Altaic Language Theory is BS

Just as the title says, Altaic language theory is manure suitable to drench the fields in composty goodness. Let the flies descend and let the fungi devour this wretch of a premise so that new fertile humus can be a fresh start for this very misleading notion.

Roughly stated, the theory claims that Turkish, Japanese, and Korean are connected language families, despite terrestrial distancing, as their “very unique” structures would suggest. Their connection is claimed to be an ancestral tongue that was common to them all in a shared geography, long ago.

The Altaic school of thought argues that the Mongolian, Tungusic and Turkic groups, together with Korean and Japanese, have descended from a common ancestral Proto-Altaic language. Proponents of this theory point to typological similarities among these languages.

Sure, if you find a diamond fragment in America and in Russia and in China and in Australia, and there are no other known rocks on the planet that look like a diamond, you might conclude they must at one point have been part of the same, bigger, rock.

However, Japanese, Korean, and Turkish are not unique in their grammatical similarity. A slew of other languages exhibit some dominating characteristics that Japanese, Turkish, Basque, Tamil, Hindi, Tibetan, and Korean have: namely, the Bunsetsu Jar.

Bunsetsu Jars require a noun or noun-phrase in the green region, and a grammatical function word in the orange region, to complete a thought. The main locomotive verb of the sentence arrives at the very end, although verbs can be used as adjectives to describe nouns earlier in the sentence.

To take a concrete look at a Japanese sentence, consider the following three jars that describe the “who, what, and when” of the sentence:

Subject [GA] Direct-object [OH] Precise-time [NEE] + action. The particle glues on to the preceding noun or noun-phrase in order to explain the W-words of the sentence.

We have identified 7 languages that have what we call “Bunsetsu Jars,” named after the Japanese term for grammar unit or grammar phrase. In a Bunsetsu Jar a Noun is followed by a grammatical particle or function word that explains the role [Who, what, when, where, how] of the preceding noun or noun-phrase. While we have but seven in our list, there are likely many more that fit in with this style of concept-slicing and arrangement.

  1. Japanese
  2. Korean
  3. Tamil
  4. Basque (of the Iberian Peninsula)
  5. Tibetan
  6. Turkish
  7. Hindi
In Japanese, each bunsetsu jar is a standalone piece of information, describing When, What, or Who, unified by a sentence-final verb, or action-word.

You can learn more about how bunsetsu jars function with our “reverse engineer some Japanese” page.

A Faulty Premise

Altaic language theory is based on the faulty premise that human language is not innate, but that it is only learned communally and spread through geographically contiguous regions or tribal assimilation, yielding, over time, this overlooked and dispersed “pocket” of languages that all share a same ancestral tongue.

The Chomsky Hypothesis

However, Chomsky’s Innateness Hypothesis contends just the opposite, that part of language is innate and inexplicably included in a human being from birth. This means that humans can land on the same terms of expression no matter where their geographical separations might occur, because language is not determined through a rote process of acquisition, but already exists within us at birth. Certain geographical differences and cultural customs can influence the unfolding and development of our language abilities and language utilisation, of course, but the suggestion that similar language groups must have once physically shared the same space in antiquity simply goes to show how strong a physicalist-reductionist slant is in some peoples’ thinking.

Language capacity is invented as much as blood and phlegm are invented, that is to say not at all. That’s another reason we’re strong proponents of simply retraining your language reflexes to excel at any language of your choosing, the potential ability is already within you! Of all the possible patterns one can use to concept-slice and reason about the world, only a few dominate, and these few are indeed the main language families of the planet. It is not a coincidence, it is not a long-lost tribal heirloom of ancient geographical contiguity, it is simply a matter of nature, a matter of creativity, and a matter of expression.

Acrylic bio-model of the sinuses. We are all equipped with the hardware to hum and resonate the air, why wouldn’t we have language and song built-in as stock parts?

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