Richard Fester (Linguist)

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Richard Fester (* 1910 in Berlin ; † 1982 ) was a German author and paleolinguist. In his best-known work, Language of the Ice Age (published in 1962), he put forward the thesis that all languages ​​in the world have a unique common origin, the original vocabulary of which he believed he could reconstruct. However, Fester was hardly versed in questions of prehistory, linguistics or even paleoclimatology, and his extensive word equations are not supported by any sound laws.

Fester's theory of original sounds

From a comparison of a good 100 different languages, Fester hypothesized that six archetypes, which he called "archetypes" ("ba", "kall", "tal", "tag", "os" and "acq"), correspond to six life situations and form the basis of all languages.

He methodically follows on from the japhetitological four- element analysis of the Soviet linguist Nikolai Jakowlewitsch Marr , who starts from the four original syllables sal, ber, yon and rosch , which correspond to the original sounds uttered during work.

Fester drew further conclusions from his investigations that are not only of a linguistic nature.

The first of the original sounds he postulated, "ba", represents the formation of a simple syllable from a consonant formed with the help of the lips (this includes m, b, p, f and w) and an open vowel (mouth positions from a to o) and corresponds to what, in his opinion, is the easiest way to form a syllable with our speaking apparatus. In this respect, the first word could indeed have sounded something like "ba". Fester put together lists of words that could have developed from this sound combination. In the course of development, these have often been embedded in more complex structures, and they have also changed. In his list, which includes words such as "build", "fire", "mom" and "dad", he came to the conclusion that the original word "ba" initially referred to things that were exclusively related to people and to do with his environment, i.e. with human relationships and questions of existence.

The basic meaning of the original word "kall" (consonant (g, k) produced with tongue and palate in connection with a vowel and a consonant such as l, r, m or n) denotes a bulge, depression or an "enclosed cavity", so that Words like “hall”, “cell” and “source” or their reversals “hole” and “pool” were formed. The descendants of the original word “kall” describe a kind of vessel from which something can arise. The fact that many other derivatives (“Gyn”, “Girl”, “Queen”) have the meaning “woman” is explained by the fact that woman is the “vessel of life”. The high frequency of words with this stem (compared to the other original words) only allowed one conclusion for Fester: He interpreted this as evidence of an original matriarchy , a controversial thesis that was discussed in the book Woman and Power together with other authors . In it he states, among other things: “If you imagine the time of man on this earth as 2000 years, then there has only been male rule for a year. And if you represent that graphically, and a straight line two meters long, then the last section, the men's legal section, is only one millimeter long. "

The other four original sounds mean, according to Fester:
"valley" = cut or crack in the ground or in the body, the earth, below
"day" = upright person, gods, high
"os" = opening
"acq" = water

In a roughly comparable way, the lawyer and linguist Arnold Wadler wrote the book Der Turm von Babel - die Urgemeinschaft der Sprachen (1948 in English translation as One Language - Sources of all tongues ) in Switzerland in 1935 , in which he came to quite similar conclusions like Fester. The American author JP Cohane, who apparently did not know Fester's books, also came up with a reconstruction of 6 original words in his book The Key (Crown, New York) in 1969, which he, like Fester, deduced primarily from geographical terms, and especially a religious one Should have had meaning. Cohane's original words are: "Oc" the "Og" as in Okeanos, Kronos, Moloch and the old Irish god Oc; "Hawwah" as in Aloha , Yahweh , Aqua and Earth ; "Mana"; "Ash" or "Az"; "Tema" as in Thames, Tiamat and Athena; as well as "Eber" or "Abar" as in Berber , Hibernia , Calabria , Abruzzo , Hebrew , Ares and Mars .

In linguistics, these attempts are rejected as not scientifically founded. In the absence of phonetic laws, Fester is never able to convincingly differentiate loanwords and accidental word similarities (e.g. Deus in Latin and Theos in Greek) in completely unrelated languages ​​from possibly possible original relationships.

In modern comparative linguistics, too, some renowned scholars (such as Joseph Greenberg and Merritt Ruhlen ) have attempted (also not undisputed) to actually use the method of mass lexical comparison developed by Greenberg to find a proto-world and Reconstruct their follow-up talks (e.g. Nostratisch and other so-called macro families ). As was the case by Fester, possible false identifications ( false cognates ) are not excluded from the comparison from the outset, but not out of ignorance, but for certain methodological reasons. In the basic vocabulary of Proto-World reconstructed in this way, there are a number of parallels to Fester's archetypes, e.g. B. “* aya” (mother, father, grandmother) could correspond to Fester's “ba”, “* k'olo” (hole, pit, hollow) obviously corresponds to Fester's “kall”, “* tika” (earth, human) Fester's "tag", "* 'ag'wa" (water) undoubtedly corresponds to Fester's "acq". It therefore seems that some modern linguists are approaching Fester's unscientific theses.

The reconstruction of an original language presupposes the assumption of a monogenetic origin of human language (cf. monoglottogenesis ), which Fester also represented. Such a unique emergence of language a maximum of 200,000 years ago is also confirmed by more recent results in anthropology ( out-of-Africa theory ) and human genetics, such as B. the discovery of the "language gene" FOXP2 (see Svante Pääbo ) suggested. Fester's hypothesis that early prehistoric species had the ability to speak long before Homo sapiens is rather improbable from today's perspective, since the existence of the anatomical and physiological requirements of the larynx apparently alone is not sufficient for this. The mutation to language ability seems to have been the last big step in evolution within our species and also to explain why modern humans suddenly experienced an explosive culture boost around 60,000–100,000 years ago and thus long after their emergence and only then about the The civilization level of Homo erectus and the Neanderthal rises and spreads over the whole world.

Fester's theory of the colonization of America

In the context of his overall comparisons, Fester also believed that he could trace back words of the American Indians with Finnish words (also in some place names) to common origins. Probably out of ignorance of the once existing land bridge to America and also of the connection between the Uralic languages, he went into the assumption of a settlement across the North Atlantic. He thought of an ice bridge that had existed during the last ice age and that ice age hunters advanced over when they chased seals. Skis can already be seen on ancient rock drawings, and with them, argues Fester, the route could have been mastered by scouts, who were later followed by their clans. Fester postulates as an explanation for such a "White Bridge" a more southerly location of the North Pole (at the southern end of Greenland) during the Magdalenian period . This thesis, which was formulated in almost identical form in 1958 by the American Charles Hapgood , has been scientifically refuted beyond any doubt and contradicts all known facts (including the myth supported by Fester of the supposedly "shock-frozen" mammoths).

Findings from modern genetics (examples on the various pages of the "Atlas of the human journey") and linguistics ( Joseph Greenberg and others) suggest that America was divided into three linguistic waves of immigration (hence three major American language families: Amerindian , Eskimo-Aleut and Na -Dené ) was settled via the Bering Strait.


  • Ice Age language. The first six words of humanity . Herbig, Munich 1962, ISBN 3-7766-0980-X
  • The stone age is at your door. Excursions into the past . Kösel, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-466-11017-3
  • Stone Age Logs. Childhood of language . Herbig, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-7766-0674-6
  • The ice age was very different. The Secret of the Sunken Bridge to America . Piper, 1973, ISBN 3-492-02004-6
  • Original words of humanity. An archeology of language . Kösel, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-466-11014-9
  • with Marie EP König, Doris F. Jonas, A. David Jonas: Woman and Power. Five million years of woman's prehistory . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1979, ISBN 3-596-23716-5
  • with Doris F. Jonas, A. David Jonas: Children of the cave: The Stone Age character of man . Kösel, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-466-11010-6


  1. ^ Merritt Ruhlen: On the Origin of Languages . Chapter 14: Global Etymologies . Stanford University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8047-2805-4
  2. ED Jarasch: Genetic traces of the incarnation. ( Memento from December 6, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH.
  3. ^ The Peopling of the Americas

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