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Darwin-L Message Log 5:184 (January 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<5:184>From 00HFSTAHLKE@leo.bsuvc.bsu.edu  Thu Jan 27 15:59:24 1994

Date: Thu, 27 Jan 1994 16:55:25 -0500 (EST)
From: 00hfstahlke@leo.bsuvc.bsu.edu
Subject: Re: History of "adaptation" in historical linguistics
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

There was wide-spread opinion in African comparative linguistics,
lasting well into the mid-20th century, that a sizable group of
languages had the properties they had because of the nature of their
speakers.  This opinion was held largely by adherents to the Hamitic
and Nilo-Hamitic hypotheses, hypotheses that fell, interestingly, as a
result of Greenberg's highly successful work on the classification of
African languages.  Greenberg argued that the term Hamitic, as
used in Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, suggested that the
non-Semitic languages of what he calls Afro-Asiatic are a genetic
linguistic grouping collateral to Semitic.  There is no evidence to
support such a genetic grouping within Afro-Asiatic.  The Nilo-Hamitic
languages turned out to be largely Nilotic and shared no significant
cognates with Hamitic.

An article appeared in the Journal of African History in the early
1970's, I believe--I don't have the reference handy--that traced the
theological and historical roots of the term Hamitic and its
linguistic and anthropological use to the so-called "curse of Ham" in
the Hebrew flood story.

Herb Stahlke

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