Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

A Biological Dig for the Roots of Language
NYT ^ | March 16, 2004 | NICHOLAS WADE

Posted on 03/18/2004 8:26:12 PM PST by farmfriend

A Biological Dig for the Roots of Language


Correction Appended

Once upon a time, there were very few human languages and perhaps only one, and if so, all of the 6,000 or so languages spoken round the world today must be descended from it.

If that family tree of human language could be reconstructed and its branching points dated, a wonderful new window would be opened onto the human past.

Yet in the view of many historical linguists, the chances of drawing up such a tree are virtually nil and those who suppose otherwise are chasing a tiresome delusion.

Languages change so fast, the linguists point out, that their genealogies can be traced back only a few thousand years at best before the signal dissolves completely into noise: witness how hard Chaucer is to read just 600 years later.

But the linguists' problem has recently attracted a new group of researchers who are more hopeful of success. They are biologists who have developed sophisticated mathematical tools for drawing up family trees of genes and species. Because the same problems crop up in both gene trees and language trees, the biologists are confident that their tools will work with languages, too.

The biologists' latest foray onto the linguists' turf is a reconstruction of the Indo-European family of languages by Dr. Russell D. Gray, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

The family includes extinct languages like Hittite of ancient Turkey, and Tokharian, once spoken in Central Asia, as well as the Indian languages and Iranian in one major branch and all European languages except Basque in another.

Dr. Gray's results, published in November in Nature with his colleague Quentin Atkinson, have major implications, if correct, for archaeology as well as for linguistics. The shape of his tree is unsurprising — it arranges the Indo-European languages in much the same way as linguists do, using conventional methods of comparison. But the dates he puts on the tree are radically older.

Dr. Gray's calculations show that the ancestral tongue known as proto-Indo-European existed some 8,700 years ago (give or take 1,200 years), making it considerably older than linguists have assumed is likely.

The age of proto-Indo-European bears on a longstanding archaeological dispute. Some researchers, following the lead of Dr. Marija Gimbutas, who died in 1994, believe that the Indo-European languages were spread by warriors moving from their homeland in the Russian steppes, north of the Black and Caspian Seas, some time after 6,000 years ago.

A rival theory, proposed by Dr. Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge, holds that the Indo-Europeans were the first farmers who lived in ancient Turkey and that their language expanded not by conquest but with the spread of agriculture some 10,000 to 8,000 years ago.

Dr. Gray's date, if accepted, would support the Renfrew position.

Several linguists said Dr. Gray's tree was the right shape, but added that it told them nothing fresh, and that his dates were way off. "This method is not giving anything new," said Dr. Jay Jasanoff, a Harvard expert on Indo-European. As for the dates, Dr. Jasanoff said, "The numbers they have got seem extremely wrong to me."

Dr. Don Ringe, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania who has taken a particular interest in computer modeling of language, said that Dr. Gray's approach was worth pursuing but that glottochronology, the traditional method of dating languages, had "failed to live up to its promise so often that convincing linguists there is anything there is an uphill battle."

In the biologists' camp, however, there is a feeling that the linguists do not yet fully understand how well the new techniques sidestep the pitfalls of the older method. The lack of novelty in Dr. Gray's tree of Indo-European languages is its best feature, biologists say, because it validates the method he used to construct it.

Most historical linguists know a few languages very well but less often consider the pattern of change affecting many languages, said Dr. Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading.

"The field is being driven by people who are not confronted with the broad sweep of linguistic evolution and is being invaded by people like me who are only interested in the broad sweep," Dr. Pagel said.

Glottochronology was invented by the linguist Morris Swadesh in 1952. It is based on the compiling of a core list of 100 or 200 words that Swadesh believed were particularly resistant to change. Languages could then be compared on the basis of how many cognate words on a Swadesh list they shared in common.

Cognates are verbal cousins, like the Greek podos and the English foot, both descended from a common ancestor. The more cognates two languages share, the more recently they split apart. Swadesh and others then tried to quantify the method, deriving the date that two languages split from their percentage of shared cognates.

The method gave striking results, considering its simplicity, but not all of the findings were right. Glottochronology suffered from several problems. It assumed that languages changed at a constant rate, and it was vulnerable to unrecognized borrowings of words by one language from another, making them seem closer than they really were.

Because of these and other problems, many linguists have given up on glottochronology, showing more interest in an ingenious dating method known as linguistic paleontology.

The idea is to infer words for items in the material culture of an early language, and to correlate them with the appearance of such items in the archaeological record. Cognates for the word wheel exist in many branches of the Indo-European family tree, and linguists are confident that they can reconstruct the ancestral word in proto-Indo-European. It is, they say, "k'ek'los," the presumed forebear of words like "chakras," meaning wheel or circle in Sanskrit, "kuklos," meaning wheel or circle in Greek, as well as the English word "wheel."

The earliest wheels appear in the archaeological record around 5,500 years ago. So the proto-Indo-European language could not have started to split into its daughter tongues much before that date, some linguists argue. If the wheel was invented after the split, each language would have a different or borrowed word for it.

The dates on the earliest branches of Dr. Gray's tree are some 2,000 years earlier than the dates arrived at by linguistic paleontology.

"Since `wheel' is shared by Tocharian, Greek, Sanskrit and Germanic," said Bill Darden, an expert on Indo-European linguistic history at the University of Chicago, "and there is no evidence for wheels before the fourth millennium B.C., then having Tokharian split off 7,900 years ago and Balto-Slavic at 6,500 years ago are way out of line."

Dr. Gray, however, defends his dates, and points out a flaw in the wheel argument. What the daughter languages of proto-Indo-European inherited, he says, was not necessarily the word for wheel but the word "k'el," meaning "to rotate," from which each language may independently have derived its word for wheel. If so, the speakers of proto-Indo-European could have lived long before the invention of the wheel.

His tree, Dr. Gray said, was derived with the methods used by biologists to avoid problems identical to those in glottochronology. Genes, like languages, do not mutate at a constant rate. And organisms, particularly bacteria, often borrow genes rather than inheriting them from a common ancestor. Biologists have also learned that trees of any great complexity cannot be drawn up by subjective methods. Mathematical methods are required, like having a computer generate all possible trees — a number that quickly runs way beyond the trillions — and then deciding statistically which class of trees is more probable than the rest.

Dr. Gray based his tree on the Dyen list, a set of Indo-European words judged by linguists to be cognates, and he anchored the tree to 14 known historical dates for splits between Indo-European languages.

Many of the Dyen list cognates are marked uncertain, so Dr. Gray was able to test whether omission of the doubtful cognates made any difference (it did not). He also tested many other possible assumptions, but none of them produced an age for proto-Indo-European anywhere near the date of 6,000 years ago favored by linguists.

"This is why our results should be taken seriously by both linguists and anyone else interested in the origin of the Indo-European languages," he wrote, in a recent reply to his critics.

"We haven't repeated the errors of glottochronology," Dr. Gray said in an interview. "What we are doing is adding value, since we can make inferences about time depths which can't be made reliably in other ways."

Dr. Gray said he had formed collaborations with linguists and hoped they would give his tree a warmer reception once his critics understood that he had not made the errors they cited.

Some linguists are interested in the biologists' approach.

"I think these methods are extremely promising," said Dr. April McMahon of the University of Sheffield and the president of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, though she expressed concern about Dr. Gray's emphasis on dating language splits.

If the biologists' methods can date languages that existed 9,000 years ago, how much further back can they probe?

"Words exist that can in principle resolve 20,000-year-old linguistic relationships," Dr. Pagel of Reading wrote in a recent symposium volume, "Time Depth in Historical Linguistics," adding that "words that can resolve even deeper linguistic relationships are not out of the question."

Many linguists believe that once two languages have drifted so far apart that they share only 5 percent or so of their vocabulary, chance resemblances will overwhelm the true ones, setting a firm limit on how far back their ancestry can be traced.

"That's a mistaken reasoning which shows the linguists are relying on a model of evolution they trash when they see it written down," Dr. Pagel said.

He added that their argument assumed a constant rate of language change, the very point they know is wrong in glottochronology.

Geneticists believe modern humans may have left Africa as recently as 50,000 years ago, perhaps in a single migration with very small numbers. Reconstructing language of 20,000 years ago would be a big stride toward whatever tongue those first emigrants spoke. But Dr. Gray has no plans in that direction.

"It's hard enough to work out what happened 10,000 years ago, let alone 30,000 years ago," he said.

Correction: March 18, 2004, Thursday

An article in Science Times on Tuesday about efforts to construct a genealogy of the world's languages referred incorrectly to the Indo-European family. While it includes most of the European languages, Basque is not the only exception.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: archeology; epigraphyandlanguage; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; languages; linguistics

1 posted on 03/18/2004 8:26:12 PM PST by farmfriend
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: *Gods, Graves, Glyphs; A.J.Armitage; abner; adam_az; AdmSmith; Alas Babylon!; ameribbean expat; ...
Gods, Graves, Glyphs
List for articles regarding early civilizations , life of all forms, - dinosaurs - etc.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this ping list.
2 posted on 03/18/2004 8:26:47 PM PST by farmfriend ( Isaiah 55:10,11)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: farmfriend
The reporter made a very serious error. There are several non-Indo-European languages other than Basque spoken in Europe.

A partial list would include Albanian, 9 different Saami languages, Turkish, Hungarian, Estonian and Finnish. No doubt Arabic is spoken regularly among the recently immigrated Arabs and North Africans. London and Manchester England probably have at least one newspaper published in a Dravidian language.

Within the expected lifetime of a baby born today, though, it is entirely possible that all languages on Earth will collapse into a single dominant language.

3 posted on 03/18/2004 8:51:29 PM PST by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
You mean the NYT got something wrong? I'm shocked, I tell you, just shocked!

Sarcasm aside, thanks for the addition to the thread!

4 posted on 03/18/2004 8:54:05 PM PST by farmfriend ( Isaiah 55:10,11)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: farmfriend
Cognates for the word wheel exist in many branches of the Indo-European family tree, and linguists are confident that they can reconstruct the ancestral word in proto-Indo-European. It is, they say, "k'ek'los," the presumed forebear of words like "chakras," meaning wheel or circle in Sanskrit, "kuklos," meaning wheel or circle in Greek, as well as the English word "wheel."

Aramaic for "wheel" is galgal, and Hebrew is galgal/gilgal. I'd have to look into it, but these could also be cognates. The hard "g" sound and the "k" sound are very close linguistically. (Both consonants are what are called "gutturals," and thus are very interchangeable.)

Hebrew and Aramaic are both Semitic languages, and so to find cognates among the languages listed is all the more striking.

5 posted on 03/18/2004 9:00:41 PM PST by Charles Henrickson (Fascinated by cognates.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: farmfriend
I will accept that we all probably trace to a single pair of humanoids, but I don't buy the idea that all languages trace to a common ancestor.

I suspect that as the illiterate population began to separate in search of game or an acceptable habitat, they then began to acquire a method of communication which evolved into a language. However, many languages die, and I suspect new languages begin which don't necessarily have a strong connection to any pre-existing language. Net, I suggest that there are at least several roots otherwise please explain the glaring differences in written languages of the West, the Mid East and Asia. Also, explain some of the languages of Africa which are totally dissimilar to any of the above.
6 posted on 03/18/2004 9:07:19 PM PST by Chu Gary (USN Intel guy 1967 - 1970)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Charles Henrickson
There's a thought among anthropoligists and archaologists that the Saami (Laplanders) have lived on the Northwest European coastline (Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) for as long as 35,000 years having arrived BEFORE the last glacial advance.

They have several genetic adaptations to life in the far North (See Scandinavian porphyria, dwarfism, resistance to cholera, black plague, etc.) that would probably take longer than a mere 5 or 6 thousand years to develop and spread.

Authorities cite anywhere from 7 to 9 different full-blown Saami languages, all vaguely related to Finnish and other Uralic/Altaic languages. No doubt Turkish/Mongol words have infiltrated the Saami languages, as have modern English words, but the grammar is different.

If anyone wanted to make that leap into determining what language was used 20,000 years ago, he would be well advised to study Saami since it may be based on linguistic traditions 35,000 years old.

7 posted on 03/18/2004 9:09:14 PM PST by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: farmfriend
8 posted on 03/18/2004 9:09:29 PM PST by breakem
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
Finnish is definitely not anything like Swedish (and therefore not like Norwegian or Danish, either). Ethnically and linguistically the Finns are not "Scandinavian" like those other three.

The article mentions Finnish being in the same category as Hungarian, which I knew. I also have heard that these two are related to, of all things, Korean.

9 posted on 03/18/2004 9:54:27 PM PST by Charles Henrickson (A Swedish-American who has known many Finns and Koreans.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Mamzelle
You may find this article interesting..
10 posted on 03/18/2004 11:05:05 PM PST by Drammach (44 Automag.. where are you??)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: farmfriend
"Once upon a time, there were very few human languages and perhaps only one,"

Seems that I have read that all the people of Earth spoke one language. Where was it I read that, oh yeah, The Bible.

11 posted on 03/18/2004 11:14:21 PM PST by DaiHuy (MUST HAVE JUST BEEN BORN THAT WAY...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Charles Henrickson
Galgal is obviously cognate with keklos. Seems to me, anyway. But it could be a borrowed word. In other words, something that Semitic languages borrowed from Indo-European or vice-versa.
12 posted on 03/18/2004 11:38:26 PM PST by CobaltBlue
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
There is a correction appended to the article. It's the very last paragraph.
13 posted on 03/18/2004 11:39:35 PM PST by CobaltBlue
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: CobaltBlue; Charles Henrickson
Galgal is obviously cognate with keklos. Seems to me, anyway. But it could be a borrowed word. In other words, something that Semitic languages borrowed from Indo-European or vice-versa.

If one accepts the Nostratic superfamily hypothesis (linking Proto-Indo-European to other families such as Semitic), then the galgal connection to keklos makes perfect sense. Of course, once a group had the wheel, I guess contact with neighboring language families would occur much more easily, so even if it's more than coincidence, it would be hard to be certain whether it's a borrowing or cognate. Nevertheless, that both words have similar meaning and both have velar stops, liquids, and apparent reduplication makes me agree with the cognate hypothesis you both made.

This result from a Google search reinforces the hypothesis; the following collection of roots includes "krikos" and "galgal."

14 posted on 03/19/2004 12:16:41 AM PST by Tex_GOP_Cruz (Remember Estrada!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Tex_GOP_Cruz
Continuing with the guesses, I would guess that spinning wheels predate wagon wheels.
15 posted on 03/19/2004 1:40:47 AM PST by CobaltBlue
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Tex_GOP_Cruz
I should say why I think spinning wheels predate wagon wheels. If you spin thread, you need a way to keep it neat. Rolling it around a stick would do it.
16 posted on 03/19/2004 1:42:44 AM PST by CobaltBlue
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: CobaltBlue
Spinning wheels (operated by foot, or by turning a wheel) are very recent developments--roughtly around medieval/Renaissance. Until that time, all thread was spun on a spindle, an item of engineering so simple that you can manage it with a stick stuck into a potato. Even a small item of clothing was very labor-intensive--where we get our term, "heirloom."

(Interested in textiles)

Been reading a little of Basque lately because of the ETA--such a lot of Z's and K's! Has a very Greco affect.

And I'm always interested in Finnish, since that's what Tolkein used as a model for Elvish.

17 posted on 03/19/2004 5:09:58 AM PST by Mamzelle
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Mamzelle
"Spinning wheels (operated by foot, or by turning a wheel) are very recent developments--roughtly around medieval/Renaissance."

I think they go back much further than that. Elizabeth Barber (A textile expert), in her book, The Mummies Of Urumchi, discusses the clothing of the mummies found in the Tarim Basin. Some of these Caucasian mummies date to 2,000BC and have clothing that are comparable with the Scottish twills of today.(patterns and weaving techniques)

The materials, styles and Manufacturing techniques are exactly like those of the Celts at Hallstadt, Austria...which is a thousand years apart in time and 4,000 miles in distance. These early people to that region spoke the extinct Indo-European language, Tocharian.

The oldest paper ever found comes from this region and the language written on the paper is Tocharian. For further reading on this subject, go here:

The Curse Of The Red-Headed Mummy

18 posted on 03/19/2004 5:42:39 AM PST by blam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Charles Henrickson
Ethnically most of the Finns and all of the Estonians are from the same stock as all other Scandinavians. The Saami are "different", but they're not Asiatics either.

Finland, Estonia and Hungary were all conquered by Mongolian and Turkish people in the early Middle Ages under conditions which brought about a linguistic change.

The Saami are a remnant (80,000+ people) of what may have been Europe's first population of modern humans. After the Black Plague which killed 90% of the Norse people in Norway, the Coastal Saami were enticed to take up Norse farms (presumably so taxes could be paid). 10% or less of the Saami suffered from the Plague although they live in an area where the dominant lifeform is the rat (and other rodents, e.g. lemmings). Their language is quite ancient ~ maybe more than we realize.

19 posted on 03/19/2004 6:19:35 AM PST by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Charles Henrickson
The Uralic-Altaic languages are related. Whether the people speaking them are closely related is a good question. Even Japanese has an Uralic-Altaic component, as well as a Polynesian component, and something else which is probably not related to any other current language group. Maybe the Jomon language is the "third part".
20 posted on 03/19/2004 6:23:51 AM PST by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
So you're saying that the Finns are *ethnically* Scandinavian but not *linguistically*. OK. I know for sure that the Finnish language and even the names are *much* different from Swedish/Norwegian/Danish.
21 posted on 03/19/2004 8:11:10 AM PST by Charles Henrickson ("Karl Henriksson," Swedish)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: blam
For lurkers, too--Spinning creates the thread and yarn--weaving creates the fabric from the yarn. It takes much longer to spin the yarn and thread (particularly if all you have is a spindle) than the weave the fabric, even with the most elemental of looms.

A spindle is not a wheel--Sleeping Beauty (story by Perrault, approx 1700) is generally shown pricking her finger on the *distaff* of a flax spinning wheel (a distaff is the small pole/cross that holds the fiber--most often prepared flax/linen--while the spinner draws out the fiber and feeds it onto the draw-spindle wheel). A distaff is not sharp, nor is anything else on the conventional spinning wheel. This is something I see in illustrations that always irritates me--why not get it right? The other thing is to show a woman riding sidesaddle on the wrong side, but, anyway... The pretty little European wheels were first adapted for flax/linen, but can be useful for wool, silk and even the short-fibered cotton.

But a hand-spindle typically as two sharp ends--it had to have been this that Perrault was writing about.

Now, the large wool-wheels seen often in antique shops in the US, also called "walking wheels" because the spinner is on foot, walking from side to side as she feeds the wool fiber onto a classic, dangerous sharp spindle instead of the fly-wheel of the more complex flax wheel. This walking wheel is awkward, primitive and miserable for anything but wool. I inherited one, but dislike using it. A hand spindle is easier than this wheel. The nice thing about the walking wheel is that it is easy to construct--but you don't see many of these in European spinnery.

The flax used to make the exquisite linens that survive ancient Egyptian times was spun into thread on hand spindles, an item every child and woman and even a lot of men wielded to amass the quantities of thread needed to make even a small amount of woven linen. You see many illustrations of these spindles in art books which photograph the walls of temples and tombs.

Hand spindles have been around as long as history. Nomads and bedouins to this day carry them and spin camel hair, while on the camel's back! To use a hand spindle, it is handy to stand on a stool (or sit on a tall camel) so that you have a little more distance between youself and the spindle, and can create a longer yarn before you have to stop spinning and wind the spun yarn onto the "stick" of the spindle.

Flax is a fascinating and useful gift to mankind. Fields of blue flowers, then the plant yeilds the seeds to make flour and oil, and the stalks processed into long flax fibers, to be spun into linen. The length of these fibers makes the spinning easy, even for a hand spindle.

A hand-spindle looks like something like a child's top--and it's nice when they're well-made. But I've taught many a child to spin wool with a pencil stuck into a potato.

Vocabulary associated with spinnery is feminine--"Spinsters" were unmarried relatives relegated to the unrelenting processing of fiber. And the "distaff" side of a room refers to the women. The holder of the flywheel on a flax-wheel is called "mother of all."

Twill is a weave, not spinning, and is not at all hard to accomplish with a tapestry-style loom that you also see in illustrations of ancient Egyptians.

22 posted on 03/19/2004 8:13:20 AM PST by Mamzelle
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Mamzelle
Thank you for the explanation. It's very interesting and helpful.

The word we were discussing - and in English that word is "circle" - was the word "galgal" in Arabic - and it's plain as day that "circle" and "galgal" are cognate.

I don't speak any Arabic whatsoever, but I do use words borrowed from Arabic, like alchemy, alcohol, alembic, which tells me that Arab speakers could easily borrow words from Indo-European speakers - the contacts have been extremely extensive over time.

However, according to the article, the root word is "k'el", to rotate - and it seems to me that you are describing a process which requires rotation. The fibers are twisted into thread and the thread is wrapped around something.

Whoever invented that process may have used the word "k'el" to describe the process of turning the spindle around to wind the thread or turning the thread around the spindle -- seems to me that turning the spindle around is the easiest way to do it but again this is just a guess.
23 posted on 03/19/2004 9:09:18 AM PST by CobaltBlue
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Mamzelle
Why are spindles sharp?
24 posted on 03/19/2004 9:11:29 AM PST by CobaltBlue
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: CobaltBlue
On a walking wheel, the spindle is sharp because you are holding the wool fibers against it as you feed in the wool--it's hard to explain if I can't "show" you, but the fibers are fed in tension with the triangular "draw" of your fingers as you feed. I took the sharp spindle off my walking wheel because it was a hazard--I rarely see walking wheels for sale that have the original spindles with them. They are usually long lost.

Some hand spindles--sometimes called "drop" spindles because you drop them like a top--have a sharp point on the bottom, and many have a sharp point at the top of the stick for the reason I explained before. For pictures of ancient spindles, google search words " egyptian flax spindles".

Spindles don't have to be sharp, it's just better when you get experienced to have a point--I don't work with children with sharp spindles.

Now, with the elegant little flax wheels you see in the fairy stories "spinning straw into gold"--they have no spindle at all, but a bobbin that winds in opposition to the string that turns the wheel, powered by the foot that works a pedal. Some wheels have a system of two strings turning the wheel--creating a system of braking. Very complex compared to either the hand spindle or the walking wheel. You feed the fiber into a little hole, and the tension of the fiber is against a smooth peg or even the side opening of the bobbin. No way to prick your finger.

I guess I can really run on about textiles...

The flax wheel was an important innovation in spinning, enabling good speed in producing yarn from fiber. They were not known in Europe before the early Renaissance. The peasant who boasted of his daughter "spinning straw into gold" was perhaps a metaphor of this innovation. Even aristocrats had their spinning wheels in the ladies' salons, though the poorer classes made their own drop spindles. When shepherds and shepherdesses tended their flocks, they also carried fiber and spindle with them to be spun into thread and yarn.

Spinning is easy to learn, but hard to master. It is difficult to turn out consistent thread and yarn.

Spinning can be a very meditative and relaxing hobby, too, which is why Sleeping Beauty was fascinated with the skillful fingers of the spinner in the fairy tale.

25 posted on 03/19/2004 10:35:23 AM PST by Mamzelle
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: CobaltBlue
K'el-- first thing I thought of are the winding shapes of Celtic design-- wonder if those words are related, I don't know what "Book of Cels" really means.
26 posted on 03/19/2004 10:43:42 AM PST by Mamzelle
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: Mamzelle
The Book of Kells is named so for the cathedral at Kells, County Meath, in Ireland.
"An Irish manuscript containing the Four Gospels, a fragment of Hebrew names, and the Eusebian canons, known also as the "Book of Columba", probably because it was written in the monastery of Iona to honour the saint. It is likely that it is to this book that the entry in the "Annals of Ulster" under the year 1006 refers, recording that in that year the "Gospel of Columba" was stolen. According to tradition, the book is a relic from the time of Columba (d. 597) and even the work of his hands, but, on palæographic grounds and judging by the character of the ornamentation, this tradition cannot be sustained, and the date of the composition of the book can hardly be placed earlier than the end of the seventh or beginning of the eighth century. This must be the book which the Welshman, Geraldus Cambrensis, saw at Kildare in the last quarter of the twelfth century and which he describes in glowing terms (Topogr. Hibern., II, xxxviii). We next hear of it at the cathedral of Kells (Irish Cenannus) in Meath, a foundation of Columba's, where it remained for a long time, or until the year 1541. In the seventeenth century Archbishop Ussher presented it to Trinity College, Dublin, where it is the most precious manuscript (A. I. 6) in the college library and by far the choicest relic of Irish art that has been preserved. In it is to be found every variety of design typical of Irish art at its best."
27 posted on 03/19/2004 5:21:09 PM PST by visualops (Two Wrongs don't make a right- they make the Democratic Ticket for 2004!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

Not a ping, just a GGG update.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest
-- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

28 posted on 03/30/2005 10:51:10 AM PST by SunkenCiv (last updated my FreeRepublic profile on Friday, March 25, 2005.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Just updating the GGG information, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

29 posted on 02/04/2006 3:21:19 PM PST by SunkenCiv (Islam is medieval fascism, and the Koran is a medieval Mein Kampf.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

30 posted on 04/05/2006 11:56:41 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: farmfriend; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; blam

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

Note: this topic is from 2004. Thanks farmfriend.

Just updating the GGG message, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach

·Dogpile · Archaeologica · ArchaeoBlog · Archaeology · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Discover · Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo · Google ·
· The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·

31 posted on 08/23/2009 9:48:54 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ( Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
The Gods Must Be Crazy.

In Click Languages, An Echo Of The Tongues Of The Ancients

Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Do some of today's languages still hold a whisper of the ancient mother tongue spoken by the first modern humans? Many linguists say language changes far too fast for that to be possible. But a new genetic study underlines the extreme antiquity of a special group of languages, raising the possibility that their distinctive feature was part of the ancestral human mother tongue.

They are the click languages of southern Africa. About 30 survive, spoken by peoples like the San, traditional hunters and gatherers, and the Khwe, who include hunters and herders.

Each language has a set of four or five click sounds, which are essentially double consonants made by sucking the tongue down from the roof of the mouth. Outside of Africa, the only language known to use clicks is Damin, an extinct aboriginal language in Australia that was taught only to men for initiation rites.


32 posted on 08/23/2009 2:18:41 PM PDT by blam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 31 | View Replies]

To: blam

The reasoning behind that is, the clicks are hard to learn (though obviously everyone has the same set of basic tools built right in), and that it’s easier to imagine that the clicks might have been in the original language(s), but were also easy to wave bye-bye to.

Naturally, odds are good that I don’t agree with that. ;’)

33 posted on 08/23/2009 7:17:46 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ( Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson