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Re: Book & site list

Postby Mick Harper » 1:41 am

Basic sign language in a way.

There are various ways of doing it -- deaf and dumb signing has the same international effect (I think). Withdraw your LOL, sirrah.
As for English in Ireland. I would say that the key is Doggerland. The whole of northern Europe is Germanic for want of a better word. And that must have included Doggerland. And if it included Doggerland then it must have included Britain and Ireland. People simply moved.

I don't go in for these Grand Schemes since, at least in our present state of knowledge, pretty much anything goes.
We know that the Irish language is isolated from all languages in western Europe. As is Basque of course.

But not, I presume you would argue, by anything like the same distance. Are you saying that Irish is isolated from Welsh? Surely not.
And the Irish themselves talk about how their ancestors came to Ireland. They don't claim to have been indigenous at least linguistically.

As you know, I take no notice of this kind of 'tradition'. Though if they want to put the English there rather than than the Foul Bogies I will have no objection.
An American, Brad Larkin, has been tackling this problem by comparing the spread of Irish clans in their historical lands, the Irish Annals and the legends, and dna which lots of Irish people have been getting themselves tested for.

Having watched the first third of his lecture (I'll finish up tomorrow) I am confident that nothing either radical or definitive will come out of these studies (even though the British ones support THOBR). I find the confidence attached to genetic claims laughable in our present state of knowledge. Not to mention that historians are constantly giving the genticists bum steers as to the correct 'marker' populations.
He has been able to map the major clans with particular dna groups. And in all of this there is a group, a minority which is quite remarkable because it is the 'I' dna which is recognised as the only dna native to Europe. It is the earliest dna and is still carried by a minority of people and even in Ireland. He gives a talk about this to a conference in Ireland. It should be noted that there is another branch of the 'I' dna which exists but this is associated with the Norman settlers in Ireland whether through direct Viking intrusions or with Normans from England.

Oh well, I do not accept the Normans are Scandinavian. I have recently re-assigned their ethncity thanks to Borry's God-Kings of Europe. which I am avidly consuming.
Mick Harper
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Re: Book & site list

Postby hvered » 8:59 pm

The theory (maybe Hatty can dig it up, it's on a very old forum) was along these lines. Comparable to a Japanese being able to read Chinese because the ideograms mean the same thing even though they are pronounced in two completely different languages. It was, I seem to remember, quite an ingenious system -- or at least our theorising was.

Sorry, joining a bit late. There are several relevant posts, beginning with one of Mick's

European languages can be divided into two sorts

a) demotic languages spoken by the present populations where they live now and have been spoken back into pre-history. These were unwritten until after about the 9th C AD
eg French, (Modern) Greek, Italian, English,, Welsh, Swedish, German

b) non-demotic languages, not spoken by anyone today. These were written in alphabets.
eg Punic, Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Gothic

It is proposed that these dead "alphabet-languages" were actually artificial languages devised for the purposes of written communication in long distance trade.

PROBLEM: Why alphabets? Why artificial languages? Why not do what had hitherto been the practice and write your own language in ideograms/pictograms like the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians, the Hittites and the rest?

ANSWER: written communication in ideograms can be understood by anyone. For instance, a Japanese can understand written Chinese even though he doesn't understand the language. Hence if French was written in ideograms (and I knew my ideograms) I would merely read a Frenchman's ideogram as "house" even though, as far as he was concerned, he is writing "maison", i.e. people with different languages cannot communicate by speech but they can by ideographic writing.
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Re: Book & site list

Postby hvered » 9:02 pm

Mick's next post develops the point(s)

If you wish to create a "cypher" you simply switch from pictograms/ideograms to an alphabet i.e. you phoneticise your own language and therefore no-one who cannot speak your language can now read that language even though they may know what every letter of the alphabet actually sounds like, i.e. people with different languages can neither communicate in speech or writing.

However, languages typically have more vowel and consonant sounds than is containable in a twenty-odd letter alphabet. So you take your demotic language and you drastically simplify it. This also makes it difficult for anyone who does speak your language to understand its written form.

You can then further "encipher" it by altering the alphabet. This is why Punic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Gothic and Old Norse are each based on but are each decisively different from the one before.

[Alternative explanation for different alphabets: the fact that you will be simplifying different languages and hence requiring a varying set of consonant and vowel sounds means the previous system will be inconvenient.]

Now you have a nascent trading organization that has secure communications. But you also have an "initiation" process. Since it takes years of learning to become fluent in this new language and this new alphabet (and it's something you can't counterfeit) you have the option of breaking out of your old "national" language group. Anyone who is prepared to put in the work (or more practically put their children through the work) will now have access (and a presumptive loyalty) to a ready-made trading group.

This can be observed in the Roman Empire (but can also be dimly seen in Carthage) where "provincials" were accepted as Roman citizens by (essentially) just learning Latin.

The only problem with this strategy is that soon there are other groups using the same strategy. At first, with plenty of territory to go round, colonies could be established that only had to be strong enough to keep the locals at bay (which, since a colony benefited the locals, was not too arduous).

However over time competition between the rival groups meant that each colony had to be strong enough to fend off other groups which in turn meant that the colonies would be strong enough to shake off control of the mother-city. And therefore strong enough to take over the locals and and...and...well, it's all in the orthodox history. It's an observable fact that the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Goths and the Vikings all used various models of organisation.

etc etc
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Re: Book & site list

Postby Boreades » 9:05 pm

hvered wrote:Sorry, joining a bit late.

But welcome back! :-)
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Re: Book & site list

Postby Mick Harper » 9:40 pm

I'd forgotten all this! How brilliant I used to be. Actually I was referring to the 'Pheonician' strategy which involves the following scene at Phoenicia Central, Tyre.

HQ man (in Canaanite): Is there a Briton in the house?'
Briton (in Canaanite): That'll be me, guv. I do all the languages for the north-west.
HQ man (in Canaanite): How do you say "Five hundred ingots of copper, one hundred of tin, please"?
Briton (in English): "Five hundred ingots of copper, one hundred of tin, please."
HQ man: Slower, I've got to get it down in Phonetics.
Briton: If it's tin, I'd better give it to you in Welsh as well.

Phoenician metal trader arrives in England

Phoenician (reading from his phonetic crib sheet): "Five hundred ingots of copper, one hundred of tin, please."
Cornishman: No speaka da Inglish.
Phoenician (in Welsh): "Five hundred ingots of copper, one hundred of tin, please"?

Tricky, perhaps unlikely, but nifty all the same. There was a lot of advantages being signed up with the Phoenicians. Until the Romans decided to cut out the middle man. They even called them the Punic Wars.
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Re: Book & site list

Postby hvered » 10:07 am

More from the AEL discussion on 'How fast do languages change?'.

Mick wrote:

Well, let's break down the argument. Suppose you are speaking an ordinary European language and you want to write it down in an alphabet. Basically, you can't. There are too many sounds--about eighty in English for example.

If you want to assist the process of uptake by adopting an existing alphabet (i.e. one people might already be familiar with from writing in a foreign language) the problem gets even worse because there is no guarantee that the sounds in your language will fit at all well with the letters of somebody else's alphabet. So basically you give up.

However certain groups had a pressing need not to speak to one another (they could already do that) but to write to one another. The reason for this was because they were engaged in long-distance trade.

They could of course have done what you suggest and simply used an existing writing system--ideograms, cuneiform etc-- (and indeed they did) but these presented a minor but not insignificant problem for international traders everywhere. All these languages used direct substitution of spoken words for the written form and hence, whatever language they were written in, anyone could read them.

That just happens to be a characteristic of ideogrammatic writing. You actually read Egyptian pyramid texts in English! Though, parri passu, we do not know what Egyptian sounds like (at any rate from the hieroglyphs). Which reminds me, I may have spelled parri passu wrong, I may not know what it means, but I do know what it sounds like because the French not only use the same alphabet as I do, they use the same letters to denote the same sounds as I do. Though being French obviously they mangle everything horribly.

Any road, somebody--we think it was a Phoenician--had the bright idea of taking a simplified form of their own language (Aramaic? we dunno because Punic is still undeciphered) and rendering it down to a form that could be expressed into an alphabet. This had two remarkable effects:

1. Completely secure communication but, much more importantly,

2. A means of creating instant "Phoenicians" ad infinitum and wherever they were needed because anyone who went to all the trouble of learning this new simplified language and how to write it had a vested interest in the "Phoenician interest".

It's a bit like the Masons or Macdonald's franchising. A built-in exponential expansionary scheme in a world plodding along using family networks and single city states and mercantile associations and local guilds and sole traders and hopelessly uncompetitive organisations like that. The "Alphabeticals" did in Ancient History what the Joint-Stock Company did in modern history ...cleaned up.
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Re: Book & site list

Postby hvered » 10:11 am

Continuing same post

So the theory goes. It worked and soon all over the Mediterranean there were "Phoenician" colonies. No doubt many of them really were Aramaic-speakers but frankly they didn't give a damn. As long as you talked the talk you were allowed to trade the trade.

Human nature being what it is, after a few generations, the top dogs spoke only this privileged language and brought their children up in it while everyone else was --er-- everyone else.

This success, and the manner of it, was noticed by a bunch of Greek-speakers who sat down with their Demotic Greek and simplified it into a form which could be expressed in just fifteen consonants and five vowels (is that right? something like that) and so Classical Greek was born.

So successful was this that quite quickly Hellas was divided into those who could speak and write this new language and lived and traded in towns and those who couldn't became slaves, helots, rustics and other folk we don't hear much about unless they revolt.

But now tha's trouble in t'Med. Two inimical trading groups, Phoenicians and Greeks, but only one Mediterranean. Not to mention eventually Tyre vs Carthage and Athens versus Corinth et al. We've got some history on all this but actually we know exactly what happens from Spain, Portugal, Holland, England and France. Peaceful coexistence is fine when there's plenty of trade to go round but very soon trade means war.

All of this was noted with some interest by some Italian-speakers who argued "Fuck this trade lark, we'll never be able to compete with the Cartho's and the Bubbles, let's go straight to the war stage." So they simplified Italian to fit their new alphabet and came up with Latin.

A bit later, up on their northern borders, some salt-traders plying the Elbe route from the salt-mines of Saxony up to the "angle" of Denmark and Geermany said, "Ja, that's a gut idea, let's simplify our beloved German into Anglo-Saxon and compose OUR own alphabet."

And on their northern borders, some Swedes said "blah blah... into Gothic and compose OUR own alphabet."

And on their northern borders, some Danes said "blah blah... Old Norse and compose OUR own alphabet."
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Re: Book & site list

Postby hvered » 10:12 am

Last part (same post)

Meanwhile, one group had recognized that control of the alphabet and thus the written language meant that you didn't have to follow either the trading model or the conquest model, you could do the whole thing using a hearts-and-minds (and a bit of squeezing-the-bollocks) model. Yes, you guessed it, the Roman Catholic Church, which used control of education to ensure that Latin was a monopoly written language.

Though of course it did have to make special local arrangements with the other local alphabeticals--Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Norse. In all cases the deal was simple: don't let the locals write their own language. Everything else flows from this simple command because either you're in the ruling class already (i.e. you speak, maybe write, Anglo-Saxon, Gothic, Norse) or you can join the ruling class by learning Latin. And in order to learn Latin you have to sign up for the discipline of the Catholic Church.

If you just speak the ordinary local language--English, French, Dutch, Spanish etc--you are an illiterate rustic. By definition. But, as it happens, there was one tiny corner of Europe where neither the Latins nor the Alphabeticals could ever quite reach, so that's where the next momentous event took place.

That's right, you all guessed it, Western Ireland where some little janius realised that by using the Latin alphabet, adding a few new letters and with the judicious use of dipthongs and dimorphs you could actually render demotic Irish into written alphabetic form. And hence being literate didn't mean having to sign up to anybody else's culture.

Thus the Celtic Renaissance and the spread of the monasteries with their obsession with scriptoria and their endless battles with Episcopalian Catholicism. By the time this battle was lost (or rather by the time this battle became irrelevant) the Welsh then the French then the Brits then everyone else had learned the same trick and the whole Latin Is King model was finished.

Cue the linguistic nation-state and the rest is (true) history.
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Re: Book & site list

Postby hvered » 10:25 pm

The talk that Mick gave at Megalithomania is available on Amazon. The DVD title is The Megalithic Empire and its cover is the same as the book's


Could be misleading as the talk is actually based on the maritime trade route(s). ... 1VX0H31W0W
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Re: Book & site list

Postby Mick Harper » 4:14 pm

I spotted a promising book on Amazon here
If anyone has £12.95 to spare perhaps they might check it out for the benefit of the rest of us.
Mick Harper
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