Eurasiatic, though very few have examples from every family. One of the most interesting concerns a set of meanings based on the putative Eurasiatic word for finger, which Greenberg thinks was tik. Raise your first or index tik and you make a universally understood sign for the number one. Point it horizontally and you are drawing attention to something. On that basis, Greenberg cites the following echoes of this ancient word.
In the Indo-European family, linguists have reconstructed a proto-Indo-European root *deik, meaning to show, from which comes the Latin word digitus for finger, and the English words digit and digital. In the
Altaic family, the Turkish word for sole or only is tek. In the Korean-Japanese-Ainu group, there is Ainu's tek and Japanese's te, both meaning hand. As for Eskimo-Aleut, Greenlandic has tikiq for index finger, Sirenik and Central Alaskan Yupik have tekeq.
Greenberg put particular emphasis on another group of cognates, which he saw as providing a link between Eurasiatic and Amerind. It is a set of meanings centered on the word hand and including both give (to give is to hand something over) and measure (the width of the hand is often used as a measure, and in English is the name of the unit for measuring the shoulder height of horses and ponies). Many American Indian languages use a ma or mi sound as their word for hand (Algonquian *mi, Uto-Aztecan *ma, Tequist latec mane, Guato mara). In the Eurasiatic family, Indo-European has a root *me- meaning measure, whence metric, as well as Latin manus, hand; Gilyak has man, to measure by hand spans and -ma, a word added to numbers to indicate units of hand spans; Korean has man, an amount or measure.
In Greenberg's view, Eurasiatic and Amerind were sister superfamilies, younger than the original languages of the Old World, of which the strange isolate languages like Basque and Burushaski (spoken in a small region of the northwestern Indian subcontinent) are relics. "The Eurasiatic-Amerind family represents a relatively recent expansion (circa 15,000 [years before the present]) into territory opened up by the melting of the Arctic ice cap. Eurasiatic-Amerind stands apart from the other families of the Old World, among which the differences are much greater and represent deeper chronological groupings," he wrote in his last 286
work. It was, perhaps, a final gibe at his critics, who insisted that languages could be traced back no farther than 5,000 years or so; Greenberg was insisting he could see three times farther than they.h 287
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