Talk:Language isolate

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Languages (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Languages, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of standardized, informative and easy-to-use resources about languages on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Wikipedia Version 1.0 Editorial Team / v0.7
WikiProject icon This article has been reviewed by the Version 1.0 Editorial Team.
Taskforce icon
This article has been selected for Version 0.7 and subsequent release versions of Wikipedia.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the quality scale.

Extinct Isolates[edit]

"Despite its great age, Sumerian can be safely classified as an isolate, as the language is well enough known that, if modern relatives existed, they would be recognizably related."
Where did that come from? What about Anton Deimel, Rene Labat and Samuel Kramer's work? They identified Sumerian - properly Mah-Gar - belonging to the same languages as Turkish, Hungarian etc. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:22, 28 May 2012 (UTC)

You mean Nostratic? That's not generally accepted. — kwami (talk) 08:39, 28 May 2012 (UTC)

Old talk[edit]

What about Hungarian? I seem to remember that Hungarian is thought to be related only (and this is controversial) to Japanese, and if Japanese is an isolate, then Hungarian would necessarily be also (at least until the two were proven to be related). Kadin2048 04:59, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)

No, Hungarian is related to Finnish and Estonian. Adam Bishop 04:57, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Uralic languages (Hungarian, Finnish etc.) have been popularily connected with Altaic languages (Japanese, Turkish etc.) forming a Ural-Altaic language group. This theory did propose a genetic connection between Japanese and Hungarian, but is now defunct. Please refer to the respective articles for more info. himasaram
And completely discredited today. HammerFilmFan (talk) 19:30, 15 February 2015 (UTC)


Strictly speaking japanese is not isolate, but belongs to Japonic language family together with Ryukyuan and Okinawan languages.--Kulkuri 23:02, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)

But the Japonic languages page includes in its first paragraph the admission that it may be merely a sprachbund, and Japanese is generally considered to be an isolate in the general linguistic community. UnDeadGoat
No, the sprachbund cited is Altaic-Japonic, not Japonic itself. Japanese is considered an isolate because it's often considered a single language with "dialects", much as Chinese is, for social rather than linguistic reasons. Japanese proper has enough diversity to be considered more than one language based on mutual intelligibility tests; the Luchuan (Ryukyuan) languages are even more diverse, and even the most conservative linguistic analysis would classify these two as separate languages. And no one questions the relationship between Japanese and Luchuan, it's just too transparent. I would hazard a guess that Japonic has approximately the diversity of one of the younger branches of Indo-European. --kwami 06:26, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Good point Kwamikagami.... Japanese really can not be considered a language isolate, not with language such as Okinawan still alive and spoken by thousands on a daily basis. I suggest Japanese be removed from this article.

--User:harald 07:15, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Perhaps there could be a separate section for "Small families conventionally regarded as isolates", including languages such as Japanese. There are also some small families in which only one language is still spoken, such as Ket or Pirahã. These languages all deserve to be mentioned here, since they are widely referred to as isolates, but I think there is a clear difference between them and, say, Basque or Sumerian, which have no proven relatives, alive or dead. Chamdarae 12:15, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

Is Okinawan really Japonic? Japanese/Ryukyuan are closely related and may have been identical not too far in the past. Japanese, with its regional dialects appears to be an isolate! This is a huge mystery the importance of which cannot be exaggerated. Japanese should not be omitted in this article due to a categorization technicality.Vendrov (talk) 11:32, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Okinawan is very obviously Japonic. That's a bit like asking if Serbian is really Slavic. (Well, maybe not that close!) — kwami (talk) 17:44, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Hadza and Sandawe[edit]

These are listed on their own pages as Khoisan languages, but the Khoisan page says they are other languages. Anyone know for sure? -phma 14:55, 30 Jul 2004 (UTC)

The Khoisan family is rather tentative. Most linguists expect that the three (or perhaps four) Southern African families will prove to be related to each other, but Sandawe and especially Hadza are iffier. There really isn't any good reason for including Hadza in Khoisan; it was put there primarily because it has clicks and isn't obviously related to anything else. Part of the problem is that these langages are very poorly described. --kwami 06:42, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)

first two paragraphs contradict[edit]

It seems like the definition in the 1st paragraph contradicts with the statement in the 2nd that some languages became isolates in recent times. I hope someone can sort this out. What is the critical criterium - 1) not related to any living language, or 2) no known genetic relationship to any other language (living or dead)? ike9898 15:33, Jan 30, 2005 (UTC)

"Language isolate" has no precise definition. Context will have to disambiguate. People classify Basque as an isolate despite the fact that it's most likely related to (extinct) Aquitanian; similarly Etruscan and Rhaetian, though both of those are extinct. However, if a language was classified as part of a family and only later its relatives died out, as is the case with Piraha in the Muran family, then it might not be considered an isolate. Consider also Japanese, which is frequently called an isolate despite being a small language family. The term "isolate" is as fuzzy as the term "language" itself. --kwami 06:36, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Another example of a case like Japanese, is the Chimakuan family which is often called an isolate, even though it consists of two languages, Chemakum and Quileute.
The term is also used refer to single members of a particular branch of a larger grouping (i.e. a stock or phylum) which has families at its other branches. So, for example, Bella Coola is an isolate within the Salish(an) family (which has also the Tsamsoan subfamily, Interior Salish family, etc.). For better or for worse, all of these usages exist. — ishwar  (SPEAK) 00:25, 2005 Jun 4 (UTC)

A remark: It seems to me that the article give a paradox though working definition. It says: A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical (or "genetic") relationship with other living languages, and this can mean only the following: Given a small language family of three languages, A, B and C, then A becomes isolated after B and C have died. If, however, also A dies, then all three languages are both isolates and interrelated.

While this is not self-contradiction, it appears unlikely to me that this really is what linguists mean by that term. Note that the paradoxy has nothing to do with the fuzzyness of the term "language" itself. (talk) 16:06, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

I don't see how that follows. If A dies, B and C form a family of B and C. kwami (talk) 06:31, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
My szenario is that A goes extinct after B and C have already died. Now none of the three languages has a living relative, and thus (following the wording in the article) must be considered "isolate". I find it paradox that a language family of three is converted into three isolated languages after extinction of at least two. (talk) 15:08, 1 April 2009 (UTC)
You're right, of course. kwami (talk) 21:29, 1 April 2009 (UTC)
and I already fixed the problem.·Maunus·ƛ· 23:20, 1 April 2009 (UTC)

Native American languages[edit]

Am I the only one reacting to all native American languages listed as language isolates? Wouldn't they be classified as isolated languages (as being spoken only in reservations) rather than language isolates with no genetic connection to any other languages? I'm not sure because I'm no expert on these languages. It'd be nice if somebody could comment on this. ;-) himasaram

No, all of the languages on the list are, as of the most current research, isolates with no known relations to any other family or language. The North American ones are according to Goddard (1996) & Mithun (1999). Central & South are according to Campbell (1997).
Many of these languages became extinct a good while ago before accurate data was collected (due to the unfortunate political practices of the past). Often times having only a small list words is not enough to determine any kind of genetic relationship. In other cases, such as with many of the South American isolates, enough data has simply not been collected yet (at least to the knowledge of Campbell). You can probably expect the number of isolates in South America to decrease over time.
As the article says, language isolates may be related but the relationship is undemonstrated. This is true of any language or language family. So, English may be related to Arabic, but whatever connection there may be between these two (and this connection would have to be very, very remote) has not been convincingly "proven" to the linguistic community.
Regarding North America, there are three big language family proposals that you should be aware of:
Penutian and Hokan are due to Edward Sapir and his predecessors. Amerind is a proposal by Joseph H. Greenberg that considers all languages in America to a part of one stock excepting the Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene families. Greenberg's proposal would, then, consider there to only three families with probably no isolates at all. Penutian is currently undemonstrated although most linguists find this hypothesis to be very promising. Hokan is less certain—some languages may be related, but others are probably not. If Penutian and Hokan are valid, then the number of isolates may reduced slightly. Amerind is not accepted by most Native American specialists.
I would guess that if you wait 25 years or so the issue of Penutian & Hokan will be better known, as will the situation of South American languages. However, I should also mention that the Americas are extremely linguistically diverse areas (for instance, only in the Americas does there occur all 6 word order types). The diversity of the Americas is rivaled only by places like Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Peace. — ishwar  (SPEAK) 14:52, 2005 Apr 11 (UTC)
Superb explanation, Ish_ishwar. Keep up the good work! -Himasaram 21:38, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Wouldn't unclassified language be a more appropriate place for the ones for which inadequate data (or none) is the only reason? - Mustafaa 23:02, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Good point. But I personally don't feel confident enough to make the distinction between an unclassified language and a language isolate... -Himasaram 23:26, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Hi. Yes, I think you can make a distinction between these two categories. I am using a kind of loose definition (an as-yet genetically unaffiliated single-member language family ?). So, making the distinction would involve an evaluation of the documentation status of these languages, and I guess that we could have a kind of confidence rating of the status. For example, Zuni could an isolate with a 80% (?) certainity. Baenan (a.k.a. Baeña) could be an isolate with a 0% certainty which would be, in other words, an unclassified language (Kaufman 1994:70 says that "this language is too poorly known for even Gr[eenberg] to dare classifying it"; I cant find it in Ethnologue). As far as evaluating all of the languages, I find it easier to just say that they are not known to be related to other languages. Anyway, I was just trying to put (quickly) all of these language names somewhere on the internet since many are probably unrepresented here in cyberspace. That's all. I guess, you are requesting me to work harder :) peace. — ishwar  (SPEAK) 23:57, 2005 Jun 3 (UTC)
Your intentions are admirable, Ish_ishwar. My only concern was that the list on this page was totally dominated by Native American languages. Perhaps the easiest way for you, is to create a separate list on this page or on a separate page, for these isolated/unclassified American languages? -Himasaram 18:27, 4 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Yukaghir family[edit]

By definition, no "family" qualifies as a "language isolate." Will be looking to delete that inclusion barring user input in the next week or so. 14:13, 11 July 2006 (UTC)


This article clearly suggests that Korean is a language isolate, but it is related to Japanese, and they are both part of the Japonic languages, which is part of the Uralic-Altaic language family.Thomasiscool 14:13, 27 August 2006 (UTC)Thomasiscool

I don't have great insight into it, but I do know that any such link is disputed rather than established fact. Basic grammar forms are different, and Korean is not considered a Japonic language on the Wikipedia page. What are the links between Korean and Japanese to which you refer? Dekimasu 07:48, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
Korean is clearly not Japonic, though it may be related at a deeper level. (The evidence for a connection is not strong enough for it to be widely accepted.) Ural-Altaic is no longer accepted even by long rangers (at least in Russia and the USA), as it appears to reflect a purely typological similarity. kwami 08:50, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

Why is Korean listed as vibrant as opposed to living? A language with 78 million speakers that's the official language of 2 countries is definitely living. Basque is living and it has fewer speakers and no nation to call it's own. Unless "Vibrant" is more alive than "Living" on the scale of how alive a language is, than I don't get it. (Aspiring Linguist) 8:22 p.m. PDT 28 September 2006

I think vibrant is supposed to be more than living, although it isn't clear at all from the context of the article. But any way I have changed all instances of vibrant to living, The distinction between the two is not obvious and I don't know of a general linguistic classification of vibrant languages in contrast to living languages. Maunus 08:14, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Charles Berlitz classifies Korean as an Altaic language in his book Native Tongues, and Altaic includes Japanese.Thomasiscool 13:15, 27 October 2006 (UTC)Thomasiscool

He does but the Altaic family and particularly the inclusion of japanese and Korean in it is not generally accepted. Also Charles Berlitz is not known for his contributions to Historical linguistics and does not constitute a reliable source to the linguistic history of Korean or any other language. Maunus 13:47, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
We can't leave Korean as a language isolate without the inclusion of Japonic/Japanese as a language isolate. If you guys wanted we could break down the Korean language in to dialects and call it Koreonic classification. Anyways Korean is generally classified as Macro-Altaic[1] --Objectiveye (talk) 04:19, 17 January 2010 (UTC)
No, Korean is generally called an isolate. Japanese is a family of unintelligible languages. Korean is not. kwami (talk) 04:24, 17 January 2010 (UTC)
I can find references to Korean language being Altaic in general, and rarely a language isolate. Can you put in some citations for the Language Isolate theory. If you start classifying Old Korean, middle Korean and Korean you can break it down in to dialects as well and now you can almost start to differentiate North, South Korean and Jeju Korean and classify it Koreonic but in a broader sense it is generally in the Altaic family. Anyways in general I keep seeing Korean as Altaic in linguistics books so can you get a quote which state that most linguists classifies it as a language Isolate. --Objectiveye (talk) 04:33, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

Cambridge Journal of linguistics also classifies Korean as Altaic, I think we need the language isolate reference that states Korean is a language isolate and this is the majority view of linguist before we can put Korean back in the Language isolate section. Thanks --Objectiveye (talk) 04:50, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

Please see Talk:Korean language#Language isolate vs Altaic --Caspian blue 05:29, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

North Picene[edit]

What about North Picene? There seems to be very little information on it, but from what I understand it's not considered to be Italic and only possibly Indo-European. Fingon 18:17, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Unclassified isn't the same as an isolate. — kwami (talk) 08:23, 21 March 2008 (UTC)


This article says that Pirahã is "endangered" but the main Pirahã article says it is not, arguing that "language use is vigorous and the Pirahã community is monolingual". Paul Koning 16:16, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

I think that any language with less than 200 speakers can be called endangered, even if not facing immediate extinction. ·Maunus· ·ƛ· 21:53, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Sign language isolates[edit]

Shouldn't sign language isolates have a separate category? They're currently separated by continent, but maybe we ought to have a "sign language" category all to its own for ease of use. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Graymornings (talkcontribs) 00:54, August 27, 2007 (UTC)

There's no way to list SL isolates, though. Tanzania alone has seven; for many countries we simply have no idea. So yes, I think they should be split off into their own section. kwami 02:30, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

I'm not too familiar with Wikipedia tables, so if someone could volunteer to do this (given consensus), that'd be great. Graymornings 15:53, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Ainu in Honshu[edit]

For some reason, Ebizur has repeatedly deleted all references to the Ainu in Honshu, saying it's equivalent to Sasquatch. The Ainu population of Honshu is common knowledge, and we can come up with dozens of references. Race, Ethnicity and Migration in Modern Japan (Weiner 2004), for one, but plenty of others. — kwami (talk) 08:22, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

Wouldn't it make sense for each entry in those tables to have one reference? I notice a "references needed" flag above it. That way edit wars could be avoided by pointing to a cited source. Paul Koning (talk) 15:57, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
I agree. In fact I think it is highly problematic that lists seem to be exempt to the high standards for references that apply to articles.·Maunus· ·ƛ· 16:12, 21 March 2008 (UTC)


Kwamikagami, you reverted my addition of Meroitic as an African isolate with the comment that this is "long classified." I am aware of Rilly's claim which is dated 2001 on a website, (and am a lumper, myself) but there are also other proposed classifications, and many sources still show the language as an isolate. I wonder if you could state your source, and even more helpfully, edit the Meroitic page to reflect and expand upon that source? Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kjaer (talkcontribs) 08:11, 13 October 2008 (UTC)

OOPS, I see you said long unclassified, not long classified. But so is Etruscan or Korean, according to many. How does unclassified differ from isolate? And Meroitic has long been described as an isolate. Please explain your exact objection. Thanks. Kjaer 10:56, 13 October 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kjaer (talkcontribs)

I have restored the remark on Meroitic. From google:

NationMaster - Encyclopedia: Meroitic Meroitic is an adjective referring to things related to the kingdom of Meroe in ... that it may be Nilo-Saharan, while others see it as a language isolate. ... - 33k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Meroitic language (language) - Language and Linguistics Research Guide Meroitic language - The Meroitic language was spoken in Meroë and the Sudan during ... Language isolate · Nilo-Saharan languages · historical linguistics ... - 10k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Meroitic Dead language of antiquity, developed in the kingdom of Nubia. Meroitic is an Example of: Dead language · Individual · Language isolate ... - 8k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this Kjaer 00:45, 14 October 2008 (UTC)

A language may be unclassified because the necessary work has not been done, or because it is too poorly known to be classified. The latter was the case with Meroitic. See unclassified language. A language can only be classified as an isolate if enough information exists to classify it. Although Meroitic may have been called an "isolate" in non-linguistic sourecs, this shows poor understanding of the term.
NationMaster is a mirror of Wikipedia, and therefore not evidence of anything. cycfoundation is just a collection of links to Wikipedia, and is also not evidence for anything. 123Explore says nothing about it being an isolate. If you can find a reliable source documenting that Meroitic was long classified as an isolate, fine, but meanwhile that assertion is completely unfounded. kwami (talk) 01:09, 14 October 2008 (UTC)

these are both isolates and merely unclassified[edit]

The link to Yurimangui reminded me that many of these alleged isolates are nothing of the sort: like Y., many are simply too poorly attested to be classified, but that doesn't mean they constitute a full-fledged independent family of their own. Should we expand unclassified language to be more inclusive, and move many of these languages to there? kwami (talk) 21:59, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

I'd think from NA at least Adai, Beothuk, Esselen, Quinigua, and Xinca would be 'unclassified', and from SA betoi etc etc. kwami (talk) 06:55, 19 May 2009 (UTC)


Taivo removed Quileute because it's part of the Chimakuan family. That depends on how we conceive of an "isolate"; we could remove Ainu for the same reason. From the point of doing fieldwork, Quileute is effectively an isolate, because it's no longer possible to work on its (extinct) relative. Perhaps we could have a section on languages like these and Great Andamanese that have become isolates in historically attested times? kwami (talk) 22:03, 4 January 2010 (UTC)


The first paragraph of the article. Ainu language is by no means a member of Karasuk phylum, isn't it? — (talk) 09:34, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

Ethnologue's list of isolates[edit]

The Ethnologue article says it lists 50 isolates, but this article has more than that. It would be helpful if somebody compared the lists. Maybe this article has some that are not true isolates, maybe the Ethnologue editor needs to be informed of some additional isolates. Pete unseth (talk) 19:39, 22 April 2011 (UTC)

Ethnologue includes several families we don't accept, such as Khoisan and Australian, and some of our isolates they count as small families (the language/dialect debate). There are also disagreements as to the reliability of the date. We have Elseng as unclassified, whereas they have Aikana as unclassified. They also don't list many extinct languages, and in fact are offloading any that went extinct before 1950. They also put some isolates in families of one rather than in with the other isolates. — kwami (talk) 08:51, 28 May 2012 (UTC)
I added Leco, Trumai, Candosh, and Bangime from the E16 list. We should probably add Páez, Chimané, and Urarina as well. — kwami (talk) 10:26, 28 May 2012 (UTC)

Please don't revert entire edit when you disagree with one part of it[edit]

Hi, Kwamikagami. As far as I can see, your reversion just now was directed only at the mention of Greek, not at the rest of my edit, which rearranged sentences from a nonsensical order to an appropriate order. Is my assumption right?

As for you saying that it's erroneous that Greek is an IE isolate, I'm puzzled. What do you base that on? I've always read that the three living isolate branches of IE are Albanian, Armenian, and Greek. And the article Greek language says in its lede,

"Greek (Ελληνικά IPA: [eliniˈka] or Ελληνική γλώσσα, IPA: [eliniˈci ˈɣlosa]) is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages."

And later that article says

"Historical unity and continuing identity between the various stages of the Greek language is often emphasised. Although Greek has undergone morphological and phonological changes comparable to those seen in other languages, there has been no time in its history since classical antiquity where its cultural, literary, and orthographic tradition was interrupted to such an extent that one can easily speak of a new language emerging."

Your comments? Duoduoduo (talk) 23:00, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

I'm sorry, I misread the edit. I thought you'd removed Greek! I'll put it back.
Your description of NSL is wrong, however. It did not develop from deaf parents raising hearing children, but from deaf children raised without language and then put together in school. Also your edit summary "deaf children's sign language is not an example of hearing children's oral language" had nothing to do with the text you changed, so I assumed that you misunderstood it. — kwami (talk) 00:03, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, you're puzzling me again. The text you have restored says
"There are some situations in which a language with no ancestor might arise. For example, if deaf parents were to raise a group of hearing children who have no contact with others until adulthood, they might develop a verbal language among themselves and keep using it later, teaching it to their children, and so on. Eventually, it could develop into the full-fledged language of a population. This happened in the case of Nicaraguan Sign Language, where deaf children with no language were placed together and developed a new language." [bolding added]
This says that this happened -- i.e. deaf parents raise a group of hearing children -- in the case of NSL. As my edit summary said, that's not right. The version I changed it to is
"There are some situations in which a language with no ancestor might arise. For example, this happened in the case of Nicaraguan Sign Language, where deaf children with no language were placed together and developed a new language. Similarly, if deaf parents were to raise a group of hearing children who have no contact with others until adulthood, they might develop an oral language among themselves and keep using it later,...."
What's wrong with that? I think you may be using some rollback feature that is confusing you about the difference between my edits and what preceded them. Duoduoduo (talk) 00:31, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, you're right. I'm really tired, and just misread who'd done what. Sorry. I'll revert myself. — kwami (talk) 01:47, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

Greek, Albanian etc[edit]

These languages are mentioned in the introductory part of the article, but aren't listed in the European table. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:09, 10 December 2011 (UTC)

They don't belong there. Those languages are given as an example of relative isolation within a larger family, the tables list entirely isolated languages.StasMalyga (talk) 20:18, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
The usage "Indo-European language isolate" is entirely archaic and will not be found in contemporary works on historical linguistics. If this old usage is mentioned at all, it should be disparaged here as archaic and no longer acceptable. In Campbell and Mixco's (2007, University of Utah) dictionary of historical linguistics, for example, this old usage isn't even mentioned as an option for "isolate". --Taivo (talk) 11:23, 27 January 2013 (UTC)
Pereltsvaig (2012) Languages of the World (CUP) does just that: Greek, Armenian, and Albanian are listed as 'isolates' within a diagram of the IE family. He says, "As with the term 'language family', the term 'isolate' is not restricted to any given level of the family classification." — kwami (talk) 05:00, 28 January 2013 (UTC)
Peraltsvaig's usage is not standard and that needs to be indicated within this paragraph. --Taivo (talk) 05:46, 28 January 2013 (UTC)
How is it not standard? The term has been used this way for a century. I come across it reasonably often.
The Routledge dict says "The term ‘isolate’ is also often used for languages which are not closely related to other languages inside a specific genetic group, e.g. Albanian in Indo-European." — kwami (talk) 11:49, 28 January 2013 (UTC)

Korean again[edit]

I'm aware Korean is often considered an isolate, and that the connection with Japanese is not completely accepted. But that Korean is distantly related to Japanese is a common enough view that Korean is not a good example of an isolate. I agree with the editor who restored the Korean example to the lead that it could be listed there as an isolate; I simply don't think it should be. (talk) 22:24, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

Sorry, you are wrong. HammerFilmFan (talk) 19:43, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
I am no linguist but it is only a minority of scholars that reject Korean as something other than language isolate. Also, you will notice in the very same lead there is a caveat which explains that there is disagreement on this issue. Most accept it as Language isolate--Inayity (talk) 22:56, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I think it would make better sense to limit examples of isolates in the lead to those languages that are uncontroversially isolates, eg Basque. The Korean-Japanese connection is much closer to mainstream acceptance than any of the connections that have been proposed for languages such as Basque. (talk) 23:03, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I will await other opinions on that one. But I think the entire field of linguistics is pretty controversial out-of-the-box. Uncontroversial is a strange fellow indeed. This article gives your argument some merit [1]--Inayity (talk) 23:10, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I took a look at it. Campbell does give Korean as an isolate, but he also says that, "The best known and most cited linguistic isolates are Basque, Burushaski, and Ainu". That's effectively the same list given in the lead, less Korean. I think the article could do worse than to follow the list Campbell gives and leave out Korean. (talk) 00:27, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

The term is somewhat relative, and it is misguided to try and give an authoritative "list of language isolates". Language isolate is most typically used of comparatively small communities who are completely isolated, i.e. surrounded by speakers of unrelated languages. As soon as a language has millions, or dozens of millions, of speakers as is the case with Korean, it will unavoidably begin dividing into variants, and as we all know there is no objective difference between "a language" and "a dialect". A "language isolate" can thus at any time evolve into a "family" in its own right. And it is pointless to talk of "language family isolates". Is "Indo-European" a "family isolate"? The question is immediately reduced to "how far are you willing to buy into hyper-comparativism" ("Borean"?). The problem lies, once again, not with the topic (status of Korean) but with Wikipedia's naive obsession with compiling lists of everything. --dab (𒁳) 11:36, 11 July 2013 (UTC)

That is true for Wikipedians love of list. But most linguist, when they speak of isolate languages will give you a list of examples, per the ref--Inayity (talk) 11:50, 11 July 2013 (UTC)
"Korean is related to Japanese" is not a "common enough view". It is a minority view. The majority of linguists consider Korean to be an isolate. --Taivo (talk) 13:22, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
That does nothing to explain why you would feel the need to give Korean as an example of an isolate in the lead, when you could have given a hundred or more other examples instead. (talk) 23:12, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Because for the simple fact that Korean is well-known to most readers and Warao is virtually unknown. --Taivo (talk) 23:34, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Not good enough. Burushaski is also virtually unknown, but you seem to have no problem with its being given as an example of an isolate. (talk) 23:43, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Read the sentence, anon IP. It says, "Commonly cited examples include Basque, Korean, Ainu, and Burushaski, though in each case a minority of linguists claim to have demonstrated a relationship with other languages." That is entirely a true statement. When linguistic works talk about language isolates, those are the most commonly cited languages. Get over it--most linguists consider Korean to be an isolate. --Taivo (talk) 02:44, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
I have to agree with Tavio, because even if the dispute stands, the sentence (as I have said earlier in the thread) has in a caveat which accommodates for the dispute of the isolate status of Korean. There is not much more to it.--Inayity (talk) 05:44, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Taivo may be perfectly correct that most linguists consider Korean an isolate, but what is the judgment that Basque, Korean, Ainu, and Burushaski are the four key examples of isolates based on? Campbell, as already pointed out, writes that "The best known and most cited linguistic isolates are Basque, Burushaski, and Ainu." Note the absence of Korean from that list. (talk) 10:08, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
David Crystal. 1997. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2nd ed, Cambridge). Pg 328, "Two of the best-known isolated languages, Korean and Japanese, are discussed on p. 308."
Lyle Campbell & Mauricio J. Mixco. 2007. A Glossary of Historical Linguistics (Utah). Pg 290, "Korean, a language isolate..." --Taivo (talk) 14:08, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Yes, Korean is a very common example, as was Japanese before Japonic became the common treatment. Give it up. — kwami (talk) 18:07, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

I have no intention of trying to force through a change that other editors oppose. But note that Taivo's second reference doesn't prove his point at all. It simply notes that Korean is considered an isolate, not that it's one of the key examples that could be given of an isolate. (talk) 21:55, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps I should have given more commentary to the second example. The Campbell/Mixco dictionary does not contain entries for all isolates, just the most common ones. So the fact that Korean is listed automatically places it in the realm of commonly-known isolate. --Taivo (talk) 06:44, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Isolation by extinction[edit]

There seems to be a contradiction here; user:Taivo deleted a mention of A-Pucikwar, saying that it doesn't qualify since it had relatives that are now extinct, but left in Pirahã, which is in the same situation. Furthermore, the actual lead says that 'Some languages became isolates after all their demonstrable relatives went extinct', which would seem to support the addition of isolate-families with one surviving member.

Personally, I think we should leave A-Pucikwar in, as well as Pirahã, as languages that are spoken as isolates, but I think we should have some discussion on it. Kielbasa1 (talk) 14:50, 3 March 2015 (UTC)

I didn't notice Piraha, it should also be deleted. "Isolate" has a specific linguistic meaning--no known relatives, not no living relatives. --Taivo (talk) 17:38, 3 March 2015 (UTC)
I was inclined to disagree, but after seeing Ethnologue's list, I think you're right. I'll delete Pirahã and change the header to reflect this. Edit - never mind, you already have. Kielbasa1 (talk) 23:09, 3 March 2015 (UTC)


Taivo, given what you've said about the meaning of "isolate", I'd like to note that Pirahã language will have to be modified; the article currently states that Pirahã is an isolate. FreeKnowledgeCreator (talk) 07:46, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^ Stratification in the peopling of China: how far does the linguistic evidence match genetics and archaeology? In; Sanchez-Mazas, Blench, Ross, Lin & Pejros eds. Human migrations in continental East Asia and Taiwan: genetic, linguistic and archaeological evidence. 2008. Taylor & Francis