Časopis Slovo a slovesnost
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The “Nostratic” roots of Indo-European: from Illich-Svitych to Dolgopolsky to future horizons

George Starostin, Mikhail Zhivlov, Alexei Kassian

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The “Nostratic” roots of Indo-European: from Illich-Svitych to Dolgopolsky to future horizons

A B S T R A C T
The paper presents a brief assessment of “Nostratic” – the controversial, but promising hypothesis on deeper linguistic connections of the Indo-European family, as envisaged by Vladislav Illich-Svitych and his contemporaries (particularly Aharon Dolgopolsky). We discuss some of the most important developments of the theory since the 1960s, and explain how emphasis on “quantity over quality” of data in the new huge corpora of “Nostratic” comparanda is less useful for advancing the hypothesis than a narrowly targeted emphasis on identifying the “core” evidence for the macrofamily. Identifying this “core” evidence, consisting of a small, but generally stable layer of the basic lexicon, is necessary to lend a more historically realistic flavor to the hypothesis, and its statistical evaluation will also help better understand the place of Indo-European among the other potential constituents of “Nostratic”. We argue that, in weighing the evidence, typological plausibility of semantic shifts and absence of topological conflicts in the tree are no less important than regularity of sound changes. We also show how the credibility level of various theories on the external connections of Indo-European can be arranged along a gradient – from “Indo-Uralic” to a general “Nostratic”, and indicate implications that such an arrangement may hold for future studies.

Key words: Nostratic, Indo-European, long-range comparison, Illich-Svitych, lexicostatistics

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Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities
Miusskaya pl., 6, korp. 1, 125993 Moscow, Russia
School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
gstarst1@gmail.com
zhivlov@gmail.com

Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Bolshoi Kislovskiy per. d. 1, str. 1, 125009 Moscow, Russia
School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
a.kassian@gmail.com

Slovo a slovesnost, ročník 77 (2016), číslo 4, s. 392-415

Předchozí Allan R. Bomhard: The glottalic model of Proto-Indo-European consonantism: re-igniting the dialog

Následující Jadranka Gvozdanović: Aspects of Indo-European historical syntax in a typological perspective