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Re: Ancestors and descendants (analogy)



Nick Pharris wrote:

>Ken Kinman asked, a while ago, whether one were more closely related to
one's 
>parents and siblings, or to one's descendants a thousand generations removed.
>
>That is an interesting question, and I feel it is best resolved by turning
it 
>around: are my descendants a thousand generations removed more closely 
>related to me, or to my parents and siblings?  The answer, as I think is 
>fairly obvious, is that they are more closely related to me, and that at
some 
>level, those descendants possess--or their ancestors possessed--certain 
>features that link them to me, to the exclusion of the rest of my family.  
>Thus, if I were creating a classification from my family tree, I would be 
>justified in erecting a group containing myself and all of my descendants,
to 
>the exclusion of my parents and siblings.

I've been thinking about this for some time, and have come up with an
analogy from the field of linguistics, since I dabble in that field.

This is strictly a hypothetical case. We all know of the Romance languages,
those derived from Latin: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Romanian,
and others. Now let us suppose a group of Romanian-speaking people broke
off from the parent population and started speaking a slightly derived
language. Over generations this evolved into the first Slavic language,
from which others arose (Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, etc.) (I use this
example because Romanian is an eastern Romance language, and is
geographically adjacent to Slavic languages. Of course, historically
Romanian did not give rise to the Slavic languages). Now the Slavic
languages are highly derived, with a very different structure. If we were
to follow cladistics, Romanian would be classified as the sister group to
the Slavic languages. But since it retains more features in common with
"other" Romance languages, linguists would retain it in Romance. So, to
which group is it more related?

It becomes a bit more complicated if Romanian were located in the middle of
the Romance clade. Say Spanish and Portugeuse form an outgroup to all other
Romance languages, Romanian forms an outgroup to the the remaining
languages, with Italian and French as the last two most recently derived.

      +--Spanish
   +--|
   |  +--Portuguese
+--|
|  |
|  +-----Romanian-->Slavic languages
|
|     +--Italian
+-----|
      +-French

If cladistics were applied to this current clade, then one of two things
will happen.
1. All these languages, including Slavic's, would be grouped into a Romance
clade.
2. The name Romance would be discarded and Romanian + Slavic's would be
grouped with Italian and French to the exclusion of the Iberian languages.

So, where exactly would Romanian be?

Personally, I use both perspectives. On the one hand, non-avian maniraptors
can be classified with other contemporanous theropods due to the retention
of features that others lack, and which birds have either lost or modified.
OTOH, birds can be classified with other maniraptors because they share
derived characters and form a sub-group within the theropods. I'd classify
Romanian with the Romance languages because of common, unmistakable
language/word/phonetic structure. I'd also classify Romanian as Slavic,
because it gave rise to the others. When to use one or the other is
conditional, and for me it is helpful to compare, contrast, and use both
perspectives.

An addendum. Had maniraptorans not given rise to birds, then they would
have other theropods as their closest relatives. Until that moment in
history that birds arose, maniraptors had no other closest relatives.

Raymond Thaddeus C. Ancog
Mines and Geosciences Bureau
Philippines