Subject: Polynesia - S. America language links
   From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
   Date: 4 Nov 1997 21:56:10 GMT
   Message-ID: <63o5lq$2mk$>
   Newsgroups: sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,sci.archaeology,


Mary Ritchie Key, a noted linguist, and specialist in S. American Native
languages (her bibliography at the U of T Libraries contains 28 items),
has a very interesting publication in print.

   AUTHOR: Key, Mary Ritchie.

    TITLE: Polynesian and American linguistic connections / Mary
               Ritchie Key ; with the collaboration of Karel
               Richards. --
PUBLISHED: Lake Bluff, Ill., U.S.A. : Jupiter Press, 1984.
   PAGING: xi, 80 p. : ill., port. ; 23 cm. --
   SERIES: Edward Sapir monograph series in language, culture,
               and cognition. 0163-3848 ; 12

    NOTES: "Distributed to all subscribers to Forum linguisticum,
               volume VIII, number 3 (April 1984) as a
               supplement"--Ser. t.p.
           Bibliography: p. 77-80.

In the Introduction, she says,

     The languages of Polynesia contain elements also found in North
     and South American Indian languages that suggest distant
     historical connections. In this preliminary study it is not yet
     possible to determine whether the resemblances are due to borrowings,
     or whether the common structural characteristics go back to the
     same genetic origins. (p. 1)

     I'm suggesting these connections on the basis of
     comparative/historical linguistic methodology, which has been
     developing with a good deal of sophistication in the last century.
     (p. 1)

This little book contains a great amount of data and research. Most of it
is very technical, dealing e.g. with methodology, word formation, and
such rather obscure subjects as metathesis and realignment,
phonological space areas, onomatopoeia, residue, etc.

Key looks at various possible linguistic, pronunciation, and grammatical
shifts over centuries in various languages in question. Not being all that
knowledgeable about these matters, I will not try to deal with this
technical stuff here.

Also, and more importantly for a non-specialist, Key provides a very
large list of possible cognates.

     This selected list contains about 350 entries of words that show
     resemblances between languages of Polynesia, the Uto-Aztecan
     languages, and S. American Quechua, Aymara, Tacanan,
     Panoan, Mosetene, Mapuche, and languages of the Tierra Del
     Fuego. The possibilities of finding more resemblances have not
     been exhausted... (p. 39)

It is obvious that this is a very substantial indication of parallels. She
gives plenty of good examples of vocabulary similarities, some of them
rather striking, others probably quite distant. Naturally, she raises many
more questions than she provides answers for at this point...

In our previous discussions in sci.arch re: Easter Island language and
history, we have gone over the connections, including the linguistic
ones, between EI and S. America. The connections between earliest EI
culture and S. America that Thor Heyerdahl has been trying to point out
for such a long time seem pretty obvious. But this research by Key goes
much further than this. In this case, the connections are not only with
the EI, but with Polynesia as a whole.

As Key is saying in her book, this is but tentative research that only
tries to lay a groundwork for much more work that needs to be done. I
have no indication that any further work has been done or published on
this since 1984 when her book came out. It is obvious that the prevailing
climate in this field of historical study, when so much evidence about the
ancient navigational achievements of Native S. Americans is being
silenced, dismissed, and disregarded by the mainstream scholarship, is
not making it easy for this important research to proceed.

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [24]

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than
to put out on the troubled seas of thought -=O=- John K. Galbraith

Click here to go one level up in the directory.