Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Intriguing Comments on Brian Stubbs' Work on Possible Old World Connections to Uto-Aztecan Languages

After I published "The Next Big Thing in LDS Apologetics: Strong Semitic and Egyptian Elements in Uto-Aztecan Languages" at The Interpreter, I was pleasantly surprised with some of the the comments shared by various readers. Some of the most recent comments are especially interesting to me, beginning with two from Brian Stubbs himself:

1. How delightful to read civil discourse on Jeff’s review of my works! I’ve never experienced such a high percentage of reasonable commentary on such topics. Most of the questions were answered by later commenters. I might add two comments. One, Yes, I returned from two years among the Navajo, and immediately looked into that possibility, but within days of looking at Sino-Tibetan and other Far Languages, I could see that Athapaskan came from across the Bering Strait. So if I were of a mind to “create” something from nothing, it would have been there. Two, all the main UA pronouns are from Semitic or Egytian, as is a relatively high percent of its basic vocabulary: head, eyes, nose, cheek, neck, hair, shoulder, chest, breast, waist, leg, calf, finger/toe, sun, sky, moon, rock, water, several kinds of trees / plants, man, woman, several kinds of animals and insects, etc, etc. Of course, much remains to be figured out of how it all happened, yet it’s beginning to look like, rather than a near east infusion into UA, that other things came into the Near-Eastern base that UA actually is, because both Semitic-kw terms (Mulek) and Semitic-p and Egyptian terms (Nephi) are in all branches of UA, besides the actual Semitic terms for Nephites, both masc plural and feminine pl in some UA languages.

2. Stan Spencer pleasantly asked a fair question about Swadesh word lists, mentioning Tiberian Hebrew and Nahua, which deserves more explanation. Mulekite Semitic-kw would better correspond to Hebrew, but Mulek vocabulary is less prominent in UA than Lehite Semitic-p. UA pronouns are more from Lehite Aramaic and Egyptian, and you Sg is from you pl, just as English ‘you’ (originally pl) replaced ‘thou’ (related to German du, Latin tu, etc). So explainable changes make the Swadesh vocabulary lists problematic. E.g., the Hebrew word ‘ish ‘man’ is minimally found in UA, but the common UA word for man is from Aramaic dakar ‘male’ > UA / Nahua taka ‘man’, etc. The books explain things quite well, but plowing thru such books is not everyone’s priority, tho the smaller, lay-reader friendly Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now explains, in ways, more than the larger. Thank you Stan and all for your congenial discourse.
Then today came an interesting homework from a reader who has done his homework on this topic. Beau Anderson writes:
I know this article hasn’t been commented on recently, but just in case people interested in this subject come across this article, I would like to add to this conversation.

I became aware that Brian was working on this language proposal sometime around 2012-2013. I sent him an email inquiring about it and he very generously made available to me a pre-publication copy of the larger book that Jeff mentions in this article.

I found the proposal so professionally prepared and interesting that I immersed myself in it, trying to see if Brian’s arguments were truly as persuasive as they seemed to be. That pre-publication copy got so over-used that I heard it breathe an audible sigh of relief when I bought Brian’s finished book after it was published.

I also reached out Lyle Campbell, a (non-LDS) foremost scholar in historical linguistics and in Uto-Aztecan languages. Lyle quite literally wrote the book on what it takes to establish “long-distance” relationships between language families.

Lyle was kind enough to provide me with some general feedback regarding Brian Stubbs’ work, language relationships in general, and Uto-Aztecan in particular. I think it is particularly helpful to hear from a prominent non-mormon historical linguist about what he thinks of Brian Stubbs previous Uto-Aztecan publications and professionalism:

“Brian kindly sent me his [Semitic/Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan] work a few months ago, and I haven’t had time to do more than scan parts of it. Brian’s UA Comparative Vocabulary is excellent, the major source for checking UA cognates. It’s based on sound principles and rigorous scholarship. I refer to it often, and am grateful to Brian for sharing it with me.” (Lyle Campbell, personal correspondence, January 2016, shared with Lyle’s permission)

The book “UA Comparative Vocabulary” that Lyle mentions as being “based on sound principles and rigorous scholarship” presents its data in a very similar fashion as the language proposal, although the language proposal tends to provide even more detailed information and much more useful indexes and appendixes.

After working to understand the validity of Brian’s work for several years, I can’t say enough about how powerful I think the case is for significant Semitic & Egyptian influence in Uto-Aztecan languages.
Thank you, Beau!

Note that Dr. Campbell is not directly evaluating the merits of Stubbs' recent work, but is kindly acknowledging his competence in the UA arena. Eventually I hope Dr. Campbell will be able to more directly evaluate the specific findings in Stubbs work, in spite of the sensitivity of anything tied to Book of Mormon evidences. Fingers crossed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although not related to the Old World Uto-Aztecan connection. Here's a book by a non-LDS scholar the explores the connection between Zuni and Japanese language.

https://www.amazon.com/Zuni-Enigma-American-Possible-Connection/dp/0393322300

From a secular perspective, I find it completely plausible that some Pre-Columbian languages in the Americas were influenced if not originated by languages from the Old World.