Sunday, February 1, 2009

Is Meroitic related to Afro-Asiatic Languages?

Recently K. Rowan has discussed a theory that Meroitic may be related to the Afro Asiatic (AA) languages.

It is interesting, to note that Rowan discusses Meroitic within 6 pages, while the paper is 38 pages long. Rowan attempts to imply that a typological relationship exists between Meroitic and Afro-Asiatic due to alleged consonantal compatibility restrictions.

Although this is her opinion I don't believe that it is supported by the evidence, since she uses imagined Meroitic terms as her data. Since the terms Rowan uses in her analysis are "made up" she can say they have any feature she chooses and be "right".

Moreover, finding only one feature common to Meroitic and AA languages does not support a connection.The major problem with the thesis is that Rowan failed to discuss Meroitic based upon the agreed upon vocabulary of Meroitic. Failure to do this has led her to make conclusions that can not be supported by the evidence since some words she uses as examples in her paper are based on conjecture or are hypothectical/imagined Merotic terms.

Secondly, the failure to acknowledge that most Meroitic consonants are probably associated with a schwa, except when a Meroitic vowel is joined to a consonant e.g., -i.-e, - a, makes any discussion of Meroitic phonology suspect. Failure of K. Rowan to present examples from agreed upon Meroitic lexical items, especially given the clear Meroitic examples of Egyptian loan words in Meroitic is quite strange since Egyptian is a Meroitic languages.

This is further compounded by the fact that Rowan fails to provide a cognate language to read the script and therefore provide a firm foundation for her spurious conclusions.In general the paper is a good discussion of the state of research relating to Afro-Asiatic. But in my opinion it offers little support for the posibility that Meroitic is related to Afro-Asiatic, or Nilo-Saharan for that matter, given the phantom/imagined words Rowan provides as Meroitic lexical items.

Publication of this article, given its flaws make it clear that Rowan has a powerful advisor, given the fact that the abstract makes it clear that she is not providing any direction on a possible candidate for relatedness with Meroitic. Publication of this article adds little to the previous scholarship on Meroitic, eventhough its publication will probably make Rowan a new "expert" on Meroitic.

No comments: