In This Article Nostratic

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews

Linguistics Nostratic
by
George Starostin
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0156

Introduction

The term Nostratic commonly designates a hypothetical macrofamily, or “superfamily,” consisting of several linguistic families spread across Eurasia, all of which are supposedly descended from a single common ancestor, Proto-Nostratic; according to most proponents of the hypothesis, this proto-language was probably spoken not later than the Early Neolithic period. No consensus exists among the supporters of Nostratic as to its exact extent and limits, but every variant of the hypothesis includes such “core” families as Indo-European, Uralic, and Altaic (the latter being controversial in itself); most versions also add Kartvelian, Dravidian, and Afroasiatic languages (see Taxonomy of Nostratic for details). Advocates of Nostratic usually claim that this macrofamily is established based not on superficial similarities between its daughter branches, but rather on recurrent and even rigorous correspondence patterns, in accordance with the classic comparative-historical method, and they back this claim with large amounts of comparative evidence. Nevertheless, this evidence is also regarded by many specialists as insufficient to satisfy the criteria generally required for demonstrating genetic relationship, and the theory remains highly controversial among mainstream historical linguists, who tend to view it as, at worst, completely invalid or, at best, inconclusive. Nostratic does, however, enjoy a particularly high level of support among Russian historical linguists, two of whom (Vladislav Illich-Svitych and Aharon Dolgopolsky) are usually regarded as the “founding fathers” of the theory. Since the overall number of languages that allegedly belong to the Nostratic macrofamily is very large, this article includes works that deal exclusively with the various aspects of the Nostratic hypothesis itself, which are relatively few in comparison. It should be noted that the majority of these works, until the most recent decades, have been published either in Russian or in German, and many of them are not easily accessible.

General Overviews

Due to the controversial status of the Nostratic hypothesis, no general textbooks are found on the subject, and most of the published overviews are either too brief or too heavily biased toward or against Nostratic (the most important of these are listed in the Criticism and Polemics section. The following short selection of works concentrate on stating the main points of the hypothesis rather than constituting works of original research or engaging in heavy polemics, and they can serve as an initial introduction to the Nostratic problem. Yakubovich 1998 presents a brief, concise overview of the hypothesis; Kaiser and Shevoroshkin 1988 adds specific details of a historical-phonological nature; Manaster Ramer 1993 discusses the hypothesis in its historical context, while Manaster Ramer, et al. 1998 focuses on various problematic issues of Nostratic and suggests ways in which these could be resolved. Additionally, the early history of Nostratic studies is well summarized in Khelimskiy 1986.

  • Kaiser, Mark, and Vitaly Shevoroshkin. 1988. Nostratic. Annual Review of Anthropology 17:309–330.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.an.17.100188.001521E-mail Citation »

    Brief overview of the history of Nostratic and of the regular phonetic correspondences between its daughter branches, illustrated by examples from the works of Illich-Svitych and Dolgopolsky. Written from a strongly pro-Nostratic perspective.

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    • Khelimskiy, Yevgeniy. 1986. Trudy V. M. Illich-Svitycha i razvitiye nostraticheskikh issledovaniy za rubezhom. In Zarubezhnaya istoriografiya slavyanovedeniya i balkanistiki. Edited by A. S. Myl’nikov, 229–282. Moscow: Nauka.

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      A brief sketch of the history of Nostratic studies up to 1986, including an account of its evaluation in the linguistic circles outside of Russia. In Russian.

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      • Manaster Ramer, Alexis. 1993. On Illič-Svityč’s Nostratic theory. Studies in Language 17:205–250.

        DOI: 10.1075/sl.17.1.09manE-mail Citation »

        A somewhat sympathetic, but overall unbiased review article that reviews the foundations of the Nostratic hypothesis and the critical reception of the Nostratic hypothesis in the USSR and in the West; also contains the author’s reflections on possible improvements of both the essence and the “public image” of Nostratic.

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        • Manaster Ramer, Alexis, Peter A. Michalove, Karen S. Baertsch, and Karen L. Adams. 1998. Exploring the Nostratic hypothesis. Nostratic: Sifting the evidence. Edited by Joseph C. Salmons and Brian D. Joseph, 61–84. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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          A follow-up to Manaster Ramer 1993, with less focus on the history of Nostratic and more on surveying recent lines of criticism and suggesting constructive ways of resolving problematic issues within Nostratic reconstruction.

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          • Yakubovich, Ilya. 1998. The Nostratic linguistic macrofamily.

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            Very brief sketch of basic facts about the status and history of the Nostratic hypothesis.

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            Early History

            Early studies that eventually influenced the emergence of a full-fledged theory of Nostratic mostly took on the form of binary comparisons between large language families of Eurasia, and, as a rule, they were carried out by specialists in one of these families, interested in clarifying its external connections. These works range from highly amateurish to relatively insightful; some have even attempted to establish regular phonetic correspondences and paradigmatic isomorphisms between compared units.

            Binary Comparisons

            The comparisons suggested for Indo-European and Uralic in Collinder 1934 and Collinder 1954) are of particular note; for Uralic and Altaic, see Räsänen 1955; for Uralic and Dravidian, see Burrow 1946 and Tyler 1968; for Altaic and Dravidian, see Menges 1964; to a lesser extent, Hermann Möller’s early comparanda between Indo-European and Semitic are found in Möller 1978 (originally published in 1906) and Möller 1970 (originally published in 1911).

            • Burrow, Thomas. 1946. Dravidian studies IV: The body in Dravidian and Uralian. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 11.2: 328–356.

              DOI: 10.1017/S0041977X00072517E-mail Citation »

              A large collection of Dravidian-Uralic lexical comparanda from the anatomical sphere. Building upon earlier, more speculative, research by comparative Dravidology pioneer Robert Caldwell, the author sketches out possible ways of phonetic and semantic evolution from the hypothetical common source.

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              • Collinder, Björn. 1934. Indo-uralisches Sprachgut: Die Urverwandtschaft zwischen der indoeuropäischen und der uralischen (finnischugrisch-samojedischen) Sprachfamilie. Uppsala, Sweden: Lundequistska.

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                Detailed compendium of all the grammatical and lexical evidence that could be interpreted in favor of a genetic connection between the Indo-European and Uralic families. Many of the comparanda are still relevant for Nostratic studies.

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                • Collinder, Björn. 1954. Zur indo-uralischen Frage. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis 10:79–91.

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                  Brief, but important, paper on the recommended methodological standards for genetic comparison between Indo-European and Uralic languages.

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                  • Menges, Karl. 1964. Altaisch und Dravidisch. Orbis 13.1: 66–103.

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                    This paper discusses the various homologies between Altaic and Dravidian languages (interpreted as probably indicative of genetic relationship) on the phonetic, morphological, and syntactic levels.

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                    • Möller, Hermann. 1970. Vergleichendes indogermanisches-semitisches Wörterbuch. Repr. Göttingen, West Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

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                      Originally published in 1911. A large comparative dictionary of Indo-European and Semitic roots, serving as a direct follow-up to Möller 1978 (originally published in 1906).

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                      • Möller, Hermann. 1978. Semitisch und Indogermanisch. Repr. Hildesheim, West Germany: Georg Olm.

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                        Originally published in 1906. An early attempt at establishing regular phonetic correspondences between Proto-Semitic and Proto-Indo-European. Obsolete today, but arguably the first study to approach the issue of long-range historical comparison from a distinctly Neogrammarian perspective.

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                        • Räsänen, Martti. 1955. Uralaltaische Wortforschungen. Studia Orientalia Fennica 18. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Kirjapaino.

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                          The largest and most thoroughly annotated of all the “pre-Nostratic” compendia of lexical parallels between Uralic and Altaic languages.

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                          • Tyler, Stephen A. 1968. Dravidian and Uralian: the Lexical Evidence. Language 44.4: 798–812.

                            DOI: 10.2307/411899E-mail Citation »

                            In this paper, the author presents a set of 153 etymological parallels between Proto-Dravidian and Proto-Uralic and lays out a tentative system of phonetic correspondences.

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                            Multilateral Comparisons

                            The term Nostratic was originally introduced in Pedersen 1903, which suggested that most of the “binary” hypotheses were not mutually exclusive and could point to a large macrofamily, possibly also including Semito-Hamitic (i.e., Afroasiatic) and other linguistic groupings. Although Pedersen expanded on this idea in some of his later works (Pedersen 1908 deals primarily with Indo-Semitic and Pedersen 1933 is an evaluation of the Indo-Uralic hypothesis from a Nostratic perspective), and he found support from several specialists (Collinder 1965 is a serious look at Nostratic from a Uralicist’s point of view), no serious studies on a methodologically rigorous definition and proper reconstruction of a “Proto-Nostratic” as such were carried out prior to the early 1960s.

                            • Collinder, Björn. 1965. Hat das Uralische Verwandte? Eine sprachvergleichende Untersuchung. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis N.S., 1, 4. Uppsala, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell.

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                              In this theoretical work, dealing primarily with the external areal and genetic connections of the Uralic family, the author also raises the issue of a possible relationship of Uralic not only with Indo-European, but with the Altaic and Yukaghir languages as well.

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                              • Pedersen, Holger. 1903. Türkische Lautgesetze. Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft 57:535–561.

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                                In this paper, which deals mostly with certain historical peculiarities of the Turkic languages, the word Nostratic is introduced for the first time, reflec­ting the author’s conviction of a genetic relationship between Indo-European, “Ural-Altaic,” and Semito-Hamitic (= Afroasiatic).

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                                • Pedersen, Holger. 1908. Die indogermanisch-semitische Hypothese und die indogermanische Lautlehre. Indogermanische Forschungen 22:341–365.

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                                  This paper mostly discusses the hypothesis of an “Indo-Semitic” relationship but also adds comparative data from other potential “Nostratic” branches, including even Eskimo-Aleut.

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                                  • Pedersen, Holger. 1933. Zur Frage nach der Urverwandschaft des Indoeuropäischen mit dem Ugrofinnischen. Mémoires de la société finno-ougrienne 67:308–325.

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                                    This paper asserts a particularly close relationship between Indo-European and Uralic within the context of the larger “Nostratic” grouping, based primarily on grammatical and typological evidence.

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                                    Foundational Studies

                                    The works listed in this section are generally considered by Nostraticists to be of fundamental importance for Nostratic studies since most of them represent attempts at rigorously applying the standard comparative method to the linguistic data of the various branches of Nostratic. Most of these works have originally been published in Russian, although brief summaries and excerpts have been made available in English as well.

                                    Early Soviet Works

                                    The beginning of Nostratic studies as such is primarily connected with the work of two Soviet historical linguists: Vladislav Illich-Svitych and Aron Dolgopolsky, who, independently of each other, set out to test Pedersen’s conjectural hypothesis in the early 1960s by attempting to mold it into a regular comparative-historical model obeying Neogrammarian sound laws. This resulted in a set of short, but significant publications in Russian journals and, most importantly, the posthumous publication of Illich-Svitych’s comparative materials as the first serious attempt to produce an etymological corpus for Proto-Nostratic. In Illich-Svitych 1964, the Nostratic hypothesis is presented as a potential key to unraveling some of the issues of comparative Indo-European phonology. Illich-Svitych 1967 is a preliminary list of Nostratic reconstructions; it was followed by detailed tables of regular phonetic correspondences between the daughter branches of Nostratic in Illich-Svitych 1968 and, finally, three larger volumes of a detailed etymological dictionary (Illich-Svitych 1971, Illich-Svitych 1976, and Illich-Svitych 1984). Also of historical importance are the earliest papers on Nostratic by A. Dolgopolsky: Dolgopolsky 1986 is a first attempt at a probabilistic evaluation of the Nostratic hypothesis, and Dolgopolsky 1964 presents the author’s own original version of Nostratic correspondences, slightly different from that of Illich-Svitych.

                                    • Dolgopolsky, A. B. 1964. Gipoteza drevneyshego rodstva yazykovykh semey Severnoy Evrazii (Problemy foneticheskikh sootvetstviy). Moscow: Nauka.

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                                      This paper offers a preliminary system of phonetic correspondences among Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, Kartvelian, and Semito-Hamitic (= Afroasiatic) languages, backed with select illustrative comparanda.

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                                      • Dolgopolsky, Aharon. 1986. A probabilistic hypothesis concerning the oldest relationships among the language families of Northern Eurasia. In Typology, relationship, and time: A collection of papers on language change and relationship by Soviet linguists. Edited by V. V. Shevoroshkin and T. L. Markey, 27–50. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma.

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                                        Aharon Dolgopolsky’s first publication on Nostratic; an early attempt to demonstrate that the number of morphemic similarities between the various subbranches of Nostratic ex­ceeds what should be expected by chance. The paper introduces an algorithm that estimates potential cognates based on similarity of their consonantal structures.

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                                        • Illich-Svitych, V. M. 1964. Genezis indoevropeyskikh ryadov guttural’nykh v svete dannykh vneshnego sravneniya. In Problemy sravnitel’noy grammatiki indoevropeyskikh yazykov, 22–26. Moscow: MSU.

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                                          In this paper, the triple series of Proto-Indo-European back consonants (palatal, velar, and labiovelar) is traced back to an original series, the trifurcation of which was conditioned by the original Nostratic root vocalism. Often quoted by Nostraticists as an important early example of the contributions that Nostratic studies offer to the diachronic study of less chronologically remote linguistic families.

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                                          • Illich-Svitych, V. M. 1967. Materialy k sravnitel’nomu slovaryu nostraticheskikh yazykov (indoevropeysky, altaysky, ural’sky, dravidsky, kartvel’sky, semitokhamitsky). In Etimologiya: 1965. Edited by O. N. Trubachev, 321–373. Moscow: Nauka.

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                                            A concise description of the main phonetic correspondences between all the branches of Nostratic, illustrated by approximately 500 examples of Proto-Nostratic lexical reconstruc­tions. This is the most complete, but not the most detailed, list of Illich-Svitych’s origi­nal comparisons ever published in one place.

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                                            • Illich-Svitych, V. M. 1968. Sootvetstviya smychnykh v nostraticheskikh yazykakh. In Etimologiya 1966. Edited by O. N. Trubachev, 304–355. Moscow: Nauka.

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                                              This paper contains a much more detailed description of regular phonetic correspondences between Nostratic languages than the brief list published in Illich-Svitych 1967. All correspondences are illustrated by lexical examples and accompanied with occasional notes on diachronic typology of suggested sound changes.

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                                              • Illich-Svitych, V. M. 1971. Opyt sravneniya nostraticheskikh yazykov (semitokhamitskiy, kartvel’skiy, indoevropeyskiy, ural’skiy, dravidiyskiy, altayskiy): Vvedeniye: Sravnitel’nyj slovar’ (b-Ḳ). Moscow: Nauka.

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                                                First volume of Illich-Svitych’s Nostratic dictionary. Includes a general overview of the foundations of the Nostratic hypothesis, detailed tables of correspondences between all daughter branches (put together by Vladimir Dybo), and thoroughly annotated reconstructions of 245 Proto-Nostratic lexical and grammatical morphemes.

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                                                • Illich-Svitych, V. M. 1976. Opyt sravneniya nostraticheskikh yazykov (semitokhamitskiy, kartvel’skiy, indoevropeyskiy, ural’skiy, dravidiyskiy, altayskiy): Sravnitel’nyj slovar’ (l-ʓ́). Ukazateli. Moscow: Nauka.

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                                                  Second volume of Illich-Svitych’s Nostratic dictionary, containing another 108 Nostratic etymo­logies as well as various proto-language, Russian, and English indexes.

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                                                  • Illich-Svitych, V. M. 1984. Opyt sravneniya nostraticheskikh yazykov (semitokhamitskiy, kartvel’skiy, indoevropeyskiy, ural’skiy, dravidiyskiy, altayskiy): Sravnitel’nyj slovar’ (p-q) (po kartotekam avtora). Moscow: Nauka.

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                                                    Third and last volume of the Nostratic dictionary, with only twenty-five additional etymologies. Authorship of the third volume should largely be credited to the editors (Vladimir Dybo, Anna Dybo, and others), who submitted highly detailed etymological commentary to Proto-Nostratic reconstructions that were left in unfinished sketch form by the late Illich-Svitych.

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                                                    English Summaries

                                                    The bulk of Illich-Svitych’s comparative dictionary of Nostratic (see Illich-Svitych 1971, Illich-Svitych 1976, and Illich-Svitych 1984, all cited under Early Soviet Works) remains without an English translation. Some parts of it, such as the introduction (Dybo 1989), comparative tables (Dybo 1990), and reconstruction lists (Illich-Svitych 1990), have received limited English-language coverage in a series of collective publications on macro-comparative studies edited by Vitaly Shevoroshkin in the late 1980s. Most of these publications, however, suffer from rather poor editing jobs; for serious research purposes, it is advisable to rely on the original Russian editions.

                                                    • Dybo, Vladimir. 1989. V. M. Illich-Svitych and the development of Uralic and Dravidian linguistics. In Explorations in language macrofamilies: Materials from the first Interdisciplinary Symposium on Language and Prehistory, Ann Arbor, 8–12 November, 1988. Edited by V. V. Shevoroshkin, 20–29. Bochum, Germany: Universitätsverlag Dr. Norbert Brockmeyer.

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                                                      Brief English-language translation of a part of V. Dybo’s introduction to Illich-Svitych 1971 (cited under Early Soviet Works). The tackled subject is that of Illich-Svitych’s contributions to the reconstruction of some peculiarities of Proto-Uralic vocalism and Proto-Dravidian consonantism from an external Nostratic perspective.

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                                                      • Dybo, Vladimir. 1990. Comparative-phonetic tables for Nostratic reconstructions. In Proto-languages and proto-cultures: Materials from the first International Interdisciplinary Symposium on Language and Prehistory, Ann Arbor, 8–12 November 1988. Edited by V. Shevoroshkin, 168–175. Bochum, Germany: N. Brockmeyer.

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                                                        Reprint and English translation of the notes to V. Dybo and V. Illich-Svitych’s original tables of regular phonetic correspondences between the subbranches of Nostratic.

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                                                        • Illich-Svitych, V. M. 1990. The Nostratic reconstructions of V. Illič-Svityč. In Proto-languages and proto-cultures: Materials from the first International Interdisciplinary Symposium on Language and Prehistory, Ann Arbor, 8–12 November 1988. Edited by V. Shevoroshkin, 138–167. Translated and arranged by Mark Kaiser. Bochum, Germany: N. Brockmeyer.

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                                                          A complete list of Nostratic reconstructions from Illich-Svitych 1971, Illich-Svitych 1976, Illich-Svitych 1984 (all cited under Early Soviet Works) with their reflexations in the “daughter” proto-languages. Only the primary meanings of the reconstructions and reflexations have been translated: The extensive etymological commentary remains unavailable in English.

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                                                          The Three Main Schools of Nostratic

                                                          Since the mid-1960s, further research on Nostratic has tended to proceed along several more or less independent lines of work involving several different versions of Proto-Nostratic that depend on a particular researcher or research group’s views on the theory and methodology of long-range linguistic comparison; it is, therefore, more practical to group the various research on Nostratic by author and school rather than particular subtopics.

                                                          The Haifa School

                                                          The greatest number of publications on Nostratic belongs to Aharon Dolgopolsky, who, after emigrating from the Soviet Union to Israel in the mid-1970s, continued to work (for the most part in relative isolation) on the comparative phonology, morphology, and lexicon of Nostratic. The “crowning achievement” of this research was the online publication of the largest of all currently available etymological dictionaries of Nostratic (Dolgopolsky 2008). However, although the dictionary does contain a wealth of comparative material, it has also been severely criticized, among other things, for indiscri­minately mixing etymologies that help build a stronger case for Nostratic with large amounts of unsatisfactory comparisons that are more likely to represent chance similarities. Some of Dolgopolsky’s most important theoretical papers include Dolgopolsky 1969, Dolgopolsky 1972, Dolgopolsky 1974 (written in the pre-emigration period and published in Russian), which contain original ideas on the evolution of the Nostratic consonantal system; Dolgopolsky 1992, which examines the genesis of the Indo-European vowel system out of the Proto-Nostratic one; Dolgopolsky 1984, which treats Nostratic personal pronouns; and Dolgopolsky 2005, which deals with the grammatical typology of Proto-Nostratic. Additionally, Dolgopolsky 1998 is a mini-dictionary that focuses on the cultural lexicon reconstructed for Proto-Nostratic.

                                                          • Dolgopolsky, Aron B. 1969. Nostraticheskiye korni s sochetaniyem shumnykh soglasnykh. Etimologiya 1967:296–313.

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                                                            The paper analyzes a group of Nostratic etymologies with obstruent clusters in word-medial position and emphasizes the importance of Uralic and Tungusic languages for their reconstruction, since, according to the author’s observations, these groups preserve important phonetic archaisms. In Russian.

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                                                            • Dolgopolsky, Aron B. 1972. Nostraticheskiye korni s sochetaniyem laringal’nogo i zvonkogo laringala. Etimologiya 1970:356–369.

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                                                              Here Dolgopolsky argues for reinterpreting a typologically odd lateral sibilant reconstructed by Illich-Svitych for Nostratic as a combination of a lateral resonant with a laryngeal, based primarily on Afroasiatic evidence. In Russian.

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                                                              • Dolgopolsky, Aron B. 1974. O nostraticheskoy sisteme affrikat i sibilyantov: Korni s fonemoy ʒ. Etimologiya 1972:163–175.

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                                                                This paper investigates certain peculiarities of the reflexation of Nostratic roots with affricates and sibilants in daughter branches. In Russian.

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                                                                • Dolgopolsky, Aron B. 1984. On personal pronouns in the Nostratic languages. In Linguistica et Philologica: Gedenkschrift für Björn Collinder. Edited by O. Gschwantler, K. Rédei, and H. Reichert, 65–112. Vienna: Braumüller.

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                                                                  Discussion of the various pronominal systems in the subbranches of Nostratic, including an attempt at constructing a historical scenario of their diversification from a single Proto-Nostratic system. Arguably the most detailed of all published reconstructed segments of Proto-Nostratic grammar.

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                                                                  • Dolgopolsky, Aharon. 1992. The Nostratic vowels in Indo-European. In Nostratic, Dene-Caucasian, Austric and Amerind: Materials from the first International Interdisciplinary Symposium on Language and Prehistory, Ann Arbor, 8–12 November 1988. Edited by V. Shevoroshkin, 298–331. Bochum, Germany: Brockmeyer.

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                                                                    An attempt at a formal explanation of the genesis of the Indo-European system of vo­wels and vowel gradation from a Nostratic perspective.

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                                                                    • Dolgopolsky, Aharon. 1998. The Nostratic macrofamily and linguistic palaeontology: With an introduction by Colin Renfrew. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

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                                                                      An extract from Dolgopolsky’s then-current version of The Nostratic Dictionary, concentrating exclusively on the cultural lexicon in order to present a perspective on the material culture and environment of the hypothetical speakers of Nostratic. The ex­pected caveats (such as the difficulty of distinguishing between cognates and borrowings or the uncertainties of semantic reconstruction) are accurately listed in Colin Renfrew’s introduction.

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                                                                      • Dolgopolsky, Aharon. 2005. Nostratic grammar: synthetic or analytic? In Aspekty komparativistiki I. Edited by I. Smirnov, 13–38. Moscow: Russian State Univ. for the Humanities.

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                                                                        Detailed analysis of more than fifty etymological connections that, according to the author, confirm an original analytic status for Proto-Nostratic and allow tracing of the various paths of grammaticalization of formerly autonomous lexemes in the various subbran­ches of Nostratic.

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                                                                        • Dolgopolsky, Aharon. 2008. Nostratic dictionary. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

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                                                                          An edited and proofread version of A. Dolgopolsky’s lifetime work—an almost 3,000-page etymological dictionary of Nostratic, containing altogether 2,805 etymologies. The cited resource represents the second edition; the third edition (2012), the latest, is also available on the same site, but it has not been properly edited due to the author’s demise.

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                                                                          The Moscow School

                                                                          Research on the Nostratic hypothesis in the Moscow circle of comparative linguistics after the initial “push” provided by the early works of Illich-Svitych and Dolgopolsky has been relatively scarce (as summarized in Manaster Ramer 1993, cited under General Overviews), with much more effort spent on elaborating the history and protolanguage reconstruction of such “daughter branches” of Nostratic as Altaic, Uralic, and Dravidian. Typically, Muscovite works on Nostratic proper are based upon the methodological foundations of Illich-Svitych and tend to refine his ideas by correcting them in accordance with ongoing progress on lower-level linguistic reconstructions. Most of their results have been summarized in Starostin’s large online database The Tower of Babel, which functions as an “open source” alternative to Dolgopolsky’s finalized dictionary. Of the relatively few published works, Starostin 2002, Dybo 2000, and Dybo 2004 introduce significant revisions to Illich-Svitych’s system of phonetic laws; Khelimskiy 1990 describes an important morphophonological isogloss between Indo-European and Uralic; Starostin 2009 proposes a Nostratic-related answer to an open issue in Dravidian comparative phonology; Babaev 2008 deals with the reconstruction of the Nostratic pronominal paradigm; and Kassian 2009 suggests additional Nostratic etymologies for Anatolian (Hittite) words that have no known cognates in other Indo-European languages.

                                                                          • Babaev, Kirill. 2008. Proiskhozhdeniye indoyevropeyskikh pokazateley litsa: Istoricheskiy analiz i dannyje vneshnego sravneniya. Moscow: Eidos.

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                                                                            This monograph sets out to analyze and explain the system of personal pronouns, reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European, from a Nostratic perspective as well as trace the analytic origins of Indo-European bound pronominal morphemes. In Russian.

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                                                                            • Dybo, Anna. 2000. Nostraticheskiye etimologii s nachalnymi nosovymi. In Problemy izucheniya dalnego rodstva yazykov na rubezhe tretyego tysyacheletiya. Edited by G. S. Starostin and S. A. Starostin, 31–38. Moscow: Russian State Univ. for the Humanities.

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                                                                              One of the few published works by the Moscow school that continues the Illich-Svitych/Dolgopolsky tradition of analyzing specific subsets of phonetic correspondences. Here, some new series of correspondences are suggested for Nostratic etyma with word-initial nasals. In Russian.

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                                                                              • Dybo, Anna. 2004. Some peculiarities of Altaic reflexes of Nostratic sibilants. In Nostratic Centennial Conference: The Pécs papers. Edited by Irén Hegedűs and Paul Sidwell, 85–114. Pécs, Hungary: Lingua Franca Group.

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                                                                                A follow-up to Dybo 2000. Here, a reworking is offered for the complex system of Nostratic sibilant phonemes originally suggested by Illich-Svitych.

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                                                                                • Kassian, Alexei. 2009. Anatolian lexical isolates and their external Nostratic cognates. In Aspekty komparativistiki IV. Edited by I. S. Smirnov, 152–186. Moscow: Russian State Univ. for the Humanities.

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                                                                                  The paper looks at the often (if not universally) supported idea of a “binary split” between the Anatolian languages and the rest of the Indo-European family from a Nostratic perspective, identifying potential cognates between Anatolian (Hittite) and other branches of Nostratic that have no counterparts in the other branches of Indo-European.

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                                                                                  • Khelimskiy, Yevgeniy. 1990. Ural’skiy konsonantnyj auslaut—indoevropeyskaya geterokliza? In Ye: Khelimskiy: Komparativistika, uralistika: Lekcii i statyi, 2000. 474–475. Edited by Ye Khelimskiy. Moscow: Yazyki russkoy kul’tury.

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                                                                                    In this paper, an argument is made that the so-called heteroclitic stems of Indo-European, representing a very archaic lexical layer, regularly correspond to a special type of lexical stem ending in a consonant rather than a vowel in Uralic. The argument is supposed to strengthen the Indo-Uralic and, consequently, the Nostratic hypothesis.

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                                                                                    • Starostin, Sergei. The Tower of Babel.

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                                                                                      Large online database that compiles most of the research performed by Illich-Svitych, Dolgopolsky, and the later representatives of the Moscow school into one searchable source. The database functions as a repository for all the suggested comparanda rather than a genuine etymological dictionary, and it should be used with caution.

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                                                                                      • Starostin, Sergei. 2002. Nostratic stops revisited. In Languages and theirs speakers in ancient Eurasia. Edited by Vitaly Shevoroshkin and Paul Sidwell, 3–7. Canberra, Australia: Association for the History of Language.

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                                                                                        An attempt at introducing an additional series of phonetic correspondences between stop consonants in Nostratic languages into Illich-Svitych’s original scheme, illustrated with a large set of etymologies. The proposal remains somewhat controversial even among the supporters of Nostratic.

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                                                                                        • Starostin, George. 2009. On the origins of the three-way phonological distinction in Dravidian coronal consonants. In Aspekty komparativistiki IV. Edited by I. S. Smirnov, 243–260. Moscow: Russian State Univ. for the Humanities.

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                                                                                          This paper offers a Nostratic perspective on the origins of the typologically unusual triple opposition of dental, alveolar, and retroflex coronal stops in Dravidian languages, which, according to the author, was only partly taken into account in Illich-Svitych’s original theory.

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                                                                                          The Charleston School

                                                                                          Within American linguistic circles, most of the research on the Nostratic hypothesis has been carried out by Allan R. Bomhard, who is sometimes said to (almost singlehandedly) represent the so-called Charleston school of Nostratic linguistics. Bomhard’s original focus was on exploring a genetic link between Indo-European and Semitic (or, wider, Afroasiatic) languages (Bomhard 1984), but his concern has since then expanded to embrace all of Pedersen’s and Illich-Svitych’s Nostratic; to this taxonomy, Bomhard also tentatively adds the Chukchee-Kamchatkan, Eskimo-Aleut, and Nivkh (Gilyak) languages. The principal results of Bomhard’s research are summarized in Bomhard and Kerns 1994 (including his own version of a Nostratic etymological dictionary) and Bomhard 2003 (a later, much expanded revision). Additionally, Bomhard 1996 is a detailed analysis of Proto-Indo-European from a Nostratic perspective, and Bomhard 2011 is a critical overview of current Nostratic studies. Compared to Dolgopolsky and/or the Moscow School, Bomhard’s research strongly emphasizes issues of diachronic phonetic typology in an effort to make Proto-Nostratic phonology and the ways of its evolution in daughter languages look more realistic (a positive account of the Charleston school from this point of view may be found in Palmaitis 1986). However, Bomhard’s research has been criticized for being too permissive in the area of semantic comparison, thus allowing for larger numbers of chance resemblances than according to the standards set by Illich-Svitych (thus, for instance, in Helimskij 1987).

                                                                                          • Bomhard, Allan R. 1984. Toward Proto-Nostratic: A new approach to the comparison of Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Afroasiatic. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                            Bomhard’s first monograph on Nostratic is essentially a binary comparison between Indo-European and Afroasiatic (represented primarily by Semitic), building on the early legacy of H. Möller but acknowledging the research on Nostratic conducted in the interim.

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                                                                                            • Bomhard, Allan R. 1996. Indo-European and the Nostratic hypothesis. Charleston, SC: Signum.

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                                                                                              This monograph is specifically targeted at emphasizing the Nostratic legacy in Proto-Indo-European, claiming to demonstrate the Nostratic origins of the Indo-European family and show how the phonological, morphophonological, and grammatical systems of Proto-Indo-European evolved out of Proto-Nostratic.

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                                                                                              • Bomhard, Allan R. 2003. Reconstructing Proto-Nostratic: Comparative phonology, morphology, and vocabulary. 2 vols. Charleston, SC: Signum.

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                                                                                                A two-volume edition of the latest version of A. Bomhard’s etymological dictionary of Nos­tratic, replete with a detailed account of the comparative phonology of Proto-Nostratic and its daughter families. Significantly expanded and revised compared to Bomhard and Kerns 1994, although the general methodology remains the same.

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                                                                                                • Bomhard, Allan R. 2011. The Nostratic hypothesis in 2011: Trends and issues. Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man.

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                                                                                                  Bomhard’s latest monograph reviews the latest developments in the Nostratic theory; much space is devoted to criticism of Dolgopolsky 2008 (cited under the Haifa School).

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                                                                                                  • Bomhard, Allan R., and John C. Kerns. 1994. The Nostratic macrofamily: A study in distant linguistic relationship. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1515/9783110875645E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    First edition of A. Bomhard’s etymological dictionary of Nostratic, accompanied with a sketch of comparative Nostratic morphology by John Kerns. Contains approximately 600 etymologies. This release, with the exception of the chapter by Kerns, has largely been superseded in Bomhard 2003.

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                                                                                                    • Helimskij, Eugene A. 1987. A “new approach” to Nostratic comparison. Journal of the American Oriental Society 107.1: 97–100.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/602956E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      A very harsh early critical review of Bomhard 1984 by one of the Moscow school representatives. It is argued that Bomhard’s lax methodological standards easily allow for the postulation of “false” phonetic correspondences.

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                                                                                                      • Palmaitis, Mykolas L. 1986. New contributions to “Proto-Nostratic.” Indogermanische Forschungen 91:305–317.

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                                                                                                        This review article of Bomhard 1984, unlike Helimskij 1987, is generally more positive toward Bomhard’s research, noting, in particular, the importance of his emphasis on issues of phonetic typology.

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                                                                                                        Other Research on Nostratic

                                                                                                        Outside of the three main “schools” of Nostratic, research on this hypothetical macrofamily has been relatively scarce as the subject continues to share a somewhat esoteric status among historical linguists. Some of the more active scholars in the field include I. Hegedűs and P. Michalove, working on various issues of comparative phonology and morphology, and V. Blažek, who has published extensively with the aim to expand the Nostratic etymological corpus. Several important papers have also been published by A. Manaster Ramer, who has dedicated considerable effort to the task of integrating the Nostratic hypothesis into mainstream historical linguistics.

                                                                                                        Historical Phonology

                                                                                                        Most of the works do not offer complete revisions of Illich-Svitych’s original system of sound laws, but they tend to present specific modifications of some of the more typologically unusual ones or to fill in certain gaps that were originally left open. The first category is represented by such papers as Manaster Ramer 1994, Michalove 1997 (both works address the issue of affricate reconstruction in Proto-Nostratic), and Manaster Ramer 1995 (refining Illich-Svitych’s theory of the origins of the complicated velar stop system in Proto-Indo-European). The second may be illustrated in Hegedűs 2004, dealing with an obscure Nostratic phoneme, and Michalove 2000, explaining a phonotactic anomaly of Proto-Indo-European from a Nostratic perspective.

                                                                                                        • Hegedűs, Irén. 2004. The status of the Proto-Nostratic Postvelar. In Nostratic Centennial Conference: The Pécs papers. Edited by Irén Hegedűs and Paul Sidwell, 121–133. Pécs, Hungary: Lingua Franca Group.

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                                                                                                          The article attempts to elucidate the evolution of one of the problematic phonemes reconstructed by Illich-Svitych for Nostratic (“postvelar”) by scrutinizing Illich-Svitych’s and Dolgopolsky’s evidence.

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                                                                                                          • Manaster Ramer, Alexis. 1994. Clusters or affricates in Kartvelian and Nostratic? Diachronica 11:157–170.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1075/dia.11.2.02manE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            The author introduces some modifications to Illich-Svitych’s reconstructions, namely, reinterpreting some of his “affricates” as “consonant clusters” so that the direction of sound change from Proto-Nostratic to its daughter branches could be acceptable from a typological point of view.

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                                                                                                            • Manaster Ramer, Alexis. 1995. Ob indoevropeyskikh triyedinykh velyarnykh i nostraticheskikh perednikh ogublennykh glasnykh. Moscow Linguistic Journal 1:41–50.

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                                                                                                              In this paper, some refinements are offered to the rule of the emergence of three series of Indo-European velars stated in Illich-Svitych 1964 (cited under Early Soviet Works). In Russian.

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                                                                                                              • Michalove, Peter A. 1997. Altaic evidence for clusters in Nostratic. In Indo-European, Nostratic, and beyond: Festschrift for Vitalij V. Shevoroshkin. Edited by Irén Hegedűs, Peter Michalove, and Alexis Manaster Ramer, 243–256. Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man.

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                                                                                                                The author tries to amend a typologically unusual reconstruction of Illich-Svitych, where Nostratic affricates develop into Indo-European clusters of the *st, *sk type, by reconstructing clusters instead of affricates for Proto-Nostratic.

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                                                                                                                • Michalove, Peter A. 2000. The Nostratic theory and the development of word-final velars in Indo-European. In Problemy izucheniya dalnego rodstva yazykov na rubezhe tretyego tysyacheletiya. Edited by G. A. Starostin and S. A. Starostin, 206–215. Moscow: Russian State Univ. for the Humanities.

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                                                                                                                  An attempt to solve an internal Indo-European puzzle (the absence of word-final velar consonants in Proto-Indo-European) through Nostratic evidence. It is suggested, based on comparative evidence from Uralic, that original velar consonants developed into Indo-European laryngeals in word-final position.

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                                                                                                                  Grammar

                                                                                                                  Most popular topics in comparative Nostratic grammar include pronominal reconstruction (Cavoto 2003) and exploration of various scenarios of grammaticalization of formerly independent auxiliary words: Michalove 2002 investigates the origins of a case marker common for several branches of Nostratic, while Hegedűs 1988 and Hegedűs 1997 deal primarily with the Nostratic etymology of various derivational markers in Indo-European, Uralic, and Dravidian.

                                                                                                                  • Cavoto, Fabrice. 2003. Supplétion et récurrence des thèmes pronominaux nostratiques. Diachronica 20.2: 229–258.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1075/dia.20.2.02cavE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    The paper shows that most of the alleged daughter branches of Nostratic exhibit complex pronominal systems characterized by intricate patterns of recurrence and suppletion and argues that these patterns are not due to coincidence but rather represent an argument in favor of the Nostratic hypothesis.

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                                                                                                                    • Hegedűs, Irén. 1988. Reconstructing Nostratic morphology: Derivational elements. In Nostratic, Dene-Caucasian, Austric and Amerind: Materials from the first International Interdisciplinary Symposium on Language and Prehistory, Ann Arbor, 8–12 November 1988. Edited by V. Shevoroshkin, 34–47. Bochum, West Germany: N. Brockmeyer.

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                                                                                                                      Lists some additional (not present in Illich-Svitych’s dictionary) comparanda of grammatical elements between the various subbranches of Nostratic.

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                                                                                                                      • Hegedűs, Irén. 1997. On grammaticalization in Nostratic. In Indo-European, Nostratic, and Beyond: Festschrift for Vitalij V. Shevoroshkin. Edited by Irén Hegedűs, Peter A. Michalove, and Alexis Manaster Ramer, 106–115. Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man.

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                                                                                                                        The paper lists another group of etymologies in which different grammatical markers of Proto-Uralic, Proto-Dravidian and other branches of Nostratic are explained as grammaticalizations of originally free Proto-Nostratic morphemes.

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                                                                                                                        • Michalove, Peter A. 2002. The Nostratic “accusative” in *-mA: An Altaic perspective. Anthropological Linguistics 44.1: 85–95.

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                                                                                                                          The paper examines the vestiges of a Proto-Nostratic grammatical morpheme in Altaic languages and argues for its reinterpretation as an “indicator of specificity.”

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                                                                                                                          Lexicon and Etymology

                                                                                                                          The only author who has occasionally published sets of potential addenda to Illich-Svitych’s, Dolgopolsky’s, and Bomhard’s large etymological corpora is Václav Blažek (Blažek 2003 and Blažek 2004). Issues of lexical reconstruction on the Nostratic level have also been addressed by Per Hage (Hage 2003 is an attempt to reconstruct the original kinship term system) and in Kaiser and Shevoroshkin 1986, a paper on the methodology of lexical reconstruction.

                                                                                                                          • Blažek, Václav. 2003. Lexica Nostratica addenda. Mother Tongue 8:11–22.

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                                                                                                                            One of several papers by this author that are aimed at expanding Illich-Svitych’s corpus of Nostratic comparanda with particular emphasis on Afro-Asiatic as an integral part of Nostratic. The fifty-seven proposed etymologies are generally based on Illich-Svitych’s original phonetic correspondences.

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                                                                                                                            • Blažek, Václav. 2004. Indo-European and Afroasiatic prepositions and related words: Common heritage or a result of convergence? In Nostratic Centennial Conference: The Pécs papers. Edited by Irén Hegedűs and Paul Sidwell, 1–25. Pécs, Hungary: Lingua Franca Group.

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                                                                                                                              This paper attempts to provide Afroasiatic counterparts to Indo-European auxiliary adverbs and prepositions, tracing different ways of their grammaticalization after the alleged split of Proto-Nostratic.

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                                                                                                                              • Hage, Per. 2003. On the reconstruction of the Proto-Nostratic kinship system. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 128:311–325.

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                                                                                                                                An attempt at a historic interpretation of a particular semantic field of Proto-Nostratic — the kinship term system. The paper argues for a system of bilateral cross-cousin marriage with exogamous descent groups in Nostratic. The interpretation remains strictly conjectural, depending on whether one accepts or reputes the relevant etymologies by Dolgopolsky.

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                                                                                                                                • Kaiser, Mark, and Vitaly Shevoroshkin. 1986. Inheritance vs. borrowing in Indo-European, Kartvelian, and Semitic. Journal of Indo-European Studies 14:365–378.

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                                                                                                                                  Some proposals on how to differentiate between inherited and borrowed lexical strata in the daughter branches of Proto-Nostratic, assuming the historical reality of the latter.

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                                                                                                                                  Taxonomy of Nostratic

                                                                                                                                  A particular issue of Nostratic studies is the internal structure of the Nostratic macrofamily, modeled in different ways by representatives of the different “schools” of Nostratic. Arguably the most “stable” and well-known model of the macrofamily is the original scheme of Illich-Svitych (see Illich-Svitych 1967 and Illich-Svitych 1971, both cited under Early Soviet Works), according to which Nostratic consists of six more or less equidistant branches: Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, Kartvelian, Dravidian, and Afroasiatic. However, various additions and modifications have been subsequently proposed.

                                                                                                                                  Nostratic and Afroasiatic

                                                                                                                                  It has been consistently argued within the “Moscow school” that Afroasiatic does not actually form an integral part of Nostratic, but it might be related to it on a higher phylogenetic level (Starostin 1989 is the original proposal; Starostin 1999 and Starostin 2003 apply several variants of lexicostatistical analysis to present a more formalized argument). This idea is not supported by Dolgopolsky, but it is partly acknowledged by Bomhard (see Bomhard 2003, cited under the Charleston School), who believes Afro-Asiatic to have been the first branch to split off from the Common Nostratic “stem.” Orel 1995 is an attempt to show that the revised Nostratic, Afroasiatic, and Sino-Caucasian (another hypothetical macrofamily) are all more or less equidistant from each other. The current views of the Moscow school on the various interrelations between the different macrofamilies of Eurasia, including Nostratic and Afroasiatic, are summarized in Gell-Mann, et al. 2009.

                                                                                                                                  • Gell-Mann, Murray, Ilia Peiros, and George Starostin. 2009. Distant language relationship: The current perspective. Journal of Language Relationship 1:13–30.

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                                                                                                                                    The paper briefly lists and evaluates some of the current “long-range” hypotheses on language classification, including state-of-the-art ideas on the constituency, internal taxonomy, and proposed age of Nostratic (“Eurasiatic”) in comparison with other macrofamilies, including Afroasiatic.

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                                                                                                                                    • Orel, Vladimir. 1995. Semito-hamitskiy, sinokavkazskiy, nostraticheskiy. Moscow Linguistic Journal 1:117–128.

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                                                                                                                                      A thematic follow-up to Starostin 1989: The author acknowledges both the separation of Afroasiatic from Nostratic and the idea of the two macrofamilies being related on a higher level, and he adds a number of Afroasiatic parallels to the Nostratic / Sino-Caucasian comparanda to illustrate the tripartite connection.

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                                                                                                                                      • Starostin, Sergei. 1989. Nostratic and Sino-Caucasian. In Explorations in language macrofamilies: Materials from the first International Interdisciplinary Symposium on Language and Prehistory, Ann Arbor, 8–12 November 1988. Edited by V. V. Shevoroshkin, 42–67. Bochum, Germany: Universitätsverlag Dr. Norbert Brockmeyer.

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                                                                                                                                        An attempt to take Nostratic to a whole new level by discovering and describing a system of regular phonetic correspondences between Illich-Svitych’s Proto-Nostratic and Sergei Starostin’s own (equally controversial) macrofamily project—Sino-Caucasian. The paper also lays out the idea that Afroasiatic is a “sister macrofamily” of Nostratic rather than one of its daughter branches. Reprinted in Sergei Starostin, Trudy po Yazykoznaniyu (Moscow: Yazyki slav’anskoy kul’tury, 2007), pp. 448–466.

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                                                                                                                                        • Starostin, Sergei. 1999. Subgrouping of Nostratic. In Nostratic: Examining a linguistic macrofamily. Edited by Colin Renfrew and Daniel Nettle, 137–156. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

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                                                                                                                                          An analysis of 124 Nostratic roots published in Dolgopolsky 1998 (cited under the Haifa School). The main point of the paper is to show that “core Nostratic” families have as many phonetic/semantic parallels in “Sino-Caucasian” languages as they have in Afroasiatic, confirming that Afroasiatic is not a part of Nostratic but is related to it on a higher level.

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                                                                                                                                          • Starostin, Sergei. 2003. Statistical evaluation of the lexical proximity between the main linguistic families of the Old World. In Studia Semitica. Edited by Leonid Kogan, 464–484. Moscow: Russian State Univ. for the Humanities.

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                                                                                                                                            The paper further confirms and develops the “tripartite” classification of most of the linguistic families of Eurasia into Nostratic (Eurasiatic), Sino-Caucasian, and Afroasiatic by means of a lexicostatistical analysis of thirty-five protolanguage reconstructions (the so-called “ultra-stable Yakhontov list”) for all of their daughter branches.

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                                                                                                                                            Nostratic and Various Eurasian “Orphans”

                                                                                                                                            Every now and then, various minor language groups and isolates of Eurasia have been tentatively classified as Nostratic. These include Chukchee-Kamchatkan (Dolgopolsky and Golovastikov 1972 is an early attempt at comparing the authors’ Chukchee-Kamchatkan reconstructions with Nostratic); Eskimo-Aleut (Mudrak 1984 proposes a special proximity between Eskimo and Altaic languages within Nostratic); Nivkh (Gilyak); and even the extinct Sumerian (Boisson 2002 compares Sumerian and Nostratic grammatical elements; Bomhard 1997 suggests a distant relationship between the two) and Elamite (Blažek 1999 includes a list of lexical similarities between Elamite and Nostratic; however, Starostin 2002 concludes that this evidence may not count as definitive). However, only the Eskimo-Aleut connection hypothesis is consistently being tested out today both by the Moscow school and A. Bomhard; the rest have either been completely abandoned (Elamite, Sumerian) or are not currently actively pursued (Nivkh, Chukchee-Kamchatkan).

                                                                                                                                            • Blažek, Václav. 1999. Elam: A bridge between the ancient Near East and Dravidian India? Mother Tongue 7:123–146.

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                                                                                                                                              The paper analyzes the lexical data of the extinct Elamite language, exploring its connections with Dravidian languages (following up on David McAlpin’s “Elamo-Dravidian” hypothesis) as well as the large Afroasiatic family.

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                                                                                                                                              • Boisson, Claude. 2002. Some Sumerian grammatical elements in a Nostratic perspective. In Languages and their speakers in ancient Eurasia. Edited by Vitaly Shevoroshkin and Paul Sidwell, 19–41. Canberra, Australia: Association for the History of Language.

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                                                                                                                                                The author offers tentative Nostratic etymologies for several Sumerian grammemes in order to confirm the Nostratic origins of Sumerian (also argued for in Bomhard 1997 but opposed by the majority of the proponents of Nostratic).

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                                                                                                                                                • Bomhard, Alan. 1997. On the origin of Sumerian. Mother Tongue 3:75–92.

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                                                                                                                                                  A Charleston school look at Sumerian. Based primarily on grammatical comparison, the author concludes that Sumerian is neither closely related to McAlpin’s “Elamo-Dravidian” nor to the rest of Nostratic, although it may have certain connections to Nostratic on an even higher level of relationship.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Dolgopolsky, Aron, and Aleksei Golovastikov. 1972. Rekonstrukciya chukotsko-koryakskikh korney i nostraticheskiye etimologii. In Konferenciya po sravnitel’no-istoricheskoy grammatike indoyevropeyskikh yazykov. Edited by S. B. Bernshtein, 27–30. Moscow: Nauka.

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                                                                                                                                                    An early attempt to demonstrate the Nostratic connection of Chukchee-Kamchatkan lan­guages. The paper gives a large list of Chukchee-Koryak reconstructions with potential parallels in other Nostratic branches.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Mudrak, Oleg A. 1984. K voprosu o vneshnikh sviaziakh eskimosskikh jazykov. In Lingvisticheskaya rekonstruktciya i drevneyshaya istoriya Vostoka. Edited by Serguey A. Starostin, 80–87. Moscow: Nauka.

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                                                                                                                                                      The paper argues for a close genetic connection between Eskimo and Altaic languages (and, subsequently, for the inclusion of Eskimo into the Nostratic macrofamily), listing large amounts of comparative lexical data. In Russian.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Starostin, George. 2002. On the genetic affiliation of the Elamite language. Mother Tongue 7:147–170.

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                                                                                                                                                        A lexicostatistical analysis of Elamite evidence compared with available Nostratic, Sino-Caucasian, and Afroasiatic reconstructions. The author concludes that, on this basis, Elamite is approximately equidistant from all three macrofamilies and cannot be included in any of them. Also contains a specific criticism of McAlpin’s “Elamo-Dravidian.”

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                                                                                                                                                        Nostratic versus Eurasiatic

                                                                                                                                                        In addition to research on Nostratic taxonomy, based at least formally on the methodology of traditional comparative linguistics, there is also the so-called “Eurasiatic” hypothesis, put forward by Joseph Greenberg, who has argued for the existence of a taxonomically similar macrofamily that includes Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, and certain “Paleo-Siberian” groupings (Eskimo-Aleut, Chukchee-Kamchatkan, Gilyak, Ainu) but not Dravidian, Kartvelian, or Afro-Asiatic (these families, according to Greenberg, are related to “Eurasiatic” on a higher level). The taxonomic differences between “Nostratic” and “Eurasiatic” are summarized in Greenberg 1998. Greenberg’s research, summarized in Greenberg 2000 and Greenberg 2002, is based primarily on his highly controversial “multilateral comparison” procedure and has been severely criticized for not following proper scientific methodology (Georg and Vovin 2003).

                                                                                                                                                        • Georg, Stefan, and Alexander Vovin. 2003. From mass comparison to mess comparison: Greenberg’s Indo-European and its closest relatives. Diachronica 20.2: 331–362.

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                                                                                                                                                          A highly critical review article of Greenberg 2000, pointing out numerous mistakes and inaccuracies typical of J. Greenberg’s research. The authors emphasize the legitimacy of long-range comparison as such, but they conclude that Greenberg’s “Eurasiatic” fails to satisfy the accuracy standards required for comparative-historical hypotheses.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Greenberg, Joseph. 1998. The convergence of Eurasiatic and Nostratic. In Nostratic: Sifting the evidence. Edited by Joseph C. Salmons and Brian D. Joseph, 51–60. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                                                                                            The paper discusses the taxonomical differences between Illich-Svitych’s “Nostratic” and the author’s own “Eurasiatic” hypothesis and notes, with satisfaction, that the recent evolution of “Nostratic” in the works by Dolgopolsky and the Moscow school has almost managed to produce a reconciliation of both propositions.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Greenberg, Joseph. 2000. Indo-European and its closest relatives. Vol. 1, Grammar. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                              This work, written in accordance with Greenberg’s highly controversial method of “multilateral comparison,” is the most detailed account of the “Eurasiatic” hypothesis. Volume 1 lays out the comparative grammatical evidence for “Eurasiatic.”

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                                                                                                                                                              • Greenberg, Joseph. 2002. Indo-European and its closest relatives. Vol. 2, Lexicon. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                A follow-up to Greenberg 2000, this time dealing with the comparative lexical evidence for “Eurasiatic.” As stipulated by “multilateral comparison,” all the comparanda are based on superficial phonetic similarity rather than regular phonetic correspondences.

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                                                                                                                                                                Criticism and Polemics

                                                                                                                                                                Due to its somewhat “marginal” status in comparative-historical linguistics, the Nostratic hypothesis has always been, and it still remains, a frequent subject of criticism and (sometimes) rather ardent polemics. Several collective monographs have been published that are devoted exclusively to the Nostratic debate, not mentioning numerous isolated papers and mini-discussions in various journals, conference proceedings, and collective monographs. The following list is by no means complete: It omits many short, relatively uninformative works (such as simple positive or negative reviews of Illich-Svitych’s and Dolgopolsky’s dictionaries, etc.) in favor of publications that present well-founded, data-backed arguments against Nostratic or counterarguments in its favor.

                                                                                                                                                                Comparative-Historical Criticisms of Nostratic

                                                                                                                                                                The following assessments of Nostratic as a whole or of certain parts of the hypothesis have been published from a “traditionalist,” comparative-historical angle, usually from the point of view of scholars who specialize in one or more of the alleged “daughter branches” of Nostratic. Clauson 1973, Shcherbak 1984, Doerfer 1973, and Doerfer 1993 are critical assessments from a Turkological perspective (all three authors are also well-known opponents of the controversial Altaic theory). Vine 1991 evaluates the quality of Indo-European data used for Nostratic comparison, and Campbell 1998 is a detailed criticism of the Uralic part of the data. The most common criticism that unites all of these works is that the Nostratic hypothesis does not really manage to demonstrate the genetic relationship of the families that constitute it according to the same satisfactory criteria that allow demonstration of such a relationship for the members of these families, i.e., that the standards for “high-level reconstruction” are too permissive and inconclusive in comparison with the standards for “low-level reconstruction.” Additionally, Serebrennikov 1986 is critical of Nostratic from a typological angle, and Campbell 1999 expresses doubts on the possibility of using the Nostratic hypothesis for cultural reconstruction.

                                                                                                                                                                • Campbell, Lyle. 1998. Nostratic: A personal assessment. In Nostratic: Sifting the evidence. Edited by Joseph C. Salmons and Brian D. Joseph, 107–152. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Arguably the most detailed and data-based criticism of Nostratic offered so far. Of particular importance is the subsection dedicated to a meticulous, word-by-word analysis of the “Indo-Uralic” part of Illich-Svitych’s Nostratic comparanda (the data are drawn from the indexes in Illich-Svitych 1990 (cited under English Summaries) rather than the original dictionary).

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Campbell, Lyle. 1999. Nostratic and linguistic palaeontology in methodological perspective. In Nostratic: Examining a linguistic macrofamily. Edited by Colin Renfrew and Daniel Nettle, 179–230. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

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                                                                                                                                                                    A follow-up to Campbell 1998, with additional emphasis on the issue of “linguistic palaeontology” (re-creating the cultural world of protolanguage speakers through linguistic reconstruction) and its highly questionable nature in macrocomparative studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Clauson, Gerard. 1973. Nostratic. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1:46–55.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0035869X00130436E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      One of the first reviews of Illich-Svitych 1971 (cited under Early Soviet Works). Contains some particular criticisms of Illich-Svitych’s etymologies as well as general methodological remarks; the overall assessment is starkly negative.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Doerfer, Gerhard. 1973. Lautgesetz und Zufall: Betrachtungen zum Omnicomparatismus. Innsbruck, Austria: Wolfgang Meid.

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                                                                                                                                                                        The monograph discusses the general issue of distinguishing between accidental look-alikes and genuine etymological cognates bound by sound laws. The Nostratic hypothesis is evaluated as a case of “omnicomparativism,” where so much is drawn into comparison that it is possible to create an illusion of genetic relationship.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Doerfer, Gerhard. 1993. Nostratismus, Illič-Svityč und die Folgen. Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher: Neue Folge 12:17–34.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A relatively recent critical overview of Nostratic from an “anti-Altaicist” perspective.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Serebrennikov, B. A. 1986. On the so-called Nostratic languages. In Typology, relationship and time. Edited by V. V. Shevoroshkin and T. L. Markey, 66–86. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Negative assessment of Nostratic, primarily from the point of view of diachronic typology: The author, a well-known specialist in this field, argues that Illich-Svitych’s Nostratic reconstruction violates too many known tendencies of language change to be true.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Shcherbak, A. M. 1984. O nostraticheskikh issledovaniyakh s pozitsii tyurkologa. Voprosy yazykoznaniya 6:30–42.

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                                                                                                                                                                              A highly skeptical assessment of the Nostratic (as well as Altaic) hypothesis from a Turcologist’s point of view. In Russian.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Vine, Brent. 1991. Indo-European and Nostratic. Indogermanische Forschungen 46:9–35.

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                                                                                                                                                                                A critical assessment of Illich-Svitych’s Nostratic from the point of view of an Indo-Europeanist. The author concludes that “the Nostratic theory is indeed an elegant and well-articulated structure. But . . . it remains as yet a house of cards” (p. 35).

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                                                                                                                                                                                Comparative-Historical Defense of Nostratic

                                                                                                                                                                                The following short list is a selection of responses to particular criticisms of the Nostratic hypothesis, also written from within the comparative-historical paradigm. The general consensus between all these “pro-Nostratic” works is that the critical assessments of the hypothesis help researchers to focus on the theory’s weak points without, however, invalidating Nostratic as a whole. In particular, Khelimskiy 1986 argues that use of external data may shed light on previously unresolved family-internal issues of specific branches of Nostratic; Manaster Ramer 1997 denies the typological implausibility of Nostratic, as suggested by some critics; and Starostin 2009 points out that occasional errors and factual inaccuracies in data handling are no more characteristic of the proponents of Nostratic as they are of its critics.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Khelimskiy, Yevgeniy. 1986. Resheniye dilemm pratyurkskoy rekonstruktsii i nostratika. Voprosy yazykoznaniya 5:67–78.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  An answer to the critical review of Shcherbak 1984 (cited under Comparative-Historical Criticisms of Nostratic). The article argues against uncritical exclusive reliance on family-internal reconstruction to resolve family-internal, e.g., Turkic, issues and points out the benefits of external (in this case, Nostratic) comparison in their resolution. In Russian.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Manaster Ramer, Alexis. 1997. Nostratic from a typological point of view. Journal of Indo-European Studies 25:79–104.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    A reply to Serebrennikov 1986 (cited under Comparative-Historical Criticisms of Nostratic) and some other works that criticize Nostratic on the grounds of typological implausibilities. The author asserts that such criticisms may concern the phonetic interpretation of sound laws proposed for Nostratic but not the laws themselves.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Starostin, George. 2009. Review of: Language Classification: History & Method: By Lyle Campbell and William J. Poser. Journal of Language Relationship 2:158–174.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      A large part of the review is devoted to a detailed scrutiny of L. Campbell’s analysis of Illich-Svitych’s Nostratic dictionary, exposing misunderstandings and errors.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Nostratic from a Computational Angle

                                                                                                                                                                                      A particular subset of works dealing with Nostratic or “long-range” comparison as a whole focuses on the issues of a proper statistical confirmation or invalidation of the hypothesis. Several computerized procedures have been devised to test whether the assembled evidence for Nostratic exceeds whatever should be expected by chance. However, due to the overall complexity of the task, the results of these procedures, whether “positive” or “negative,” are rarely, if ever, admitted as fully conclusive by linguists. Ringe 1995, Ringe 1998, and Oswalt 1998 devise probabilistic tests for Nostratic based on lexicostatistical data and state that the results do not confirm the hypothesis; Baxter 1998 is a critical evaluation of the methodology employed by the authors of these works. Kessler 2001 applies a slightly more complex methodology to a larger subset of data, also with negative conclusions. On the other hand, the algorithm described in Turchin, et al. 2010 seems to yield a positive relationship signal for Nostratic.

                                                                                                                                                                                      • Baxter, William H. 1998. Response to Oswalt and Ringe. In Nostratic: Sifting the evidence. Edited by Joseph C. Salmons and Brian D. Joseph, 217–236. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A critical evaluation of the probabilistic evaluation tests described in Ringe 1995, Ringe 1998, and Oswalt 1998: The author, writing from a “sympathetically neutral” position on Nostratic, states that the criticized methods lack the proper robustness to be of serious use for proper evaluation of “long-range” hypotheses.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kessler, Brett. 2001. The significance of word lists: Statistical tests for investigating historical connections between languages. Stanford, CA: CSLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          In this monograph, a set of statistical procedures is implemented in the testing of the “Indo-Uralic” segment of Nostratic. The tests are more complex than the ones in Oswalt 1998 or Ringe 1995, and the results are equally unfavorable for the proponents of long-range comparison.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Oswalt, Robert L. 1998. A probabilistic evaluation of North Eurasiatic Nostratic. In Nostratic: Sifting the evidence. Edited by Joseph C. Salmons and Brian D. Joseph, 199–216. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            A probabilistic evaluation of the hypothesis of a genetic relationship between Indo-European, Uralic, and Altaic based on phonetic similarity between elements of fixed 100- and 200-item lists compiled for a diagnostic selection of modern or historically attested languages. Conclusions are generally negative, although some of the pairings exceed chance expectations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Ringe, Donald A. 1995. “Nostratic” and the factor of chance. Diachronica 12:55–74.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1075/dia.12.1.04rinE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              The paper compares the distribution of reflexes of “Proto-Nostratic” roots in its alleged daughter branches with the distribution of the same roots in Indo-European. The author concludes that the Nostratic results do not exceed chance expectations, unlike those of Indo-European.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ringe, Donald A. 1998. Probabilistic evidence for Indo-Uralic. In Nostratic: Sifting the evidence. Edited by Joseph C. Salmons and Brian D. Joseph, 153–197. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                In this paper, a follow-up to Ringe 1995, a simple probabilistic test is offered to test the “Indo-Uralic” part of the Nostratic hypothesis. Although the test yields a weak signal of genetic relationship, the author refuses to accept it as definitive proof.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Turchin, Peter, Ilia Peiros, and Murray Gell-Mann. 2010. Analyzing genetic connections between languages by matching consonant classes. Journal of Language Relationship 3:117–126.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  A modern-day development of the “consonant class matching” method first proposed in Dolgopolsky 1986 (cited under Early Soviet Works). The method is tested on the “Altaic” subset of Nostratic and, according to the authors, yields a positive relationship signal; it also suggests, within Nostratic, a proximity between Altaic and Eskimo languages first suggested in Mudrak 1984 (cited under Nostratic and Various Eurasian “Orphans”).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Neutral Overviews of Issues

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Several theoretical works on Nostratic have been written from an “agnostic” position: They acknowledge both the advances and the challenges produced by the hypothesis, and they suggest possible lines of work for the future as well as ways of reconciliation between the larger “anti-Nostratic” and the smaller “pro-Nostratic” opposing camps. Kaye 1999 and Stachowski 2011 are balanced overviews of the achievements and shortcomings of the theory in general. Mottausch 2005 suggests that small amounts of thoroughly analyzed comparative data may advance the case for Nostratic further than huge, but poorly constructed dictionaries. Coleman 2004 argues for the importance of interdisciplinary research on the Nostratic problem. Yakhontov 2000 stresses the importance of evaluating Nostratic in the context of other long-range hypotheses of genetic relationship.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Coleman, Ronald A. 2004. Nostratic, Quo Vadis? In Nostratic Centennial Conference: The Pécs papers. Edited by Irén Hegedűs and Paul Sidwell, 63–83. Pécs, Hungary: Lingua Franca Group.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    An analysis of the main groups of criticisms targeted at the “classic” Nostratic theory. The paper also argues for an interdisciplinary approach to resolving the Nostratic dilemma.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kaye, Alan. 1999. The current state of Nostratic linguistics. In Nostratic: Examining a linguistic macrofamily. Edited by Colin Renfrew and Daniel Nettle, 327–358. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      An overview of some of the pitfalls and achievements of Nostratic, with particular emphasis on research by Dolgopolsky, from the point of view of an expert on Semitic and Afroasiatic linguistics (ultimately unconvinced of the reality of Nostratic).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Mottausch, Karl-Heinz. 2005. Nostratisch—ein Phantom? Ein Plädoyer für eine verschmähte Sache. Indogermanische Forschungen 110:127–151.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        A neutral evaluation of Nostratic from an Indo-Europeanist point of view. The author advocates for a “minimalist” approach in Nostratic research, concentrating on small amounts of convincing evidence rather than aiming for huge etymological dictionaries (like Dolgopolsky or Bomhard).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Stachowski, Marek. 2011. Teoria Nostratyczna i Szkoła Moskiewska. LingVaria 6:241–274.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          A brief history and critical evaluation of the Moscow school from the point of view of a relative “outsider” (the author is mildly sympathetic to the Nostratic hypothesis), generally from a broad methodological perspective, but with occasional discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of particular etymologies. In Polish.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Yakhontov, Sergei. 2000. Otdalennoye rodstvo yazykov: Sravnitel’nyje kharakteristiki nekotorykh spornykh teoriy. Yazyk i rechevaya deyatel’nost’ 3:206–239.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            The paper establishes several comparative-historical parameters for evaluating theories of long-range genetic relationships and uses them to test a set of controversial hypotheses, including Nostratic. The author acknowledges that the results of the test are mildly favorable toward Nostratic, mainly due to strong evidence from pronominal paradigms. In Russian.

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