Bad Linguistics #5

It's difficult to gauge the appropriate response to historical linguistics papers of poor quality. On the one hand, they are engaging substandard work and passing it off as scholarly. I've talked about how problematic this can be, and how it worsens public ignorance of historical linguistics,  in several posts here on the site. On the other hand, I don't want to shut the author down so much that they quit the field altogether. I just want them to stop publishing bad work. It's that simple.

When I saw the title of a new paper in the Journal of Social Science, "The Indo-Europeanization of the world from a Central Asian homeland: New approaches, paradigms and insights from our research publications on Ancient India" by Sujay Mandavilli, I confess I got a little excited. Basically there are two possible homelands considered by academics for the ancient Proto-Indo-European language: the south Russian steppes (the majority view) and Anatolia (the minority view). Anyone who advocates a different location is going to have their work cut out for them and I love authors who are willing to stake their reputations and do the heavy lifting. Remember when Casule argued Burushaski and Proto-Indo-European are related? Or when Forni argued Basque and Proto-Indo-European are related? (I'm still waiting for Blevins/Egurtzegi's publication on Basque and PIE, by the way). I read every paper from them and from their critics with a highlighter springing gaily from line to line. It's fun.

But this paper on a Central Asian homeland... this was just bad. Here are some busters from the beginning:

Jacob Grimm also demonstrated the regularity of sound shifts of Indo-European languages as they distanced from each other. The latter came to be known as Grimm’s Law of transformational grammar. 

No, Friedrich von Schlegel and Rasmus Rask demonstrated the regularity of Grimm's Law. The rule is named after Jakob Grimm for historical reasons, but it was Rask's accomplishment. I'm not sure who calls the sound change "Grimm's Law of transformational grammar," since a google search shows the phrase is exclusive to Mandavilli and no one else.

Romance languages such as Spanish, French, Italian (These are believed to have been
influenced heavily by Latin) are yet another sub-group of Indo-European.


Germanic languages such as English, Dutch, German (from Gothic which is an extinct East
Germanic language and Old English, which is a West Germanic language. The nature of
relationship between these and modern languages is to be probed further).

Wait, what? German derives from Gothic and Old English even though the author acknowledges that Gothic is East Germanic while English is West Germanic? "The nature of relationship"? "These and modern languages"? Except for Gothic, all of those are modern languages. What is going on in that paragraph?

Anatolian, including Hittite, Palaic, Luwian, Lydian, Lycian, Milyan, Carian and other languages of ancient Asia Minor (this is a mostly extinct group).

Melchert will be excited to hear only most of this family is extinct.

Alright, that's too much bad linguistics for me. I can't keep reading. By the way, those examples only come from pages three and four. Imagine the trove of factual clunkers in that publication. If you wanna go hunting for some doozies, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.