Comparative linguistics--advantage--criteria desired

Paul Kekai Manansala kekai at JPS.NET
Sat Mar 18 17:06:06 UTC 2000

Haridas C wrote:
> --- Paul Kekai Manansala <kekai at JPS.NET> wrote:
> > In this sense, those raised in the culture and
> > language studied are at
> > an advantage.
> Could you please detail the criteria involved with
> your assessment?
> Why exactly are 'they' at an advantage, and where
> might 'they' be presently located in time with respect
> to an utterance once spoken in the far past, perhaps
> within the same frame of mind as the original
> speaker/writer?

I was referring to comparative linguistics as a whole and not
just studying ancient languages.

Understanding the cultural milieu is important. Take a look
at the Chinese process of derivation.  Some of this makes no
sense unless you understand the thinking and culture. That is one
reason why informants are so valuable.

You probably know, as I do, people raised in the "old
country" who, although they may have lived in the West longer than
their children, still query the latter on aspects of Western culture and
thinking they don't understand.

If you are raised in the culture of the languages studied,
some semantic expansions stand out like beams of light, but these
might not be noticed by someone with different cultural background.

Furthermore these might not be acceptable to the latter
because they don't appeal to their own sense of logic, or they might
not agree with the relationships between different sets of objects.

Re: translations and interpretation, phrases are a good
example of the need for interpretation. For example, someone writes
"it came straight from the horse's mouth."  Herr Witzel, in a future
life still as an historical linguist, might interpret this as meaning
present day rishis were able to actually talk to horses.

Paul Kekai Manansala

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