Talk:Tree model

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This article needs to list the works cited.

I don't know what this possibly could mean or why it is up here, or why unsigned. It looks like vandalism to me.Dave (talk) 11:20, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

Note 11[edit]

Note 11 says "Young 1913". This might be a mistake for "1813". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:22, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

Thanks.Dave (talk) 23:08, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

Evolution and historical linguistics[edit]

Mark Liberman points to an interesting quote from Origin of Species that demonstrates that the idea of descent with modification was borrowed by Darwin from historical linguistics, rather than the other way round. So it does not seem to be true that the tree model was adapted from the phylogenetic tree directly, even though it is true that ultimately, the model of the linguistic tree is borrowed from an essentially biological model, the family tree. See also Evolution#History of evolutionary thought. (As an aside, languages are not the only aspects of human culture to develop in a broadly analogous way to species, just think of musical genres, sports or games, but they are by far the most prominent aspect to do so.) Florian Blaschke (talk) 18:44, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

In all this time no one else has picked this up. No great interest I guess. All right, I will consider this. Meanwhile there has been more theoretical work on trees so I need to create an additional section. Thanks for your input.Dave (talk) 14:02, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
Hmn. I read the blog you recommended with great interest. Unfortunately most of the links were dead or the material had been removed. Then I reread this article as it stands now. I do not see anywhere that I made any claims that the evolution of languages was taken from Darwin's evolution. I did portray the much later phylogeny as coming from Darwin's theory of evolution, as it appears to have done. If I saw any place in the article that seems to contradict the passage you cited from Darwin I would have changed it and would change it after a quick check of the work you cite. But I don't actually say that anywhere. As to whether I should, well, as your sources point out, it is a big topic. The topic in that case would the history of ideas on the evolution of languages. Jefferson sounds like an interesting source. This thesis could be presented in a very interesting article with the thesis that Darwin borrowed his notion of evolution from the linguists. I wonder if that passage might not be out of context. I don't remember from Origin of Species any language metaphors; it seemed all domestic variation to me. Maybe I should do a study, but not for this article. All I could do is capture a few salient points. You expect too much from us. I'm not up to it right now. Can you do it? I highly recommend a new article.Dave (talk) 10:28, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
All right, I did address this, but I think we have to be careful not to read too much into it. Evolutionary ideas were endemic to the times. They crop up in many contexts. This passage does not prove Darwin took the idea from the linguists. They seem to have been thinking in parallel, like Darwin and Wallace. Thanks for putting us onto it.Dave (talk) 16:36, 28 January 2012 (UTC)

Review of modifications[edit]

I've been going over editorial modifications of my original article since I left it. Most are minor. I see no substantial improvement at all. In assessing this article I looked primarily at the way it is now. I wanted to see if it made sense. If it did and your changes were at least equal to what I said, I left it. In some cases however I must effect some reversions.

Creation of languages[edit]

"However, the belief that Genesis contradicts the evolution of language is a self-contradiction, because the languages that became evident about Babel would have naturally evolved thereafter. In fact the only implication of the story of Babel in regards to historical linguistics is that there is a possibility of more than one "master language".

I removed that and restored what I had. This is not comprehensible as stands. Self-contradiction? What self-contradicion? All this is your interpretation. You've added a specious rationalization in what you think is a defense of Genesis. Excuse me, Genesis is not modern and does not need a modern defense. God does not need you to "defend" him by altering the Holy Scripture. It says what it says and you must make your own adjustments to that. Genesis makes no provision for any evolution of language or any other kind of evolution. You must take that fact as you have decided to take it. We aren't making the Bible modish according to the latest scientific fashion. There is no evolution in the Bible and certainly not in Genesis, like it or lump it, just as you please, Take it metaphorically or take it literally, or what you conceive to be literally or metaphorically, just as you please. What you have is not an improvement but a lame excuse. The creator of heaven and earth does not need YOUR lame excuses for him. It is fact that the Christian religion fought evolution tooth and nail up until the 20th century, and some elements are still fighting it. If you are one of those, take your fight elsewhere. The solutions to the paradoxes of the Bible right or wrong are not the business of THIS article. I personally would add, why do you expect Christians and Christianity to be perfect? Are you perfect? Enough said.Dave (talk) 10:14, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

First paragraph[edit]

Someone blanked out the first paragraph. This is an undiscussed change by an unknown user. It removed the definition of the language tree. You have to have defintions for clarity. Someone thinks this word means what it does. Who is that and why, and why do they think it? Maybe you don't like the definition. Too bad. There's a lot of cultural material I don't like either. You can't, like the mathematicians, dismiss all definitions but the mathematical. That is presumptuous on your part, whoever you are. This is the metaphor the founders of the science used. If you don't like it, too bad.Dave (talk) 10:42, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

Carlos Quiles[edit]

I listed Quiles as a source of some information. An apparently reliable editor blanked it out with the cryptic notation "Non RS." After searching the help file I finally discovered this probably means "non-reliable source." Is there any particular reason why you consider Quiles a non-reliable source? Does WP have a list of unreliable sources and is he on it? Because, frankly, I cannot at the moment see why you would leave the information and cut out the reference! So, until such time as you come up with definitive reasons for considering Quiles "non-RS", I am restoring him. After all, the sources are assailable only with good reason, which you have not demonstrated. I can't imagine you did this because you don't think much of Quiles. Of all the sources allowed on WP he is far from the worst. Please state your reasons.Dave (talk) 11:16, 23 January 2012 (UTC)


Maybe you've noticed the "Neogrammarians" section is very short. It is basically unpresented yet. If anyone cares to say a few words please do. Not too long I hope. Really, something should be said, to put things in better perspective. They are the ones who incorporated the tree model into their liguistic work.Dave (talk) 11:36, 23 January 2012 (UTC)


The section about "The Confusion of Babel" does not agree with standard historical accounts (e.g., Robins 1967) and seems illogical. The Babel story does not make historical linguistics "impossible." Regardless of what people believed about Babel, they also believed that languages diverged after that, and some relations between languages were obvious. There certainly was historical linguistics before the Enlightenment -- see for example Dante's De Vulgari Eloquentia, c. 1300, which attempts to classify European languages.

The reason there was no comparative reconstruction or Stammbaumtheorie before the 1800s is that nobody in Europe was aware of any *unexplained* language relationships (i.e., not obviously consistent with geography). Then Sir William Jones and others noted in the 1780s that Sanskrit had unexpected similarities with Latin and Greek. That is generally considered to have been the stimulus for comparative reconstruction.

(I am citing from memory; obviously one would need to look up Dante, Robins, and others.) (talk) 23:12, 14 February 2015 (UTC) Michael Covington, emeritus faculty member, Linguistics Program, The University of Georgia

Hello Prof. Covington, I did a lot of work on the article and some of the things you complain about were in fact written by me. I must say you've taken a long time to reply, but better late than never. Right now I am busy on something else. Obviously if a person such as yourself says something ought to be verified then it ought to be verified. I just don't know when I shall have time or be in the mood to do it. There are a lot of changes I would currently make.
There is something of a problem, as I see it, with your answer. The tower of Babel story does too make historical linguistics impossible. If taken as other than a myth, which "Bible Belt" scholars often tend to do, then we can only construct one proto-language, the one given to Adam by God, which was spoken by the population of Mesopotamia at the time of the tower. And when was that time? All the accounts I have seen have it coming after the historical linguistics date of most of the major groups. Are you saying the Tower of Babel is to be pushed back beyond several thousand years BC? And what do you do with physical anthropology? The bones reveal modifications for a language capability of a few hundred thousand years. And another thing, in the Tower myth (that is what it is, myth) all men spoke the same language. To trace all languages back to one language within historical times is not in the category of comparative method, it is comparative mythology. With all due respect to what you are and what you have been it seems to me you are seriously biased by the Christian ideology of the region in which you live and have taught, "the Bible Belt."
Actually I should say I do believe in God and I do believe in the reality of Jesus Christ. I could hardly be a Christian if I did not. Moreover, for much of my active time of belief I was a charismatic. I am sorry but I cannot reconcile scientific geology, anthroplogy and linguistics with the Bible Belt view. These conflicting stories are allegorical, not meant to be taken as a handbook of science. I dare say, the zealousness of ideology did hold back science for many centuries and still does. Somehow we have to keep science and ideology separate until we can straighten it all out or have it revealed to us. I would say, I'm more of a rationalist, and I could be wrong, but I do not consider you as such.
But, you must not mistake my tone. I have been good friends with persons holding your view for many years (I'm an old man now, you know). I feel quite friendly toward you and quite comfortable with you views. I do not see how they can be encyclopedic in a historical linguistics article. I do not see any hope for a reconciliation. This article is going to be like the ones on the origin of man. The article on the classification of man had to be locked for months. Hundreds if not thousands of people tried to change it. This article, however, is not that good. What I can do for you when I get around to it is check all the things you say to check. Then I can rewrite it trying to be as NPOV as I can. Your view, frankly, I do not consider NPOV. You want me to change mine to fit yours. I respect you and everything, but sorry, no way. I can however phrase it in a much more NPOV way. I know what is going to happen - the admin is going to have to step in and settle the issue. I suppose that will take some time as I really don't feel like it right now. You can however work on it yourself! Anyone can work on it. Frankly these issues wear me out. I will pick my time and ground. Meanwhile, best of luck to you. We aren't Lee and Grant, but it seems to me you are trying to force a Bible Belt view on a scientific topic. Ciao.Botteville (talk)

Computational phylogenetics in historical linguistics[edit]

So, you feel the article should be rewritten. I do too. I always did, but there was no one else willing to work on it! It is a big topic. One section got tagged as having only one source. That is because there is just about only one source, or was at the time I wrote it. Actually, there is a sort of a gap there and I am surprised no one noticed it. The tree model is classical historical linguistics. The section is question is the very latest material, which reaffirms the tree model and expands the concept. This is an awful lot for one article. I think that section should be pulled out and put in its own article. I am not however going to do all this work all by myself and listen to you carp too. You do some work! By the way I see that a certain organization for a while designated some professional linguists to improve WP linguistics articles. That borders on not being WP policy. Professionals can't publish here, that is not what it is for. This is a public educational effort not a collection of articles written by specialists. There are a couple of bad results. For one thing, all of a sudden we can no longer understand what is being written. This is a different type of writing. It is like tech writing, where you have to mediate between an unsophisticated audience and a technical subject. Since we are on the carp, it does not look to me like you are doing it. Second, all these carping professionals seem to be driving away anyone who might want to work on it. You don't understand, you can't just revert anything you didn't write, just because you didn't write it! Help us out here, don't browbeat us to death.Botteville (talk) 16:45, 15 March 2015 (UTC)

New plan[edit]

This article has been thinking itself over in my head since yesterday. Indeed, it might have called me back onto WP. Maybe there is a such thing as the spirit of the article. Or maybe not. Anyway first I would like to thank all of you for your excellent insights and critique of the article. I don't care what I may have said previously. Second, here is what the spirit of the article tells me.

Item1. The article tries to cover way too much ground. It should be a simple and probably rather short article about an important theory of historical linguistics currently in use. Barring deleting the whole thing, the corrective strategy for that is to split it between existing articles and new articles created for the purpose. Also, the relevance to other linguistics articles need to be defined. This should be part of a series.

Item 2. The author (me) does try to take responsibility for some of the ideas himself based on what he considered general knowledge. He shouldn't do that. Professor, I may not agree with you, but any view you espouse that is known and notable is entitled to a presentation on its own terms by its own authors on WP. I will look into those authors unless someone else does it first and make sure they get a fair presentation in their words. We shouldn't have to be fighting all the old religious wars again. We got enough wars.

Item 3. The material on the network is a little more difficult. There is only one basic author because he had just invented it. Maybe by this time more has been said. This is a job for super-researcher.

Right now I'm doing some anthropology and then I was on Greek literature. So, I'm not going over to this extensively. But, it can be done little bits at a time. You may see pieces disappearing from here or there. Also, I do not like those tedious pictures. At the time they seemed the best I could get. I'm sure there must be better by now. So, if you are going to leave it all up to me, which I hope you do not, you will have to be patient. Remember, anyone can jump in at any time and help out; moreover, there is no requirement that you must agree with me. I probably will start with the sister article on the wave model. Thank you and for the moment good morning Wikipedia!Botteville (talk) 11:34, 16 March 2015 (UTC)


Just wondering why the excessive use or use at all of the "schoolbook" double lines throughout this article. Is it a sandbox artefact, or is it just my browser? Haven't seen this in other WP articles & makes scan-reading heavy going. Manytexts (talk) 11:13, 25 April 2016 (UTC)