Plus Ultra!

prague-castleI know Brian said that we’d posted our last, but I couldn’t let the very kind words on the thread announcing our closure to go un-remarked. I also thought it somewhat incumbent on me as founder of the blog to say goodbye, and I want to do that too.

LP was a large part of my life for a long time, and will always mean a lot to me, so I wanted to express my gratitude for those words and sentiments. So, thanks!

I don’t want just to dwell on the past. I thought people might be interested to know what I’m planning for my own future digital writing.

When we initially shut up shop, I said:

I am convinced there’s a role for a more curated and conciously counter-cultural focus on policy, shifts in the lived experience of our public culture, and serious examination of flashpoints in the battle between reason and untruth.

I still think that, and that’s something I plan to start. I refined my thinking on how that might be translated into practice when I was doing some work for a client in 2012, and I think now is a good time to start, with a new government and a lack of measured and positive progressive policy conversations and analyses to provide an alternative and a substantive critique.

In particular, I want to build on the efforts a number of made around FAQ Research, shining a light on a contested policy area.

We might, for instance, look not just at the continued contests over land use and the resources industry but also at the feasibility of ‘green jobs’ and how innovation, education and skills policy can shape nascent labour market shifts towards sustainable and high wage employment.

That’s just one example – but I think there’s a host of areas where a new social democratic vision can be both articulated and grounded in ideas that appeal to communities as well as activists and thinkers. At the same time, we need new ways of talking to each other about the way forward.

I’ve started work on The New Social Democrat. There’s nothing to see yet, as I need to build the site. The nitty and gritty digital bit of a digital startup! But I wanted to flag my intentions to folks, and let you know something of what to expect, and how you can follow what I’m up to, should you want to.

The easiest way to find out when there is something to see is to follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page (and I have some other commissioned writing which will be appearing soon and will be linked to there). If you’re not into social media, feel free to email me at mbahnisch [at]

The first step will be building a blog on the site, and I will probably start posting early next month. It may be earlier or it may be later, but I envisage the site launching in March this year.

So I’d also be very much interested in hearing from anyone who might be interested in writing or doing some editing on the new site.

Ideally, I would like to build a stable of editors and contributors in particular thematic areas. So it would be great to know who might be interested.

Down the track, I would also like to be able to pay people for their work. There’s an important point of principle here, as the digital economy destroys monetary value as much as it creates it, and commodifies people’s enthusiasm and talent as raw input for corporate profit. I want to resist that. Unfortunately, I don’t have any money myself (I’m down in Sydney looking for employment), but if anyone wanted to make  a donation, that would be very kind and greatly appreciated. You can do so here.

Or you could give me a job! :)

Anyway, I hope some folks are interested in this new venture, and I want to wish all LP readers over the years all the very best. And a particular thanks to all my co-bloggers and moderators! Live long and prosper!

Deep origins: language

Warning: longer essay-style post.

David B Anthony in his extraordinary book The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How the Bronze-age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World tells us that language normally changes so that speakers 1000 years apart cannot understand each other. As an example here is the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer in a conservative, old-fashioned version of Modern Standard English:

Our Father who is in heaven, blessed be your name

Here it is in Chaucer’s English of 1400:

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halwid be thy name

Now try Old English of 1000:

Fæader ure thu the eart on heofonum, si thin nama gehalgod

When British jurist Sir William Jones arrived in Calcutta to become a member of the Bengal Supreme Court in 1783 he was already famous as a linguist for his translations of medieval Persian poetry amongst other works. At that time he already knew French, German, Latin, Greek, Welsh, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew and Gothic, the earliest written form of German. In order to do his job he decided to tool up on Sanskrit. In 1786 he announced an amazing discovery. Latin, Greek and Sanskrit stemmed from the same original language. Just had to be. He also found that Celtic, Gothic and Persian probably came from the same source. Indeed he was right.

Very common words tend not to change much. The word for mother, for example is strikingly similar across a range of languages. Hence we have Middle English moder, Dutch moeder, German Mutter, Irish máthair, Tocharian mācar, Lithuanian mótė, Latin māter, Greek meter, Russian mat’, Persian madar and Sanskrit mātṛ.

The original Proto-Indo-European word has been reconstructed as *méh₂tēr.

You can find more related words here.

In fact all European languages belong to what is now recognised as the Indo-European language group (list here) except Basque, Estonian, Finnish and Magyar (Hungarian).

To the east the Indo-Iranian sub-group includes the majority of modern languages of India including Hindi, Urdu and Bengali.

I’ve included here a chart of the Indo-European language taxonomy from David Anthony’s book:

Figure 1: Twelve branches of Indo-Eoropean language family

Figure 1: Twelve branches of Indo-Eoropean language family

Some of the individual languages are barely legible, but the overall picture is clear.

This Dan Short page provides a useful broad family tree divided into the so-called Centum and Satem groups, divided according to the word for hundred. Neither of these taxonomies helps with the timeline. Anthony gives the following as the best branching diagram, based on the Ringe_Warnow_Taylor (2002) cladistic method: Continue reading “Deep origins: language”