Sunday, 8 March 2015

How do Esquimaux Learn Tlingit?

If they do, that is. Presumably same way as Greeks learned Latin. And speakers of Tlingit, presumably, if they ever learn an Esquimaux-Aleutish tongue do so like the Romans and Latins learned Greek. By studying comparable paradigmata. By stadying comparable phrases.

[1) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Rahan linguistics, 2) New blog on the kid : How do Esquimaux Learn Tlingit?]

Nom  hic gubernator  ουτος κυβερνητης
Gen  huius gubernatoris  τουτου κυβερνητου
Dat  huic gubernatori  τουτωι κυβερνητηι
Acc  hunc gubrenatorem  τουτον κυβερνητην
Voc  o gubernator  ω κυβερνητα
Abl/Gen  ab hoc gubernatore  εκ τουτου κυβερνητου
Loc/Dat  in hoc gubernatore  εν τουτωι κυβερνητηι
Instr/Dat  cum hoc gubernatore  συν τουτωι κυβερνητηι
   gubernator it in navem (suam)  ο κυβερνητης βαινει επι την (εαυτου) ναυν

I am not sure how to say any of these things in Esquimaux or Tlingit, but if an Esquimau can say it in Tlingit, (without ignoring his own language), he can teach Tlingit to other Esquimaux.

This makes the Rahan story so hard to believe, linguistically.

No doubt, the authors had a feeling that the age of Rahan was too primitive to have as yet different languages. But, if anything, it was too primitive to have as yet invented this method of teaching languages. Which is of course sth we do not know. And, if it wasn't invented, Rahan would have been stuck with each new tribe or "clan" speaking a language foreign to him. Even if the method was invented, Rahan would have needed time to adapt by learning the language in each case. He never does.

The authors basically tell a story which means he gets along throughout the world and even crossing the Mediterranean or Atlantic Ocean on a raft at one point, simply by speaking his own language, like a Frenchman would throughout the French Colonial Empire.

If there ever was a time when all spoke one language - Faith assures us this is the case - it was spoken by a far more unified and civilised humanity than that of the stone age tribes of this comic book. As far as the Bible text goes, there could have been diverse languages before the Flood and the linguistic unity could be a new, post-Flood, situation.

This is not very likely, as people before the Flood lived several hundred years, but it is just barely possible. However, this possibility having actually occurred is not born out by Tradition.

But once humanity split up due to linguistic change, and a miraculously fast one, it dispersed so that it was very hard for most to learn all foreign languages; now there are about 6000 instead of 71, it is impossible on Earth. That is the kind of situation one can picture for stone age, though after some centuries, just before recovering agriculture (for in Creationist models the stone age is a short affair), many of the original nations would already have spread into diverse clans (!) or tribes, there would have been territories inside which the Rahan scenario of linguistics was roughly valid - but in these, he would not have been the perpetual stranger he appeared in the comic books.

When - much later - Ulysses travelled : how much did he speak Mycenean Greek? How much Hittite (the nation forgotten between events and Homer, in just 400 years)? How much Phoenician (which he could have learned in Kadmean Thebes)? We do not know. Homer doesn't tell us. A naive reader would get an impression roughly like the Rahan scenario (as with the Ivan Czarevitch riding through 29 kingdoms and 30 countries), but in reality that would not have been the case. However, unlike the Rahan scenario, Ulysses would have known beforehand of at least some of the peoples he was going to meet and some of the others spoke for instance Phoenician or Nesili Hittite. Or even Mycenean Greek. Romanides may even have been right when he considered Aeneas and Latinus spoke (Mycenean) Greek, if Latinus was son of Faunus, son of Picus son of Saturn who was an exiled Greek king (unduly deified by the Pagans, even as deposed father of the "most high", like his son Picus and grandson Faunus were also unduly deified). On the other hand, Saturn being Greek may have been a stand in for his being some other kind of Hittite. These credibilities are sth which more sophisticated readers of Homer and Virgil may read into the text, without violating it. But in the Rahan case, the son of Crao is supposed to grow up in total ignorance of other tribes than his fathers' and perhaps one or two neighbouring ones.

Imagining the Palaeolithic stone age is a somewhat arduous adventure, intellectually, and storytellers are in the forefront. Lecureux and Chéret have succeeded in a noble but - to a linguist - obvious fail. And supposing the scenario were set in the centuries after a bottleneck, well, in that case a linguistic unity like Rahan meets might be less hard to understand, but in that case nearly every tribe would recall the catastrophy that caused the bottleneck - as in reality all tribes and nations over the world, with very few exceptions, have some recollection of the Flood of Noah.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
III Sunday of Lent

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