Question one: Explain centum and satem in Indo-European linguistics
Response: In Indo-European linguistics, “centum” and “satem” refer to two major branches of the Indo-European languages, based on how the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language split in terms of the treatment of the palatal stops (sounds like “k” and “g” pronounced with the middle part of the tongue raised towards the hard palate).
The term “centum” comes from the Latin word for “hundred,” reflecting the fact that the languages in this branch evolved to pronounce the palatal stops as velar stops (pronounced at the back of the mouth), which is why the word for “hundred” in these languages typically begins with a /k/ sound. The centum branch includes the Germanic, Celtic, Italic, Hellenic (Greek), and some other languages.
The term “satem” comes from the Old Iranian word for “one hundred,” reflecting the fact that the languages in this branch evolved to pronounce the palatal stops as sibilants (sounds like “s” and “sh”), which is why the word for “one hundred” in these languages typically begins with an /s/ sound. The satem branch includes the Balto-Slavic, Indo-Iranian, and some other languages.
It is believed that the centum-satem division reflects an early geographic split within the PIE-speaking community. The centum speakers were located west of the satem speakers and were likely in contact with non-Indo-European-speaking peoples who influenced the evolution of their language. Meanwhile, the satem speakers were located east of the centum speakers and were more isolated from such influences.
Today, the centum-satem division is mainly of historical and linguistic interest, as most of the modern Indo-European languages belong to the centum branch. However, the distinction is still relevant for understanding the evolution of these languages and their relationships to one another.
Analysis: This is a basic analysis and, in the broad strokes okay, except the East/West divide isn’t accurate. Hittite, a centum language, was spoken in what is now Turkiye, a region that should be in the “satem” area. Further, the Tocharian languages, which were spoken in Western China, and therefore the easternmost IE languages are also centum languages. Also, Armenian and Albanian, IE languages that occupy regions between the centum languages and satem languages, show some features of both.
Question 2: Is the Great Hunger in Ireland a genocide?
Response: The Great Hunger, also known as the Irish Potato Famine, was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland from 1845 to 1852, during which the population of Ireland decreased by approximately 25%.
While the famine was primarily caused by a potato blight, which destroyed the potato crop that was the main source of food for many Irish people, the severity of the famine was exacerbated by a number of political and economic factors, including British colonial policies that limited Irish land ownership and forced Irish farmers to rely heavily on potatoes.
There is ongoing debate among scholars and historians about whether the Great Hunger in Ireland should be considered a genocide. Some argue that the policies of the British government, which continued to export food from Ireland during the famine while many Irish people were starving, constituted a deliberate effort to destroy the Irish population. Others argue that while the British government’s policies were certainly harmful and contributed to the severity of the famine, they did not constitute a deliberate attempt to exterminate the Irish people.
Ultimately, the question of whether the Great Hunger in Ireland was a genocide is a complex and contested issue, and opinions on the matter vary depending on one’s perspective and interpretation of historical events.
Analysis: This is a fairly accurate basic description of the discussion going on over the Great Hunger.
Super interesting—thanks for sharing these, Sean.