How accurate are the reconstructions of the proto-languages?

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FlatAssembler

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How accurate are the reconstructions of the proto-languages?
« on: March 20, 2017, 09:46:56 AM »
I will start with a simple example of what I am talking about. Antun Mayer, a prominent Croatian linguist, made a paper in 1935 trying to explain the toponyms of Slavonia. If you happen to know a bit of Serbo-Croatian, you can download it here:
http://hrcak.srce.hr/50001
So, he was trying to explain the name of a stream named Bosut. He noticed that the same Indo-European root that gave the German word Bach (stream) would in Slavic languages give *bos. And, to him, that was an acceptable explanation of the name Bosut!
Why am I so certain that's not an explanation? Well, first of all, the Proto-Indo-European word would be reconstructed, given our current understanding of the Proto-Indo-European phonology, as *bʰeh₂ḱ, which is unpronounceable. Secondly, the Proto-Slavic word for stream was *potok, and, I have checked it, in no Slavic language the word for stream has the root *bos.
So, what he did was that he basically made up an Proto-Indo-European word to explain just two words in different Indo-European languages.
I am not attacking Antun Mayer personally, I think that's the problem with modern etymology in general. I can think of quite a few examples of proto-words being made just to explain one or two words.
So, my questions for you are: how often does this happen, what's the probability that they get it right, and how much does that alter our perspective of the culture of the ancient people?
Fan of Stephen Wolfram.
This is my parody of the conspiracy theorists:
https://www.theflatearthsociety.org/forum/index.php?topic=71184.0

Re: How accurate are the reconstructions of the proto-languages?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2017, 10:02:50 AM »
I will start with a simple example of what I am talking about. Antun Mayer, a prominent Croatian linguist, made a paper in 1935 trying to explain the toponyms of Slavonia. If you happen to know a bit of Serbo-Croatian, you can download it here:
http://hrcak.srce.hr/50001
So, he was trying to explain the name of a stream named Bosut. He noticed that the same Indo-European root that gave the German word Bach (stream) would in Slavic languages give *bos. And, to him, that was an acceptable explanation of the name Bosut!
Why am I so certain that's not an explanation? Well, first of all, the Proto-Indo-European word would be reconstructed, given our current understanding of the Proto-Indo-European phonology, as *bʰeh₂ḱ, which is unpronounceable. Secondly, the Proto-Slavic word for stream was *potok, and, I have checked it, in no Slavic language the word for stream has the root *bos.
So, what he did was that he basically made up an Proto-Indo-European word to explain just two words in different Indo-European languages.
I am not attacking Antun Mayer personally, I think that's the problem with modern etymology in general. I can think of quite a few examples of proto-words being made just to explain one or two words.
So, my questions for you are: how often does this happen, what's the probability that they get it right, and how much does that alter our perspective of the culture of the ancient people?

I believe we rarely get anything right.

I believe this state of affairs to be purposeful.

I believe there is nothing new under the Sun.
The NIST report(s) never went through what we would call peer review (Much like an FAA crash report doesn't either). But reports based upon NIST findings have.