Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Inebriation Hypothesis

If you're not a linguistics nerd, you'll have to trust me. This is hilarious.

One of the standard activities amongst Indo-Europeanists is the attempted adducement of the causative factors underlying the expansion of Indo-European languages, at the putative expense of surrounding tongues, most of which are no longer attested but which were doubtless related to both Basque and Etruscan and possibly Japanese. The explanation long considered standard was that the Indo-Europeans, or IEs as they are usually familiarly termed, were of a warlike mien and simply exploded out of their homeland via what in military circles is termed “a forceful display of occupational intent” or “spirited attainment of autochthon-nonvoluntary advisorial status”. Most scholars accepted this explanation, and for a long period debate was limited to the locus of the original expansion, with most European scholars except for the Poles claiming the Urheim for their own portion of Europe (the Poles had long recognized that Autochthhon-Involuntary Advisorial types came from any other region than Poland and were afraid that if they claimed the Urheim, the Germans would invade them to get it back). In recent years, Marija Gimbutas’ claim that the original IEs were in fact the Khurgan culture of the steppes has gained wide acclaim, since it positions the Urheim in an area that no-one wants to claim anyway and thus reduces friction at important Indo-Europeanist social events. In addition, the Khurgani were apparently a rather vigorous bunch, whose major artifacts were (a) hand axes and (b) rapidly built tombs, both of which are consistent with the traditional view of the IEs.

There are several problems with this scenario, however, foremost of which is the fact that the warlike expansion hypothesis was originally formulated by 19th century Germans, who also proposed that the spread of glaciers during the ice-age was the result of the military superiority of northern ice floes as compared to decadent Mediterranean lakes, and who invented the term “spirited attainment of autochthon-nonvoluntary advisorial status”, which in German constitutes a single word of such breathtaking length and consonantal density that many opponents of said attainment strangled in the act of attempting to oppose it. In addition, Indo-Europeans had a plethora of words for (a) trees, and (b) pigs, neither of which are found in notable profusion in the steppes and which certainly were not particularly valued by the Khurgani, who liked to gallop uninhibitedly about spiritedly advising those in their path and, according to Gimbutas, beating up feminists.

William C. Spruiell, A Reinterpretation of Some Aspects of the Indo-European Expansion

No comments: