commercially available materials for learning Italian, L’italiano secondo il «metodo natura» is like coming home again. And the differences are shocking.

L'italiano is like Lingua Latina. They're both very repetitive. Everything is in context. Many things are explained simply. Shades of meaning, while in the text, are not discussed at any length. In fact, L'italiano is even more minimalist in its approach to grammar than Lingua LatinaThe other big difference between L'italiano and other materials is that there is more Italian in the first few chapters of it than in an entire series of other materials. Or so it seems to me. 

I checked out Living Language Italian Intermediate from the library, since I thought that my skills were fairly basic and that an intermediate level was right. Apparently not. The article and verb conjugation are topics of instruction. Twelve chapters into L'italiano, and that's done. Of course at that point you've seen a lot of Italian. A lot. Living Language Italian has some short dialogs and comprehension passages. Though admittedly I only checked this out to listen (and relisten) to the audio.

I'm not maligning the Living Language offering. It looks good, just not to my style of learning.  And that's no small matter. If people are learning languages with programs like Living Language, I'm falling down somehow. (Again, I'm not maligning the program. It looks pretty solid.)

I'm beginning to realize that the only way languages come into my brain is brute force. The less recourse I have to English, the better. For what it's worth, Benny Lewis seems to take this approach too, but he's far more interested in the social and spoken end of it. If I wind up being able to speak, that's bonus points. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Continental Celtic Languages

I realize I've been on about Celtic languages in contact with Latin and haven't bothered to tally up a family tree. So here goes. First, I'm going to ignore all of these still living languages for the simple reason that they weren't spoken in ancient Gaul. If I get around to Latin and Britain, well, that's another story. So these are out.
     Insular Celtic

These are the languages I'm talking about.
     Continental Celtic

Well, not the Galatian group either. They were in Turkey. Or the Noric. They were in Noricum—er, more or less Austria. Or the Celtiberian. They were in Spain and Portugal.

Lepontic however was spoken in Cisalpine Gaul (more or less northern Italy) and Gaulish was spoken across the whole rest of Gaul. This presents a problem: what does Gaulish mean? Is it one language? Or a group of related dialects? Or, worse, a dialect continuum. If Gaulish is one language, why does Caesar make pains to say "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres" and then delineate which is which. I'm highly dubious of one Gaulish language at this stage, but I'm not informed enough to say so.

Whatmough provides a great map, but it isn't digital. A big task will be to digitize it in a useful form.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wrong about the Romans

In the last post, I suggested
The Romans didn't care too much what language you spoke at home as long as you spoke Latin where it mattered—in official capacities. 
And I was wrong. Sort of. On p. 46, Whatmough says:
The frame work of the native cantonal organization was respected by the Roman imperial administration, but for all official purposes Latin was required almost from the beginning.
Which seems pretty reasonable given common sense. If you come in and conquer a territory, you pick the language of administration (usually). But this isn't an entirely correct picture.
Commonly, then, as Latin must have been adopted after the conquest by Caesar, Keltic doubtless lingered on in rural districts perhaps as a second language… (70)
So far, so good. The Celtic languages even hang on in rural areas. This pattern is visible here in the United States when we look at English vs. Native American languages.
…a reasonable estimate puts the date of its complete disappearance, even from remote country districts, not earlier than the fifth century after Christ. (70–1)
Ok, so this answers when continental Celtic languages finally disappeared. Or at least an early date. But  Whatmough goes on to say something else.
From the Digests of Ulpian (222–228 A.D.) it is clear that Gaulish must still have been current in many places in the third century, for its use in pledges and trusts (fideicomissa) was expressly permitted… (71)
So it looks like I'm somewhat wrong. Though I don't know the legal standing of pledges and trusts, I would assume that they would be along the lines of modern contracts (correct me in the comments if you know I'm wrong yet again). This would give them standing in courts, which, according to Whatmough on p. 46, would be in the territory of official purposes.

So it looks like the officialness of Latin is somewhat complicated. For the most part, you've got to use Latin when dealing with the administration. On the other hand, when your primary purpose isn't official, you can use a Celtic language.

A hope dashed
I had been hoping that the Celtic language experience with Latin would play out something like the Native American languages with English. There would be some nice parallels to be drawn—and perhaps an idea of how the contact progressed. But no dice. There are some very key differences. The United States government had a policy of English-only boarding schools (and I've just brushed a host of human rights violations under the rug there). The other is that Christianity came earlier in the story and—at least in the case of the first Bibles printed in the English colonies—in the native language. Both of these are at odds. In the first, the Romans didn't care much what language you spoke at home. In the second, Christianity wasn't language flexible in Gaul the way it was in America.

Whatmough, Joshua. (1970). The Dialects of Ancient Gaul: Prolegomena and records of the dialects. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Speaking of Celtic Gaul

And of course some of the choicest nuggets are tied up in a musty-smelling book. Initial copyright is 1944 and a reprint date of 1970. The author cites sources from the 19th century as vital scholarship. It is a trip. And I found it in the stacks at my university's library.

And it is enlightening. Whatmough suggests that in southern Gaul—Provincia to the Romans—had a linguistic situation that progressed something like this:
Ligurian (supposedly Indo-European language of some sort or another)
Celtic languages of the continental variety
Though the Greek part of the stream is, I'm sure, a trading language with few native speakers as a portion of the population. Though the Romans had a bigger military component, I'm sure they were also traders. And also a small portion of the population. But that doesn't explain the how of latinization. From p. 24:
In its main features the history of the latinization, this term being used in its strictest (i.e. linguistic) sense, is very similar in Gaul to what it had been in Italy. In both lands there are records of languages spoken before the spared of Latin, and some hints, but no actual records, of still others. Moreover we do not suppose that the ancestors of the people whose linguistic remains are the oldest known to us in either Gaul or Italy were dumb. What we have to ask is the question what languages, so far as we can now tell, were spoken in the several regions of Gaul, and its frontier-districts before the spread of Romance (that is Latin) or Germanic speech. This ultimate fate of the pre-Latin dialects of Gaul, as in Italy, was that at last they were abandoned, almost everywhere, in favor of other forms of speech, usually Latin. And if, as some hold, modern Greek is in Italy nowhere descended from the ancient Greek of Magna Graecia, a view mentioned here only for the sake of comparison and not because it is thought to be truer than the opposite theory, no more is Breton in France descended from the ancient Keltic dialect of Brittany, but (like Albanian in Italy) was introduced there from outside. But Basque, spoken in the arrondissements of Bayonne and Mauléon, is usually maintained to be descended from Iberian, spoken in the ancient Aquitania and presumably anterior to Keltic. 
So I suppose to really get to the heart of the matter, I'm going to have to learn about the latinization of Italy too. Vae mihi! I seem to have opened a can of worms. As for the origin of Greek spoken in Italy today, I have zero information to allow me an opinion. More about the latinization of Gaul, from p. 29:
There is, however, a great contrast between Narbonensis and the three Gauls, where latinization was affected much more slowly and was not in fact complete before the sixth century of our own era. The spared of Christianity had much to do with the introduction of Latin into the remoter parts of Gaul, and, outside of the towns and permanent camps, Christian preachers must have played at least as large a part as Roman soldiers, traders, and officials in spreading the Latin at the same time that they spread the faith of the Church. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that a large proportion out of the total number of dialect inscriptions preserved to us in Gaul have been discovered in southern Gaul, which was earlier and more rapidly latinized, and not from Tres Galliae, which maintained their Keltic speech longer and more tenaciously, thoroughly latinized as the whole of Gaul was in the long run.
Well. That's a surprise. I wouldn't have expected that the church was the final nail in the coffin of Celtic Gaul, if for no other reason than the Romans had latinized the rest of the Celtic-speaking areas under their control. Interestingly though, it does help explain why Insular Celtic does survive. Want to make me guess? Here goes: The Romans didn't care too much what language you spoke at home as long as you spoke Latin where it mattered—in official capacities. The other curious bit is that there is a lack of Celtic-language inscriptions in the north. I've got no explanation.

Some questions
•When did Ligurian die out as a spoken language?
•When did Greek die out in Gaul?
•What was the proportion of Greek speakers in Provincia?
•When did continental Celtic die out in Gaul?
•Do we know the route of the spread of Latin?
•Why did Breton manage to reverse the trend of latinization?
•And why did Breton come from Britain instead of Gaul itself?

Whatmough, Joshua. (1970). The Dialects of Ancient Gaul: Prolegomena and records of the dialects. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Latin and Continental Celtic in contact

They had to have been, and the contact had to have lasted a long time. Ultimately, Latin displaced all speakers of Continental Celtic languages in Gaul (France and Northern Italy) and Iberia (Spain and Portugal). All of them.

Latin and Celtic languages were in contact in Italy since at least the early 4th century BCE, quite possibly longer. By the time of Caesar's conquest of Gaul in the mid 1st century BCE, there were "friends of the Roman people" on the far side of the Alps. It is hard to believe that there wasn't at least some degree of bilingualism between Latin speakers and Celtic speakers at both of these points in time.

These two data points suggest centuries of widespread contact between Latin and Celtic languages. At first they may have been on more equal footing, but as time progressed so did the relative power of the Latin speakers.

Obviously there are Celtic words in Latin: raeda (carriage), lancea (javelin), sparus (spear), bracae (pants) and ambactus (serf) are all examples (Palmer 53). So we can be sure that there was lexical exchange, but there are other questions. Since I don't have handy access to the proper scholarship, some of these may be quite settled matters.

Some questions
•Is Italo-Celtic an artifact of linguistic interference due to much language contact between the Celtic and Italic languages? Or is it real?
•What was the tipping point for Latin's total replacement of Continental Celtic languages?
•How long did Celtic languages persist in Gaul? In Iberia?
•Why didn't Latin also wipe out Basque?

Palmer, R.L. (1964). The Latin Language. London: Faber and Faber.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Language contact in the ancient Mediterranean

I saw an call for abstracts that got me thinking.

There's all sorts of languages in contact today. People are bilingual with varying degrees of skill. They carry their languages forward. And nothing is new. People were doing those exact things thousands of years ago. The differences are two. One, we can't interview or record any of those people. Two, what evidence they did leave us has problems.

The evidence is often in the form of the literature of the elite layers of the societies. Evidence that comes from more ordinary people is often fragmentary in nature. Broken pottery, graffiti, papyrus fragments. Some of that evidence is so fragmentary that we don't even have complete languages. For example, Venetic is a relatively poorly known language. Some are relatively well known in scholarly circles, like Oscan. Others are more commonly known, like Latin.

All of these languages were in contact with each other. They were affecting each other. Just like languages today. And there is little easily available information on this topic. There is some work being done on the topic, but it is expensive. For example:
Early Civilization and Literacy in Europe from $164 used
Bilingualism and the Latin Language from $57.98 used
Some of the nearest copies of these books are in libraries that are difficult to get to—or as I'm starting to think of them, walled gardens of scholarship. Articles about these topics are in databases that cost real money to have access to—or at least that's what my tuition costs would lead me to believe. It is a disgrace that in 2012 that credible information on obscure topics is so difficult to find in easily accesible ways. Forget that. Keep an eye on this blog. (And if you bought either of those books to you, I'd write a haiku for you on this blog.)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Say ah!

Little Boy and I were playing yesterday. He's become quite the chatter box, though he's only starting to grasp words. Because he loves to make lots of noise with his voice, he opens his mouth really wide. So wide that I saw his tongue move down and back before he started yelling /ɑ/ at me. Every time he went to yell, down and back went the tongue.

I mention this because I had been having a hard time picturing the front/back and high/low distinction when producing vowels. I can hear the distinctions, well, insofar as any native English speaker can. This is to say I can hear the distinctions English makes quite clearly. Others may be a bit more difficult, but I digress. It was good to see the actual mechanics of speech production put in front of me so accidentally.

It was nice to see that. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sanskrit isn't Indo-European?

I just ran across an article—maybe excerpts from a vanished article—that suggests that it is colonial to claim Sanskrit as Indo-European. Please note, I may refer to things with rather strong language, but pseudoscience deserves no less.

Some further reading (here and here) makes me think that this is some sort of reaction against perceived erroneous history. The gist of it is this: the Brits when colonizing India saw that Sanskrit shared deep similarities to Ancient Greek and Latin. If that is the case then there must be some common language. Since white people—according to the grossly misinformed thought of the time—were superior, and people in India come in a variety of skin colors, then there must have been white invaders who brought Sanskrit to India. Apparently the colonizing Brits couldn't imagine that maybe, just maybe, the initial Indo-European population had skin darker than theirs. Pity their lack of imagination.

The problem with the old notions is that they are junk. This junk in turn, rightfully, raises a horrified reaction among Indians. So far so good. One should be outraged by bullshit pseudoscience. The problem is when one reacts to junk by inventing more junk. The pseudoscience starts off with a howler.
For instance, in Hungary, there is a growing body of scholars who are extremely uncomfortable and dissatisfied with the manner in which Hungarian was excluded from the Indo-European framework.
I feel bad for the Hungarians who want in on the IE, but that's how science goes. It doesn't always come back with the answers you want. Tough. Believe what you like, the science is the science.
there are some Indian language scholars who have suggested that a computerized analysis of Sanskrit and Latin lexicons might yield a far more limited overlap than would be rationally implied by the “Indo-European” classification.
Of the tiny bits I know about  Sanskrit, I know that counting to ten is an awful lot like modern Persian and telling your name is an awful lot like Latin. This is daily use, low rate of change stuff. I also wouldn't expect there to be massive overlap between Latin and Sanskrit—particularly when getting into descriptions of local flora and fauna. This book has a whole chapter about non-IE words borrowed by Sanskrit. Fancy that, a language that borrows words.
…Building primitive lexicons that show similar roots for certain common words can hardly be an adequate basis of linguistic classification.
Actually this is what I'd expect. Quick, say the past tense for see and dive. What were your answers? Saw and dived are the correct answers as of this writing, though dove is making inroads. Highlight the blank if you are curious. One is not being changed, the other is. Care to guess which? If you said that see is maintaining its historic form, you'd be right. Why? Because it's a basic word in heavy use. Dive? Not so much.
Moreover, it [IE theory] has strengthened the now increasingly untenable view that there is no continuity between the Indo-Saraswati Harappan civilization and Vedic civilization, and that India’s languages (both in the oral and written forms) must have been brought to India by more “civilized” outsiders.
The same way that English sprung up in England without any help from continental invaders? While I have no doubt that language displacement can also disrupt cultural transmission, I don't know that language displacement necessarily causes cultural discontinuity. One (cultural discontinuity) has happened without the other (language displacement) in Greece. But I'm not an archaeologist. Until you've got better evidence, stick with what the data tells you. The data, so far as I can see, tells me that there was some sort of linguistic invasion. These things happen, otherwise I might be writing this in a Celtic language.
In this entire body of work stretching, from Sakatayana to Panini, there is virtually nothing to link Sanskrit to any European influence.
No shit. I wouldn't want to put words in Sir William Jones's mouth, but I'd venture to say he didn't know about the connection and was surprised at the similarity too. Oh, why don't I just let him speak for himself.
…yet [Sanskrit] bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident…
I hate it when that happens. I also hate this too.
both Sanskrit and Tamil are syllabic languages and both treat consonants and vowels very similarly.
All languages have syllables and treat consonants and vowels very similarly, when viewed through the lens of being syllabic. Well, except for maybe a pesky example or two in the Caucasus mountains. Nice try though.
From the point of view of classifying languages based on the organizational principles that govern their written scripts no logic would permit the Sanskrit-derived North Indian langauges to be placed in the same language group as the European languages.
Writing systems don't count at all when comparing languages. Just the spoken end. I get the sensation that the author isn't a linguist.
Writing in Language in India (9, Jan, 2002), G. Sankaranarayanan observes how repeating words and forms is a significant feature that extends across the Indian subcontinent and includes not only the Sanskrit and Tamil derivatives but also Munda and languages from the Tibetan-Burmese group.
It's called sprachbund. It happens all over. The interesting part here—to me anyway—is that the Indian sprachbund includes non-related languages. Nothing to see here.
Note too that Indic languages permit the dropping of pronouns (which become implied). …would be impermissable in English.
Dropping pronouns—even obviously assumed content words—is fine by Latin. No one disputes that Latin is IE. Spanish also thinks dropping subject pronouns is fine. Dammit. I hate it when I pick bad examples like English to almost but not quite make my point. Moving along, our pseudoscientist goes on to talk about word order.
In this respect, Indian languages are similar to each other [in regards to a more free word order] but not to less flexible “Indo-European” languages like English. On the other hand, Russian and Czech (like Hungarian) [no cheating, you need to compare IE to IE] do not require a fixed or default word order.
Oops. I think you're hurting your own argument there.
In conclusion, it might be stated that the present scheme of bifurcating Indian langauges into the “Indo-European” and “Dravidian” scheme is unsatisfactory in many ways.
For whom?
…it has also precluded comprehensive comparitive studies between these Indic languages and other Indic langauges such as the Munda or those from the Tibetan-Burmese stream.
Who is being stopped? These studies might actually be fruitful, but they only count when peer-reviewed.
Sh Thadani [the author, has] a Post-Graduate degree in Computer Science from Yale…
Aha. I was right. Not a linguist. Look, I'm not claiming authority here, but if you're going to write a "research" document it may help to have some formal training in the subject at hand. I don't trust my plumber to fix my car, why does a computer science guy get to look like a linguist?

Anyway. This has put some fire under me to learn Sanskrit. I think I'll put some effort to it over the summer. Well, once I've got True Story read.