Language Question -- sort of OT

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Language Question -- sort of OT

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1Airycat
jan 31, 2007, 8:11 pm

This may be a childish question, but it's something I've wondered for many years.

I've been reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. He talks about how most of the South Pacific was populated by those who were originally from China. One of the ways they can tell this is that when they study the languages, they find they are related. (There are also genetic markers.) Anyway, this got me thinking.

The Americas were populated by Asians coming across the Bering Strait. Are there any language connections between Native Americans and Asians? If there are, which languages?

One reason I ask is that one of the Chinese words I learned at about 10 or 11, phrase actually, was "ni hao?" ("nee how" was how I spelled it) That made me think of what we all "knew" was the Indian (Native American) greeting -- "How." Are they actually connected or is this just an interesting coincidence?

2MMcM
jan 31, 2007, 10:05 pm

The aboriginal inhabitants of Taiwan were related to the Polynesians. I dunno about the mainland.

I think it's too long ago to reliably trace language connections back across the Bering Strait. It's hard enough and controversial enough to work them out just in the Americas.

ni hau means 'you good' in Chinese.
hau (haŋ if speaker is female) means 'yes' as well as 'hello' in Lakota.
So it just looks like a coincidence.

3liao
jan 31, 2007, 11:37 pm

I can't judge the validity of the idea that the South Pacific was populated mainly by people from China; however, according to historical linguists, some of the early language groups found in the area later to be called China were Austranesian (which would make them related in one way or another to other South Pacific languages including the native aboriginal languages of Taiwan).

When dealing with such remote times, one needs to recall that places and cultures we now call China/Chinese didn't exist. There were many language groups present in the area now called China and whether any of them spoke a language that can be related to "Mandarin" as we know it today is a question for the paleolinguists.

Concerning a relationship with Native American languages--I am doubtful. However, there was an article in the Journal of Chinese Linguistics back in 1999 that argued for a relationship between Chinese and the Na-Dene languages of North America. The reference is: 1999. Wider genetic affiliations of the Chinese language. Journal of Chinese Linguistics 27.1: 1-12. At the time, I thought it was interesting but not convincing.

Also, you may wish to consult this page from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dene-Caucasian_languages

4yangguy
dec 24, 2007, 11:36 am

Something I hope to do some day is follow up on Gavin Menzie's claim that there are numerous places in the Americas with Chinese DNA in the gene pools. I know this may not seem related, but I do think there is a connection. There is a book, "The Red Man and the Viking". I read it years ago, but copies on Amazon are too expensive presently. The author was fascinated by Indian place names in the northeastern states that sounded Scandinavian. While I was convinced at the time that the Vikings had intermarried with the Native Americans, I am not so sure that intermarriage would always result in a significant change in the language. It seems to me, that would be dependent on a number of different factors.