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linguistic analogy

On Fri, 9 Feb 1996, Rob Meyerson wrote:

> >Christianity sprang from Judaism. Is it, therefore, simply a Jewish sect? Or
> >is it a genuinely new religion? English derives from an olde Teutonic tongue.
> >Is English therefore merely a dialect of German? Or is it a genuinely new
> >language?  As "Linda Richman" might say, "Argue among yourselves..."
> Cool analogy!  I would say that the dividing point is on how different is one
> group from another.  Then the real question is, "Are birds significantly
> different than dinosaurs?"  If the answer is, "very different" then they 
> belong
> in separate groups.  If the answer is, "not all that different" then they 
> belong
> together.  As I see it, both opinions have information that appears to be 
> fairly
> well supported.

As I have mentioned before, if an organism or group is significantly 
different from its ancestors and closest relatives, it *should* receive 
its own taxon to demonstrate.  That doesn't mean, however, that it stops 
belonging to all the groups its ancestors belonged to.

The language comparison is apt and is handled in the same way.  There are 
no parataxa in linguistic taxonomy.  A language is grouped with its 
nearest relatives no matter what the differences may be.  No, English is 
not a dialect of German, because the language we know as German did not 
exist when the ancestors of the two languages split.  English and German 
are, however, both classified in the West Germanic branch of the Germanic 
branch of the Indo-European family (which, some would say, is just a 
branch of the Eurasiatic language family, which is just part of larger 
groups).  English is phonologically quite aberrant and has picked up a 
lot of non-Germanic words, but fundamentally it is a West Germanic 
language and ever more shall be so.

This is a lot easier to see with respect to dinosaurs and birds if one 
stops conceiving of dinosaurs as a group as opposed to the birds and 
begins seeing the dinosaurs as a collection of species, some of which are 
sauropods, some of which are ceratopians...and some of which are birds.  
Birds merely represent a small part of the evolutionary diversity of the 

> Rob

BTW, do you seriously believe that whales are not as different from other 
ungulates as birds are from other maniraptorans?

Nick Pharris
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447

"If you can't convince them, confuse them." -- Harry S Truman