Query on the term *mistri*

Jacob Baltuch jacob.baltuch at EURONET.BE
Mon Mar 2 00:28:19 UTC 1998

Dominik Wujastyk wrote:

>Words don't just "transform" from one thing into another.  There are
>phonological laws involved, and not everything is possible (including
>"master > mEstrI").

This is a dangerous statement. Let's hope that there is no Portuguese
(resp. English) 't' that has ever resulted in a retroflex (resp.
alveolar) 't' in an Indian language, or that if it exists people
sharing Subrahmanya's view of linguistics never find it :) or they
will be happy to throw it at you saying "You see, linguistics means
nothing, it's all nonsense". I don't know if one can say that it is
*impossible* for this to happen. Linguistics laws are not like physical
laws. They represent statistical trends. It is their failure to understand
that which may be part of the reason why *some* people with background
in the sciences deny that linguistic methods are rigorous.

An unrelated observation re: this thread: there's more to Europe than
just England. There's also Portugal (for example). Granted that the
main reason the eminent nuclear physicist got it wrong was that he was
entirely incompetent in matters of historical linguistics, but isn't
the mistake he made typical for another reason?

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