Main Errors of the Stammbaumtheorie


1.  Genetic kinship is determined according to lexical cognates, which are mostly loans from neighbouring languages. The intersections between two overlapping languages are mistaken for real genetic links.

2.  Divergence, bifurcation and binary splitting are considered to be the only decisive models of linguistic development. Ethnic genealogies stand in no relation to the prehistoric migrations of archaeological cultures.

3.  Any two neighbouring languages are likely to be claimed to have a common ancestor proto-language (Ursprache). Their reconstructions are amalgams of several incompatible phonologies and morphologies.

4.  Assimilated medieval nations are identified mechanically with prehistoric tribes and assimilated medieval national languages are considered erroneously as pure prehistoric tongues.

5.  Secondary unity in mixed amalgams of recent date is considered as the original unity and the starting-point of linguistic evolution.

6.  The medieval or recent historical state of affairs is equalled with the   prehistoric state. The superficial chaos of recent phenomena is passed off as the essential order at the original stage.  

7.  The lawful and systematic character of cultural phenomena is denied, the occurrence of inconsistent and incoherent traits in modern mixed cultures fosters the belief in an unsystematic and accidental distribution of different traits in ancient communities.

8.  Consistent typological traits in ancient languages are neglected incoherent clusters in modern languages are viewed as integrated wholes. Modern cultural phenomena are given a synchronic description as integrated coherent wholes without realising that they contain incoherent relics of many different and heterogeneous cultures of older date.                             

9.  The real chronological sequence of historical events is reversed: amalgamated and mixed products of secondary assimilation are passed off as Urpsrachen and phenomena of original primary unity.   

10.  All cultural and linguistic phenomena are given short terms for development, all languages and tribes arose after the Völkerwanderung, the Indo-Europeans are believed to have differentiated into the Nordic, Laponoid, Dinaric and Mediterranean race within five hundred years.   

11.  The origins of ancient tribes are dated to the beginnings of our era when the tribal society was decaying and merged into assimilated nations.                               

12.  All prehistoric cultures are believed to be extinct and dead. Their place was taken by living tribes seen as new outgrowths of medieval date. 

13.  Accounts of prehistory neglect principles of genetic and cultural stability, archaeological cultures are believed to change rapidly as fashions and vogues without any relation to the ethnic identity of their bearers.

14.  Although there is evidence of huge cultural and linguistic diversity among all living aborigines (in New Guinea almost every village speaks a different language), the whole Bronze Age Europe is believed to have spoken one common Indo-European proto-language.

15.  Changes of archaeological cultures in a territory are not attributed to new migrations but only to transient fashions haunting the same population. 

16.  All considerations on historical grammar are confined to literary languages without considering the pronunciation of spoken speech and the geographic distribution of living oral dialects.

17.  Dialects are believed to have sprung up by isolation from the medieval national languages, though they arose as islets of earlier tribal languages.                       

18.  Regional ethnography and geographic dialectography are neglected as unimportant for historical grammar and comparative linguistics.                              

19.  Cultures are not studied in the natural integrity of their manifestations but as isolated series of data reflecting the diversity of studies at modern universities. Anthropology, archaeology, ethnography and comparative linguistics develop mutually incompatible accounts of prehistory. Their independent evolutionary categories are not related to one ancient people.

20.  Tribal migrations are completely left out of consideration although almost all historically evidenced ethnic explosions involved vast long-range travels and dispersions all over whole continents.                      

21.  The competition and balancing between different tribal castes and their dialects within one country that resulted in changes of the administrative literary linguistic standard are mistaken for ‘historical sound shifts’ inside one ‘national language’.     


(An extract from Pavel Bělíček: Prehistoric Dialects I, 2004, ISBN 80-86580-05-9, pp. 14-15)