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Pseudoscientific language comparison is a form of "pseudo-scholarship that has the objective of establishing historical associations between languages by naive postulations of similarities between them.

While "comparative linguistics also studies the historical relationships of languages, linguistic comparisons are considered pseudoscientific by linguists when they are not based on the established practices of comparative linguistics, or on the more general principles of the "scientific method. Pseudoscientific language comparison is usually performed by people with little or no specialization in the field of comparative linguistics. It is a widespread type of linguistic pseudoscience (another example being "false etymology, as in the example of the so-called ""Salmon problem").

The most common method applied in pseudoscientific language comparisons is to search two or more languages for words that seem similar in their sound and meaning. While similarities of this kind often seem convincing to laypeople, linguistic scientists consider this kind of comparison to be unreliable for two primary reasons. First, the method applied is not well-defined: the criterion of similarity is subjective and thus not subject to "verification or falsification, which is contrary to the principles of the scientific method. Second, the large size of all languages' vocabulary makes it easy to find "coincidentally similar words between languages.

Because of its unreliability, the method of searching for isolated similarities is rejected by nearly all comparative linguists (however, see "mass comparison for a controversial method that operates by similarity). Instead of noting isolated similarities, comparative linguists use a technique called the "comparative method to search for regular (i.e. recurring) correspondences between the languages’ "phonology, "grammar and core vocabulary in order to test hypotheses of relatedness.

Certain types of languages seem to attract much more attention in pseudoscientific comparisons than others. These include languages of "ancient civilizations such as "Egyptian, "Etruscan or "Sumerian; "language isolates or near-isolates such as "Basque, "Japanese and "Ainu; and languages that are unrelated to their geographical neighbors such as "Hungarian.


Political or religious implications[edit]

In some cases, languages are associated with one another for political or religious reasons, despite a lack of support from accepted methods of "science or "historical linguistics:

For example, it has been argued["where?]["by whom?] that the posited "Ural-Altaic or "Turanian, language family, which seeks to relate "Sami to the "Mongolian language, was used to justify "Swedish "racism towards the "Sami people in particular.[1] (There are also strong, albeit "areal not "genetic, similarities between the "Uralic and "Altaic languages, which provide a more benign but nonetheless incorrect basis for this theory.)

Some believers in "Abrahamic religions have sought to derive their native languages from "Classical Hebrew. For example, "Herbert W. Armstrong (1892–1986), a proponent of "British Israelism, claimed that the word 'British' comes from Hebrew בְּרִית (Hebrew pronunciation: "[brit], meaning 'covenant') and אּישׁ (Hebrew pronunciation: "[iʃ], meaning 'man'), as supposed proof that the British people are the 'covenant people' of God. Pre-modern scholars of the "Hebrew Bible, debating the "language spoken by Adam and Eve, often relied on belief in the literal truth of "Genesis and of the accuracy of the names transcribed therein. On the other hand, the sixteenth-century "Renaissance scholars "Johannes Goropius Becanus (1519–1572) and "Simon Stevin (1548–1620) argued that the Adamic language had been a dialect of their own native language, "Dutch.

The "Sun Language Theory, positing a proto-"Turkic language as the ancestor of all human languages, was motivated by "Turkish nationalism.

The Israeli-American linguist "Paul Wexler is known for his "fringe theories[2][3] about the origin of "Jewish populations and "Jewish languages:

The "Lithuanian–American "archaeologist "Marija Gimbutas argued during the mid-1900s that Basque is clearly related to the extinct "Pictish and Etruscan languages, even though at least the comparison had earlier been rejected within a decade of being proposed in 1892 by "Sir John Rhys. Her motivation was to show Basque was a remnant of an ""Old European culture".[6]

Traits and characteristics[edit]

There is no universal way to identify pseudoscientific language comparisons; indeed, it is not clear that all pseudoscientific language comparisons form a single group. However, the following characteristics tend to be more common among pseudoscientific theories (and their advocates) than among scientific ones:

Proponents of pseudoscientific language comparisons also tend to share "some common characteristics with "cranks in other fields of science:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Niclas Wahlgren. "Något om rastänkandet i Sverige" (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. 
  2. ^ Rose Kaplan, [1] "Tablet (magazine)26 April 2016.
  3. ^ Kutzix, Jordan (28 April 2016). "Don't Buy the Junk Science That Says Yiddish Originated in Turkey". The Forward. Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Paul Wexler, 'On the Schizoid Nature of Modern Hebrew,' in Russell A. Stone, Walter P. Zenner (eds.),Critical Essays on Israeli Social Issues and Scholarship, SUNY Press, vol.3 1994 pp.63-87.
  5. ^ Paul Wexler, "Yiddish—the fifteenth Slavic language. A study of partial language shift from Judeo-Sorbian to German," International journal of the sociology of language, 1991
  6. ^ See Gimbutas, Marija, The Living Goddesses pp. 122 and 171-175 "ISBN "0-520-22915-0
  7. ^ Trask, p.395
  8. ^ Campbell, p.322
  9. ^ Campbell, pp.323-324
  10. ^ Hock and Joseph, p.460
  11. ^ Campbell, pp.318-319
  12. ^ Hock and Joseph, pp.462-464
  13. ^ Hock and Joseph, pp.463-464
  14. ^ Campbell, p.325
  15. ^ Trask, p.395
  16. ^ Campbell, pp.325-326

External links[edit]

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