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The Japanese and Turkic languages
From Moscow, Cameron Sawyer sends us this chart, which makes the issue look clear: http://www2.4dcomm.com/millenia/lang.htm
Others have their doubts. From Scotland, George Sassoon, who has a house in England, sends us this via Ron Bracewell: "I have a Spanish/Basque dictionary in Wiltshire, and also a Hungarian barmaid at a pub down the road. When back south I will take the book to consult her with it. I thought that it was generally believed that Basque was some sort of Ur-European pre-Indo-European language, possibly a Neanderthal dialect, whereas the Magyars are Mongols who came out of the East. Did I ask you whether or not it is legitimate to describe the Good Pub Guide as a beer-reviewed journal?"
The answer to the last question is no, and I would not rely on a beer-reviewed journal. My experience with stupid, ignorant peer reviews, by individuals who have just glanced at an mss which represents years of work, suggests that it is a good description of the process in general. Some peers! Ron Bracewell has struggled with the language problem: "The Japanese language does not contain any phonemes that do not occur in Maori, including the bilabial fricative H in Hirohito. There are differences that seem to make Maori syntax more complicated; I gave up studying Maori when I discovered that the word for the day after tomorrow is the same as for the day before yesterday".
Again, from Ron Bracewell: "I wonder what "the linguistic similarities between Basque and Hungarian/Finnish" are? Nicholas Hoff told me that he was in a Helsinki hotel with a fellow Hungarian and they spent the evening going through a Finnish dictionary. They found only one word shared with Hungarian, but it did not mean the same! "
My lament on a misspent youth: These studies can be an awful waste of time. I studied the dialects of French and Catalan, and the arguments, often rooted in politics, about the relationship between them. I should have spent this time and energy on learning Arabic. Oh well, I should not complain. I once got a fellowship by translating a piece of 16th century English into 16th century French.
Ronald Hilton - 2/26/02