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Mark Newbrook (Heswall, Wirral, United Kingdom)
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Lost History Of The Little People: Their Spiritually Advanced Civilizations around the World
Lost History Of The Little People: Their Spiritually Advanced Civilizations around the World
by Susan B. Martinez
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.97

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars blatant weaknesses in crucial linguistic material suggest surprising lack of familiarity with the discipline, 22 Oct. 2013
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Susan B. Martinez is unusual among advocates/users of blatantly non-standard methods in comparative historical linguistics in that she has a semi-relevant PhD (in Anthropology, from Columbia) and indeed a specialisation in ethnolinguistics. Perhaps she has never studied the specifically HISTORICAL aspects of the discipline, but even then her approach (nowadays typical only of untutored amateurs) is surprising. If she IS familiar with historical linguistics but REJECTS mainstream thinking on the methodology of the subject, she should state this openly and should ARGUE for her own position.

Martinez's shift away from mainstream thought (on linguistic and other issues) seems to be connected with her discovery in 1981 of the `Oahspe Bible', a tome produced in 1882 by John Ballou Newbrough by way of automatic writing. This work represents itself as containing new revelations from `the Embassadors of the angel hosts of heaven prepared and revealed unto man in the name of Jehovih'. Much of the Oahspe material involves non-standard accounts of early human history. Martinez embraced these notions and they occupy a central place in her subsequent work, where there are many specific references to the Oahspe text as if it were historically authoritative

Oahspe itself contains some strange linguistic material: it is connected with `Mantong' as promoted by Richard Shaver (see pp. 102-103 of my 2013 book Strange Linguistics), and the text begins with a three-page glossary of `strange words used in this book'; these are a peculiar mixture of known words and phrases from English (such as angel) or other human languages (such as Abracadabra) - many of them re-defined in Oahspian terms - and unfamiliar words.

In this present book Martinez argues that Homo sapiens originated in `pygmy'/'negrito' form and that this `lost race' was later forced out of its homeland on the continent of Pan (`lost' in a major flood in early historic times) and was in due course marginalised by its taller offshoots, who came to misperceive their predecessors as supernatural beings (fairies, leprechauns, etc.).

Martinez supports this position with data drawn from various disciplines (archaeology, ethnology, etc.), but there is an especially heavy focus upon comparative linguistics; she traces many key features of known languages to an ancestral language `Panic' used by the pygmies. Like most amateurs advancing such proposals, Martinez proceeds by equating unsystematically and superficially similar words (often very short words, which makes chance similarity especially likely) and (also very short) word-parts (morphemes or putative morphemes, syllables, etc.) from a wide range of languages which are normally considered not to be `genetically' related (except perhaps in `deep' pre-history) and to have had no influential contact with each other. See my earlier reviews and Chapter 1 of my book on the objections to such methods.

Martinez's academic background (which is `upfront'; unlike most legitimate scholars, she advertises her PhD on the cover of her book) may mislead some readers not versed in linguistics into taking her linguistic material seriously. However, whatever may be said for the rest of her material - and this too contains some surprising oddities, for instance the worse-than-dated use of the word Aryan as an ethnic term - Martinez's linguistic equations, specifically, CANNOT be taken seriously. Examples of these equations include: the derivation of very many sequences in many languages including -in- from a Panic word ihin (referring to the pygmies themselves); similar derivations involving ong/ang (`light from above'), su (`spirit'), ba (`small'), etc.; and the proposing of novel Panic-based etymologies for familiar words with very well-established etymologies, such as the Spanish word pan (`bread') with its very clear Latin etymology; etc., etc.

Martinez also makes various errors regarding specific linguistic forms and their meanings, as noted in other reviews (on Amazon.com).


Navlipi: A New, Universal, Script ("Alphabet") Accommodating the Phonemic Idiosyncrasies of All the World's Languages: 1
Navlipi: A New, Universal, Script ("Alphabet") Accommodating the Phonemic Idiosyncrasies of All the World's Languages: 1
by Prasanna Chandrasekhar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £32.06

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars impressive and intriguing, with some issues, 1 Feb. 2013
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As its title suggests, this book presents a proposal for a new cross-linguistic alphabetic writing system, which could, in principle, replace both a) the International Phonetic Association Alphabet (IPAA) as employed by linguists for the transcription and teaching of all languages and b) existing language-specific scripts as used for everyday purposes, including the current spelling of English and other languages. Chandrasekhar's system does not seek to reflect i) etymologies or other aspects of linguistic history (`diachronic') or ii) more abstract relationships between the forms of words and word-parts; it is strictly `synchronic', and it is grounded in the phonetics of words and in `shallow'/`surface' aspects of the phonology (as reflected in the usual phonemic representations). The core of the Navlipi system involves the 26 letters of the most familiar version of the Roman Alphabet (that used for English) together with five novel symbols. These 31 characters are subject to various modifications of form which systematically correspond with phonetic variations of the phone-types in question so as to represent the very many specific phones (sounds) found across the languages of the world. Chandrasekhar also includes further devices for showing phonemic tone - needed for transcribing `tonal' languages such as Chinese - and other such `supra-segmental' features.

Chandrasekhar's title itself appears overstated (he cannot have examined all of the world's 6,000+ languages, even through the work of others), and he is not himself a linguist (he is a chemist); but he has studied many languages and aspects of linguistics, and his actual discussion emerges as much more sophisticated about linguistic matters than that of most non-linguists who have proposed reforms. He is well-informed, his scope (while understandably displaying a particular focus upon India) is wide, and many of his individual points (general and specific) are themselves correct. Indeed, the book deals interestingly with methodological issues involving phonetics and script-design. Overall, it has to be taken seriously. And the Navlipi system itself does have important strengths; for instance, it is indeed (predictably) more systematic than IPAA (which has `evolved' over many decades in the hands of many linguists).

Chandrasekhar is especially concerned to address what he sees as an `urgent issue': the phenomenon which he (oddly) describes as the phonemic idiosyncrasies of different languages. This involves the fact that, even where some specific phones are shared between languages, said languages often group them differently into phonemes. However, Chandrasekhar appears confused as to the views of mainstream linguists regarding the general cross-linguistic patterning in respect of these matters, and attacks a `straw man'; and (unless his wording is very poorly chosen) his own position on this issue is clearly mistaken.

The most important general problem with Chandrasekhar's work involves the distinction between, on the one hand, a) phonetic transcription systems such as IPAA (normally language-neutral and intended for technical linguistic work or the teaching of foreign-language phonetics), and, on the other, b) language-specific phonemic transcription systems (such as those based on IPAA) intended both for technical work and (by spelling-reformers and by linguists inventing new scripts) for actual everyday use. Chandrasekhar appears to be attempting to cover both of these sets of requirements at once, with no reasonable grounds for expecting success proportional to the efforts involved. Systems which are suitable in one of these contexts may not be at all suitable in the other. There are also some other problems with Navlipi.

Nevertheless, as noted, this book is very much worthy of attention by all with a serious interest in writing systems. For a fuller version of this review, see The Skeptical Intelligencer (ASKE, UK), 15 (2012), pp. 11-14.


Universal Awareness: A Theory of the Soul
Universal Awareness: A Theory of the Soul
by Michael Heap
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.42

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars intriguing and nothing if not provocative but not wholly persuasive, 24 Jan. 2012
This fascinating and well-written book represents the (provisional) results of psychologist Michael Heap's long-standing interest in one of the predominantly philosophical `Identity Problems'.
The key problem here involves the obvious fact that the relationship between each human being's consciousness and her/his own body, mind and person is utterly different from the relationship between that consciousness and the bodies, minds and persons of all other human beings, as perceived by the human being in question. Each of us is directly aware of much of our own mind, which we experience as embodied in a physical body of which we are also aware and which we can partly control. In contrast, our awareness of other minds is indirect; we observe other human beings (born before or after us) who are apparently similar to us in these respects, but we have no direct access to their minds or direct control over their bodies, and we learn about their thoughts, feelings and physical sensations by attending to what they do, say, etc. and comparing them with our own thoughts, feelings and sensations. Many of us have wondered why our consciousness and mind is inherently associated with this particular body and this particular person rather than with some other person.
Heap also considers other major issues regarding selfhood: whether our consciousnesses survive our physical deaths (perhaps as disembodied or reincarnated `souls'), the issue of the wholesale replacement of our physical parts over time and the appearance of continuing personal identity, and the relationship between the `host' (the physical body and mind), the `soul' (if this exists), and the person. He regards the mind/soul as something we do rather than `have' and the individual mind as a function of the physical person which ceases to operate on death.
However, Heap interprets the `individual' acts of persons in terms of the multiple influences which combine (not always through conscious thought processes) to enable such acts. He sees the universe as an organic whole, all parts of which exist permanently (although the passage of time within the universe is still considered real), and many parts of which (`hosts') possess consciousness. The conscious mental processes which constitute souls can be experienced individually only at the individual level and at specific times; but they pertain to a `Universal Soul' which is shared by all conscious beings acting as hosts. We survive death in the sense that what we commonly take to be our `own' soul/mind is in fact the `Universal Soul' and this obviously (on Heap's theory) does survive, as it is not subject to temporal restrictions at all. The `Universal Soul' includes all persons who are living at any given time, already deceased at that time or yet to be born. Each individual host is potentially aware of the consciousnesses of all these other hosts past, present and future, even if such awareness can actually occur only `one conscious event at a time'.
Heap acknowledges that most people will find it difficult to accept this theory, because it is counter to our `normal' interpretation of our mental lives. I suspect that his theory could not be refuted; but I can see no convincing positive evidence or argumentation suggesting that the world of conscious beings really does operate in this manner. The basic Identity Problem, in my view, remains unsolved.


Father Ernetti's Chronovisor: The Creation and Disappearance of the World's First Time Machine
Father Ernetti's Chronovisor: The Creation and Disappearance of the World's First Time Machine
by Peter Krassa
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars intriguing and nothing if not provocative but needs better evidence, 14 Sept. 2010
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This book reports what is probably the most striking case of linguistic (and other) information allegedly arising out of time travel or at least the viewing of past events. It involves the `Chronovisor', a mid-C20 invention by Ernetti which supposedly allowed observation (not participation) of past events. The author, Peter Krassa, has also written a largely positive biography of Erich von Daniken. An important piece of evidence involves a lengthy, previously unrecorded passage in Latin, around 10% of a play of which we know but which is largely lost. However, the text has been examined by a classical scholar, and there are anachronisms. In addition, the clustering in this passage of a high proportion of the surviving minor fragments is suspicious. Without better evidence, this must be the verdict on the entire story as well (although if the text really is a hoax someone proficient in Latin took a lot of trouble faking it.)


Afrikan Alphabets: The Story of Writing in Afrika
Afrikan Alphabets: The Story of Writing in Afrika
by Saki Mafundikwa
Edition: Paperback

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good & timely survey vitiated by slanted & inaccurate ideas, 7 April 2010
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This book provides a very interesting survey of an area often neglected in discussions of writing systems; indeed, as the author and the preface-writer Tadadjeu indicate, it is often assumed (though not by linguists) that African languages were seldom written before the introduction of alphabets (mainly by European colonisers) in modern times. The material covers the origins and characteristics of a wide range of scripts used to write various African languages.

The main problem with the book involves a considerable element of `Afrocentrism': the recent tendency (especially in the USA and elsewhere in the African diaspora) to exaggerate the role of Africa in world culture, by way of reaction to the previous, often racist down-playing of Africa's contributions to history and intellectual life (and to institutions such as slavery). Examples are the ready acceptance of Bekerie's extreme and often dubious claims about the Ethiopic `abugida' (intermediate between an alphabet and a syllabary), and the seriously exaggerated claims made for the Cameroonian Shu-Mom system (made especially strongly in the preface). Afrocentric pseudo-historical works are cited without any acknowledgment of their highly marginal status. Quasi-mystical notions involving `harmony' and spirituality are foregrounded in places.

There are also some oddities, commencing with the decision to spell the words Africa and African with K rather than C, on the ground that K is the letter normally used for the sound in question in Africa itself. The C-K contrast arises only in the context of the modern use of the roman alphabet, where either letter would serve. The Romans used the form with C because this was how they transliterated all Greek loans which had kappa (K) in the original. Furthermore, and more seriously, the scripts covered include various non-alphabetic systems (syllabaries, the Ethiopic abugida, etc); the title is thus misleading (possibly because alphabet is much the best known of these terms among non-linguists). In addition, some of the systems discussed are not true scripts but are instead semiotic systems not representing specific languages or their words, or even simply art or at best matters of graphic design. This may involve the desire to suggest that pre-modern African societies were more literate than was in fact the case (another manifestation of Afrocentrism). And in more general terms the level of linguistic expertise leaves something to be desired. For instance, the notions of ideograph and logograph are confused, and the comments about the ultimate origins of writing are rather naive and inaccurate.

In sum: while the book is informative on a little-known topic, it must be read with various caveats in mind.


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