Jan. 20th, 2016

kortirion_among_the_trees: (Bookworm)

Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales

I instinctively don't buy it, but I don't have the requisite mathematical know-how to be able to disprove any of it.  However, I suspect that the mathematics is a red herring.  It's the assumptions on which the article is based - full-blooded Victorian assumptions that I do know like the back of my hand - that make me suspicious.  Is it really the case that anthropology and folklore studies have not moved on one whit in their basic premises in the last hundred and fifty years?  How can anyone cite E. B. Tylor now with a straight face?  This whole article, with all its scientific state-of-the-art trappings, is basically saying the same thing as Lang in his Preface to the Violet Fairy Book: 'These stories are as old as anything that men have invented. They are narrated by naked savage women to naked savage children. They have been inherited by our earliest civilised ancestors...The stories are full of the oldest ideas...'  Are the authors, or anyone attempting to reconstruct a line of 'descent' without written evidence of transmission, seriously claiming that the conjectured presence of a tale type in proto-Indo-European culture has any bearing on the actual early modern composition of, say, Beauty and the Beast?  So certain narrative structures have been around in certain language family groups since the beginning of time, so what?  Tale types are precisely that, types.  They're not the actual stories.  Statistics can prove neither origin nor inheritance, especially when the stories - in the only form in which we actually have them - were the products of a literate, not an oral culture.

Anyway, if anyone does understand the mathematics and is convinced by it, please explain :)

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