On Non-Genetic Affiliation of Japonic: An Alternative Hypothesis


Student thesis: Master's Thesis

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  • Charles Chun Junior CHEN


Awarding Institution
Award date19 Feb 2016


Standard comparative method and phylogenetic family tree have been used as the two major approaches in studying genetic classification of Japonic. Early works such as the popular theories suggesting genetic affiliation between Japonic and the Altaic family, as well as the Koreo-Japonic hypothesis proposing a Korean ancestor, are recently facing increasing challenges arguing for a contact-induced linguistic resemblance in Japonic and these languages. Latest success in reconstruction of Japonic had redefined construction criteria of proto-Japanese and proto-Korean, on which more objective and definite judgments can be based when identifying horizontal and vertical transmissions of lexical items.
Simplified semantic shift model in an observed network is constructed by gathering various senses of adjectives of physically measurable quantities based on Swadesh 100 List of basic words in three languages (English, Chinese and Japanese). It is used to demonstrate the relationship that exists between transferability and the position of senses in a two dimensional, hierarchical semantic space. This thesis proposes that unconstrained application of semantic shift between lexical look-alikes should be rejected. Sifted by these new criteria, an examination of major studies proposing cognate sets and doublets supports the claim that contact instead of genetic relationship can better explain the resemblance between Japanese and Korean.
Finally, the mixed language theories are reviewed based on new multidisciplinary studies, language contact theories. The loosely defined mixed-languages and creoles pose a methodological problem in classification of a hybrid language. It is suggested in this thesis that mixed-language theories were being rejected mainly due to lack of consensus on definitions and inadequate studies in the field; and Japanese, as a language without convincingly proved genetic parent, the possibility of its being a contact induced hybrid language should be taken into account.