To the Aharon Dolgopolsky’s 85th Jubilee
20th of July, 2012, in Haifa, a prominent linguist and semitologist, specializing in ancient languages and comparative linguistics, one of the “founding fathers” of the nostratic theory, Aharon Borisovitch Dolgopolsky, had passed away.
Comparative linguistics is one of modern linguistics' most important branches. It is a full-fledged academic discipline, operating in strictly formalized methods, including computer-based ones. Its main goal is to penetrate deeper into the history of languages and to reconstruct humanity's proto-languages, increasingly more distant from today. Comparative linguistics is a part of the system of historical knowledge, it serves as a way to study unwritten and pre-written history. With its help, even when letters are silent, we can obtain information on ethnogenesis, on ethnic contacts, and even – by reconstructing the linguistic picture of the world – on environment and cultural features of people, who used the more ancient language systems.
Nostratic theory maintains a common ancestor for six largest language families of the Old World – Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic, Uralic, Altaic, Kartvelian, and Dravidian. It was first proposed in 1903 by Danish linguist Holger Pedersen and first proven in 1967 in Moscow by Jewish-Russian scientists Aharon Dolgopolsky and Vladislav Illich-Svitych. Since his move to Israel (1976), Dolgopolsky had been working on compiling the full dictionary of Proto-Nostratic language, which would systematize and summarize scientific knowledge on the period of history of humanity's languages dating back to approximately thirteen thousand years B.C.
Dolgopolsky's concentration on this work has been amazing up until the last days of his life. He meticulously picked out any crumbs of information and research on hundreds of languages of Eurasia and Africa, having put together an extensive library at his house. He spent almost all of his time in his study, behind his desk, literally surrounded by walls of books and journals, creating, complementing and putting together databases on hundreds of different languages of Europe, Asia and Africa.
The effort, which took A. Dolgopolsky almost forty years, brought a magnificent result. In 2008, “Nostratic dictionary”, drafts of which had been cited by comparativists long before that, was at last published and became one of the largest works dealing with distant language relationship. The dictionary crowned Dolgopolsky's research, and though he often, even after the publication, regretted the “incompleteness” of the work, it without doubt is the most complete and carefully structured lexical and etymological database of the Nostratic languages.
This book contains the memories of some friends and pupils of an outstanding linguist, one of the fathers of the Nostratic theory Aharon Dolgopolsky, as well as full bibliography of his works and all his popular articles about the language relations.