The "Shaggy assertion" – just pretend you're right

By Razib Khan | May 2, 2012 12:06 am

As most long time readers know I generally screen to at least a cursory level comments by people who have not posted before. Except for purposes of entertainment only I won’t publish Creationist comments. Naturally some comments are offensive, but a surprising number I just don’t let through are “not-even-wrong” or “too-stupid-to-understand-the-original-post” class. But yesterday a comment was in the mod queue which really confused me. My initial instinct was to spam it, but I was moderately intrigued, so I let it through. In response to my assertion of having read material which indicated that Gaelic was the language of the Irish peasantry before 1800, Paul Crowley asserted:

What you have read is quite wrong. It is a common misconception (especially in Ireland) based on wishful nationalistic thinking. Farmers and peasants do not drop their native language and learn to speak another without extreme compulsion. While there was some pressure, there was no compulsion. The ancient ruling class — as represented later by the Irish Earls, and as seen in the courts of local chiefs — spoke Gaelic, and it is they who left nearly all the records. Illiterate farmers leave very few records, but what little there is suggests that English has been tongue of the great bulk of the Irish peasantry for as far back as we want to go. The rebels of 1598 all spoke English. Walter Raleigh had no difficulty understanding the speech of local people in Cork in the 1570s.

The great difficulty with the records is that the ‘data’ on this matter reflects aspirations rather than facts. Since the ‘English’ (actually the Norman-French) invaded in 1172, every self-respecting Irishman has declared his deep love and respect for the language so cruelly taken from him….

There were statements in the comment which I’m very skeptical of (e.g., “Farmers and peasants do not drop their native language and learn to speak another without extreme compulsion” is obviously plain bullshit, there are plenty of ethnographic and historical counter-examples to this!). But the commenter asserted forcefully, in cogent English. I don’t know the area, so though I was very skeptical I let the comment through.

Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ responded rather well, with citations. In hindsight I made a mistake in letting the original comment go through without citation. But I assumed that Paul & Paul would respond to Paul (the Irish are not creative in first names?), and they did. Paul Crowley’s success it getting through my bullshit filter indicates the power of assertive coherency; far too many nuts exhibit standard nut style. Pegging someone as a nut by style rather than substance is far easier. In the case of substance you have to have a relatively good grasp of the field. Irish historical linguistics is not a field which I’m very deeply knowledgeable in, so I used my style bullshit detector, despite my misgivings.

This is analogous to the “Shaggy defense.” Make shit up in the face of overwhelming evidence, and see if anyone buys it. It worked with me. Live and learn.

MORE ABOUT: Epistemology
  • Sandgroper

    It was worth letting through, just to get the magnificent Irish response.

  • Paul Crowley

    Just to be absolutely clear, this wasn’t me!

  • Aidan Kehoe

    I share the sentiment a bit, though differing on the details; I grew up in Wexford, and the curriculum in school said the country switched to English as the vernacular in the time period Razib mentioned, and this didn’t quite sit well with me—cf. that Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ’s quote from 1786 said that Irish was nearly extinct in Wexford then. But then a little inaccuracy (of the curriculum, in this case) can often save a lot of explanation.

    I suppose Paul Crowley did intend to talk about the rebels of 1798 (in Wexford), rather than those of 1598; I think his post was in good faith and worth letting through.

  • twl

    Razib, this was not a nut, it was an obvious troll. The structure of a good troll is: 1. First be plausible 2. Degenerate into farce 3. End on a constructive note.

    Good trolls start with something plausible because it gets you reading. They then increase the level of farce to ridiculous proportions so that only a complete idiot would take the content seriously, so that the joke is on them. They then end on something constructive so that anyone who didn’t bother to read it doesn’t notice the farcical statements in the middle and out you as a troll too early – and also to reassure the complete idiots that they should take what you say seriously.

    The farce element began with the sweeping but thought-provoking statement “Farmers and peasants do not drop their native language and learn to speak another without extreme compulsion” and ended with the ridiculous “The rebels of 1598 all spoke English” and the Walter Raleigh anecdote. The link to contemporary data on number of Irish speakers was just a ploy to reassure and distract.

    I didn’t write it BTW. I haven’t trolled for about 10 years. I was told I was a good troll so you should memorise what I’ve told you!

  • Darkseid

    This is a fantastic example of good internet savy. I think many people who are tricked by dumb websites (about miracle health cures, etc) could learn from this. A lot of times you can tell it’s a b.s. post just by looking at the layout of the website. For some reason new age woo sites (for example) just can’t resist that signature layout a lot of them use. I guess it doesn’t matter to most anyway as they’re looking for info that backs the opinion they already have.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    A self-professed sometime troll Paul Crowley:

    “Am off sick and in bed, typing on my phone, and bored. A friend recommends I entertain myself in the time honoured fashion, by starting a fight on the Internet. But what about? Suggestions both frivolous and serious please!”

    YMMV, but if the handle fits?

  • Matunos

    Trolling implies the commenter is intentionally attempting to mislead and/or enrage the readers in order to goad a response.

    The analogy with Shaggy (which should probably be an analogy to Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” stand up film from 1987) implies a simple insistence of innocence (without further elaboration) in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt.

    Isn’t it more likely that this individual was just misinformed?

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” — Hanlon’s Razor

  • Paul

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” — Hanlon’s Razor

    “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistiguishable from malice.” — Jon Clarke’s First Law

  • Sandgroper

    @Torbjörn – I think you nailed it.

  • Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ

    @3: Aidan,

    Wexford was quite a diverse place linguistically in the early 18th century. The southernmost baronies were majority Yola speaking. For those not in the know Yola is an extinct branch of Middle-English (sort of how “Scots” is also a branch). Northern Wexford had undergone plantation in the period 1615-18 with “planters” been brought in from Scotland (see: ‘The Population of County Wexford in the 17th Century’ by Mícheál Tóibín, BA, BComm, The Past (1950)). This no doubt contributed heavily to the language shift during the late 17th century in Wexford.

    Western baronies of Shelburne and Bantry would have been majority Irish speaking. Of course by the time of 1798 they had heavily shifted to English (as can be seen in Garrett Fitzgearld’s research). With regards to 1798 and the “rebels” here’s a quote:

    And yet, in the fullest and best eyewitness account of ‘the
    bloody engagement at Ross’ on 5 June 1798, James Alexander
    several times reports them as speaking Irish.

    Passing by the barrack lane a rebel came out and levelled an
    old musquet at me, but presently crossed himself and took aim
    at a soldier, in doing which he was himself shot by a Dublin
    Militia man. As he fell his piece went off and he exclaimed,
    ‘Scoilt an Deoil!’ (The Devil split you) his last words.
    — (Subaltern Voices –Poetry in Irish, Popular Insurgency and the 1798 Rebellion by Tom Dunne,
    Eighteenth-Century Life – Vol 22, No. 3, pp 31-44 (Nov. 1998))

    Check out the following pdf on the subject: (from which I took the above)
    A Brief History of Languages in County Wexford

  • Peter

    Over a million Irish immigrants came to the United States in the mid-1800’s f0llowing the potato famine, and very, very few of them were Gaelic speakers. If the language had been common among the peasantry at one point it certainly wasn’t by that time.

  • Razib Khan

    #11, really? where you read that?

  • Sniffnoy

    @Sandgroper, Torbjörn: I’m not certain whether you two missed that Ciphergoth is the Paul Crowley who explicitly denied it in post #2, or whether you’re suggesting it was him even so…

  • Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ

    #11 There are numerous records of Irish speaking immigrants in the period after the Great Famine. Now I’m just doing a quick dig through wikipedia (The caffeine hasn’t kicked in let!) but here are some remarks on that with citation to publication they appeared in.

    “Irish immigrants fell into three linguistic categories: monolingual Irish speakers, bilingual speakers of both Irish and English, and monolingual English speakers.[42] Estimates indicate that there were around 400,000 Irish speakers in the United States in the 1890s, located primarily in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Yonkers.[43] The Irish speaking population of New York reached its height in this period, when speakers of Irish numbered between 70,000 and 80,000.[44] This number declined during the early 20th century, dropping to 40,000 in 1939, 10,000 in 1979 and 5,000 in 1995.[45] According to the latest census, the Irish language ranks 66th out of the 322 languages spoken today in the U.S., with over 25,000 speakers. New York State has the most Irish Gaelic speakers, and Massachusetts the highest percentage, of the 50 states.”

    Bayor, Ronald H.; Timothy J. Meagher (1997). The New York Irish. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0801857645.

    Either way the general figure proposed for number of Irish speakers in the 1841 before the Great Famine (note it’s never called “Potato famine” in Ireland) was on order of 40%. The fact is the population dropped by over 2 million in a 10 year period. If you look at the maps showing the areas of greatest population loss these are heavily concentrated in areas that were majority Irish speaking (Gaeltacht) going on the census of 1851 — when the language question was first asked. It’s generally believed that the mortality among Irish speakers was proportionally higher then that of english speakers.

    The population continued to plummet due to massive migration from 1851 onwards only reaching it’s nadir point in 1961 when in the Republic it was on order of 2.9million (down from 6.5million in 1841). Even today the population hasn’t fully recovered, one of key headlines with the recent census results (2011) was that the population had recovered to highest levels since 1861 (4.5m)

    There is plenty of academic reseach on the fact that Irish parents during later half of 19th century broke the inter-generational language transmission. Part of this has been put down to fact that it was believed that if the children would need to emigrate to the English speaking world — eg. US, Canada, Australia and Britain

  • Sandgroper

    @Sniff – Yes, I did miss it. But explicit denial in the face of evidence is a Shaggy Defence, isn’t it? :)

    @Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ – A bit off-track, but on the parent/language transmission theme, a lot of my daughter’s Chinese school mates dropped Chinese language after Form 3 in secondary school and took French instead – on the face of it that might seem pretty bizarre, except that Chinese language study at that level is very difficult and French is perceived as a much easier option, plus many of them have at least some intention some time to migrate to Canada, or at least retain the option.

    It just illustrates that parents are driven in these things by concern for their kids’ future welfare/adaptation, and cultural transmission is a secondary concern. By the time those kids have kids, inter-generational transmission of written Chinese might have broken, at least at any kind of higher level.

    Meanwhile, my half-Chinese daughter successfully persisted with Chinese language on my (non-Chinese) advice, because from our perspective French would be useless to her, while being fully trilingual/biliterate in English and Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) is likely to be a real asset – in fact, it already is.

  • Jenn

    @15 Sandgroper: As someone in Vancouver, BC, Canada… Chinese is actually a vastly more useful second language here than French is. I took Spanish myself, and I could kick myself for not taking Mandarin or Cantonese instead. You only need French if you intend to do government/police work or live in Quebec

  • ryan


    I’d think Razib has at least some ways of checking IPs and log-ins, so it seems likely he believes that #2 was a different Paul Crowley, since he let the comment pass.

    In following the quotes from Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ in the previous post, then looking for overall population estimates; and also in seeing him above writing that the population was about 40% Gaelic-speaking in 1841 … my reaction is that it’s a lot lower than I’d expected. Unless part of the answer is that pre-famine Ireland was also more urbanized than I think of it, then this actually means that a huge swathe of the peasantry was English-speaking. Some of the quotes POD gave suggest 1.5 to 2 million Gaelic speakers in the early 1800s. The population (1821 census per this page –; though it IS an English university :-) .) was 6 million.

    20% of the population was protestant, so the Catholic population is something like 5.4 million.

    So I don’t buy P. Crowley’s “the Irish peasantry were always English-speaking” argument. And I think Razib’s general point, that there was a significant language shift in the Irish Catholic peasantry in the 1800’s, is true.

    But Razib’s statement that the Catholic peasantry was majority Gaelic-speaking in 1800 seems a bit less certain than I’d have thought. The population figures are two decades late, the religious figures 3 decades late, and the estimates of Gaelic speaking in POD’s quotes are impressionistic enough that Razib may still be correct. But either way, it’s a much closer thing than I’d have expected.

    But then, it was only in the last couple years that I learned of the long pedigree of English dialects in Scotland. I’d somehow thought it was all Gaelic speaking till Bonnie Prince Charlie or something.

  • Sandgroper

    Jenn, yes, absolutely. What interested me was the perception of both the other parents and kids of what would be less burdensome, more useful and more important to them – the kind of weight/value they placed on it. My daughter has said subsequently that I gave her the right advice, although it was a hard road.

  • phanmo

    Although French is infinitely more useful than Mandarin or Cantonese when it comes to getting a visa to come to Canada in the first place. Points are awarded for English, French or both, but not for any other language. If you decide to emigrate to Quebec, it’s easier than emigrating elsewhere in Canada but you can only do it if you speak French. Of course, nothing obliges you to stay in Quebec once you’re there.

  • Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ


    The population of Ireland in 1801 is usually listed as 5.2m this grew by about 57% to 1841, if you consider that the first year of the famine was 1845. There had probably been a population growth on order of 60% over period 1801 to 1845.

    One of major features evident from looking at the 10 year age groups in the 1851 census is that there are clear signs of inter-generational language gaps. Eg. the non-transmission of the language to the younger generation. Given the massive population growth during the period this quickly pushed down the percentage of habitual Irish speakers from around 50% in 1800. The number of Irish speakers was on order of 66-70% in the 1780’s when the population was on order of 3.6-4million.

    One of major pushers of angliscation of course was the growing Catholic middle/upper classes. Who were often the leading lights in the Home Rule movement. A prime example is Daniel O’Connell

    “I am sufficiently utilitarian not to regret its gradual abandonment. A diversity of languages is no benefit; it was first imposed on mankind as a curse, at the building of Babel. It would be of vast advantage to mankind if all the inhabitants spoke the same language. Therefore, although the Irish language is connected with many recollections that twine around the hearts of Irishmen, yet the superior utility of the English tongue, as the medium of modern communication, is so great, that I can witness without sigh the gradual disuse of the Irish.”

    – Daniel O’Connell, 1833

    “An Irish prayer-book is a thing which the poor [Catholic] Irish peasant has never seen. Not only has he not been taught the language which he speaks, but his clergy have never encouraged, and have sometimes forbidden him to learn it. This objection arose chiefly, I believe, from the impudent intermeddling of Bible Societies with the religion of the people. By their patronage of the Irish language, they had desecrated it in the eyes of the Irish themselves.”

    “I have seen an Irish bishop, with mitre on head and crozier in hand, delivering an elaborate English discourse to an Irish congregation, while a priest stood in the pulpit interpreting it sentence by sentence. This prelate was the son of an Irish peasant, born and reared in one of the most Irish districts in Ireland. Many of his audience might have been, and probably were his playmates in childhood and boyhood, and must have heard him speak the language of his father and mother; but he had never learned it, and was now too distinguished a dignitary of the church, to remember anything of the language of the vulgar herd he had left below him.”

    – Conor McSweeny, ‘Songs of the Irish’, 1843

    “The middle classes think it a sign of vulgarity to speak Irish.”

    “A people without a language of its own is only half a nation. A nation should guard its language more than its territories, ’tis a surer barrier and a more important frontier than mountain or river.”

    “To impose another language on such a people is to send their history adrift among the accidents of translation–’tis to tear their identity from all places–’tis to substitute arbitrary signs for picturesque and suggestive names–’tis to cut off the entail of feeling, and separate the people from their forefathers by a deep gulf–’tis to corrupt their very organs, and abridge their power of expression.”

    – Thomas Davis, Young Ireland, 1845

    As to the Irish language, toleration and patronage have come too late. It cannot be saved alive by any human power. It is at present confined to about one-third of the peasantry, and those the most ignorant and uncivilised. As a spoken language, it can hardly survive the present generation. The fathers and mothers will retain it till their death, but by the children it will be neglected and forgotten. The time for educating them in the native language has gone by for ever. It is not the language of business, of modern civilisation, and it will not enable a man to get on in the world. However we may regret that any language, especially one so primitive, so expressive, so powerful as the Gaelic should cease to live, its doom is inevitable.”

    – Anonymous author, c. 1850

    “It is natural to inquire how this strong passion for education could have possessed a people who are themselves utterly illiterate… Their passion may be traced to one predominant desire — the desire to speak English.”

    “Whilst they may love the cadences, and mellowness, and homeliness of the
    language which their fathers gave them, they yet see that obscurity and poverty
    distinguish their lot from the English-speaking people; and accordingly, no
    matter what the sacrifice to their feelings, they long for the acquisition of the
    ‘new tongue’, with all its prizes and social privileges. The keystone of fortune
    is the power of speaking English, and to possess this power there is a burning
    longing in their breasts that never varies, never moderates… The knowledge
    which they thirst for in the school is, therefore, confined to a speaking use of
    the English Language.”

    “The master adopts a novel mode of procedure to propagate the ‘new language’.
    He makes it a cause of punishment to speak Irish in the school, and he has
    instituted a sort of police among the parents to see that in their intercourse with
    one another the children speak nothing but English at home. The parents are so
    eager for the English, they exhibit no reluctance to inform the master of every
    detected breach of the school law; and, by this coercive process, the poor
    children in the course of time become pretty fluent in speaking very incorrect

    – P.J. Keenan, ‘Twenty-third Report of the Commissioners of National
    Education in Ireland’, 1857-58

  • Sandgroper

    @phanmo – These were kids who had already acquired Canadian citizenship and returned to live/attend school in Hong Kong, i.e. they seem to have assessed the usefulness of French vs continuing with Chinese language after the event, as it were.

  • Paul Crowley

    Razib, apologies. Firstly, I’ve been busy, secondly, I’ve had a bout of ‘flu, so I’ve only just noticed this ‘Shaggy’ thread. And, while I resent being called ‘a nut’, I appreciate (a) that the internet is full of them, and (b) that I am putting forward an anti-orthodox (and anti-Nationalist) argument, likely to arouse opposition. Put it down, if you wish, to a reaction to endless hours in school of bad lessons in bad ‘Irish’, in a society super-saturated with language bullshit. But that does not mean that my argument is wrong.

    You write: ” . . statements . . I’m very skeptical of (e.g., “Farmers and peasants do not drop their native language and learn to speak another without extreme compulsion” is obviously plain bullshit, there are plenty of ethnographic and historical counter-examples to this!). My statement seems to me a one of the ‘bleeding obvious’. Where are the “ethnographic and historical counter-examples” ? If they really exist, you’ll get my most effusive apologies. But I am sure that they don’t.

    Few of us can claim to have known societies where nearly everyone travelled on foot, with a few on horseback, and without TV, radio or newspapers. But some of us have seen communities where that life-style had echoes. ‘Resistant to change’ does not begin to describe them. The notion that such a community would change its language is close to inconceivable.

    @17 ryan mentions
    ” . . the long pedigree of English dialects in Scotland . . . ”

    Indeed. The Lowland Scots did not learn their English from the Norman-French, nor from the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ (neither of which made much impression), nor from the Danes, nor from the Romans. The most obvious answer is that they had it from ‘the start’ — i.e. when English-speaking farmers settled in Lowland Scotland, under the aegis of Gaelic (or other) over-lords.

    I’m saying that the same applied to those farmers/peasants who settled in Ireland at about the same time.

    @ 10 Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ. Says
    “One of major features evident from looking at the 10 year age groups in the 1851 census is that there are clear signs of inter-generational language gaps. E.g. the non-transmission of the language to the younger generation”

    How would “non-transmission” occur? Would the parents never talk to the children? I guess, that Duffy here is saying that the parents knew both Irish and English, and only spoke the latter to their children. But where would _they_ have learnt the English? And why? Remember, we are talking about a community of illiterate peasants and farmers (supposedly) solidly Irish-speaking, many or most of whom are on the margins of survival.

    “. . . Given the massive population growth during the period this quickly pushed down the percentage of habitual Irish speakers from around 50% in 1800. The number of Irish speakers was on order of 66-70% in the 1780?s when the population was on order of 3.6-4million. . .”

    So the percentage of Irish speakers went down from 70% to 50% in 20 years? As my mother used to say: “Mor-yah”. This might be just-about conceivable among a middle-class. But we are talking about an overwhelmingly illiterate farming/peasant society where hardly any went to school — and in a society where emigration was far from being the rule.

  • Razib Khan

    #22, again, no citations.

  • Sandgroper

    But I may have slandered you by inferring you could be the other Crowley, and therefore a presumed troll, which I retract.

    Do you not get an annual flu shot, Paul? I’ve been having them for about 10 years now – they save a ton of misery and down time.

  • pconroy

    You are a troll, and it’s usually good policy to not feed trolls, nevertheless, for the general reader here, some points of interest:

    The Angles – from today’s Denmark/North Germany/Holland – invaded and carved out a kingdom in South Eastern Scotland called Bernica, later when it expanded South of Hadrian’s Wall, it was called the Kingdom of Northhumbria:

    The Angles kingdom would later be conquered and annexed by the Gaels (aka Scotti) from Ireland and disappear, as did the other independent kingdoms of Northern Britain (aka Alba).
    The Lallans/Scots language of today is a testament to their presence – it is an independent West Germanic/Frisian language, not derived from English.

  • Paul Crowley

    @ 23 Razib Khan says:
    #22, again, no citations.

    Agreed. As I have said, illiterate farmers and peasants to not leave written records. So I am not claiming that there _are_ useful records. But you are making such a claim. So are all those who have piled abuse upon me in this thread. Yet no one has whispered the location of any record indicating that any illiterate farming population has every changed its language, except under compulsion. Why? Because such records don’t exist. It doesn’t happen. It never happened.

    This should be obvious to anyone with the slightest acquaintance with such populations. How _could_ it happen? What would be the mechanism? Why would farming community X speaking its X language, learn to also speak language Y? (A few individuals, on the make, would certainly learn the language of the conqueror, to become the tax-collectors, etc. — for very obvious reasons. But what would motivate the rest?)

    I am coming to this topic in the light of the fairly recent findings based on DNA — which I gather are widely accepted — that farmers spread across Europe bringing their farming skills with them, starting around 8,000 years ago and reaching north-west Europe and Britain around 4,000 years ago.

    I’ve been mulling over this (and allied topics) and, quite foolishly, assumed that others had come to much the same conclusions. How wrong can you get!

    Farmers did not need to be literate. They never sought to run the country in which they lived. They didn’t have a vote. And they are extremely conservative. Countries were ruled by gangs of warriors — an elite, or an aristocracy. They were (or they employed) the literate people who left all the records. Their ‘history’ was usually one of campaigns and battles. Look at some accounts of the defeat of the Axis Powers in 1944/5 or of the Napoleonic Wars. Only rarely will the local populations in France, Italy, Holland, the Ukraine, Poland, etc., get a mention. That is the kind of ‘history’ on which we have to rely as a guide to the nature of, and the languages spoken by, the farming communities of those times.

    @ 25. pconroy says:
    ” . . . The Angles – from today’s Denmark/North Germany/Holland – invaded and carved out a kingdom in South Eastern Scotland called Bernica . . ”

    ‘Angles’ certainly invaded around 600 AD (who knows where from). But, as it says on that webpage . . “Only after the Picts defeated the Angles at Dun Nechtain (Dunnichen) in 685 AD did Northumbrian expansion halt and their overlordship was finally broken.”

    So it was not much of a ‘kingdom’. But your real mistake is to assume that this warring band brought all their women and children with them — from Denmark or somewhere, and (in a century or so) replaced the entire farming community which had been there before; and later somehow expanded all over Lowland Scotland.

    It’s like thinking that as the Visigoths, Huns, Vandals, Franks, Ostrogoths and original Goths (and I’m not referring to the other Paul Crowley’s affiliations swept backwards and forwards across Europe, they replaced every farming community each time. Heck, it’s what the records suggest — so it must be true. Btw, there’s a nice account of The Fall of Rome here:

    I can list hundreds (or even thousands) of military invasions that left existing farming populations substantially alone. Can anyone here list a few well-recorded ones that sought to eliminate the existing population of farmers and bring in their own?

    So why should anyone assume that a poorly-recorded invasion (such as those of the Angles to Scotland, or the Anglo-Saxon to England) followed a course of action known to be rare?

    The answer is that to the invaders, illiterate farming communities are almost invisible. And to the historians, they are completely so.

  • pconroy

    ” Can anyone here list a few well-recorded ones that sought to eliminate the existing population of farmers and bring in their own?”

    Yes, the plantation of Northern Ireland did just that. As the English had learned from the Laois/Offaly plantation – my home area – and others, that if you only depose the local Native elite, and don’t supplant the local peasant population you are asking for trouble, from:
    1. Native revolts
    2. The new English rulers going native over the course of a generation or two.

    But Paul, you seem to suggest that illiterate peasants never change language, except under duress, and by extension, most of the world’s illiterate peasants should be speaking ur-languages, unchanged for thousands upon thousands of years – this is not true.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


See More


RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar