January 7th, 2009


Language diversity in aboriginal Europe

* “Other things being equal, density of lineages is substantially greater at low latitudes than at high latitudes.” (Nichols 1990:484)
* “Other things being equal, the coastal area of a continent will generally have substantially greater lineage density than the interior. Not every coastal area is high in lineage density, but the extensive areas of high density are all on or near coastlines. … [Because of its richer resources, the] seacoast offers the possibility of economic self-sufficiency for a small group occupying a small territory.” (ibid. pp. 484-5)
* “The discrepancy in the lineage density of coastline and interior is most pronounced where the interior is relatively dry … . (ibid. p. 485)
* “The cause of high lineage density in mountain areas is generally attributed to the fact that mountainous geography naturally isolates populations, resists large-scale economic integration, and creates refuge zones.” (ibid. p. 485)
* “Density of lineages is low in areas dominated by large-scale economies,
higher in areas with smaller-scale economies. … Reduction of lineage
density in response to increased scale of economy is not immediate, as
shown by the ancient Near East.” (ibid. p. 486)

As far as I can tell, "lineage density" means the amount of language variation.

Anyone want to nominate fantasy writers for getting this sort of thing especially right or wrong? I'm not enough of an expert on Tolkien to do a detailed evaluation and I realize he was working from the knowledge available in his time, but how close did he get?

Link thanks to thnidu.
black swan

Very hypothetical route to peace for Israel and Palestine

I got the impression [1] from Karen Armstrong's The Great Transformation that major religions occasionally get started when people are faced with huge social problems that they don't know how to solve, perhaps especially if systems that used to work have stopped working.

Nothing we have now is enough to solve the war between Israel and Palestine (or the Palestinians, if you prefer). Nothing even looks promising. The three major western religions can't do it. Nor any smaller or less involved religion. Atheism, agnosticism, nationalism, and humanism aren't doing the job either.

Major new religions are very rare, but the middle east is where they happen for the western world. I don't know if it's ley lines or just that being in a place that keeping getting conquered supplies enough of the right kind of problems.

The great advantage of a new religion (preferably a benevolent one) is that it supplies a reset button that can eliminate old grudges and fears. If the religion is emotionally and ethically powerful, then you can and will trust your fellow converts.

I expect that if such a religion happens, there will be martyrs. I also expect that it will have narrative content, and probably miracles-- quickly debunked, but with the debunking ignored.

Could a new religion just make things worse? Yes, but I also think a new religion is as likely a way out as anything else available.

[1] I didn't finish reading the book, and it's back at the library.