I won’t pretend I know any better, but…
I’ve just found a book called The Sound of Meaning: Comparative Linguistics of Ancient Egyptian, Maya and Nahuatl by Charles William Johnson. I know next to nothing about Mayan or Nahuatl, and only a little about ancient Egyptian, but I’m pretty certain that absolutely no plausible connection can be made among the three of them. As the online blurb says
This book attempts to show linguistic correspondences between these languages, and posits the notion that these cultures come from an identical source language.
Correspondences, fine, but “cultures com[ing] from an identical source language”? Culture doesn’t come from language. It’s like saying the word for horse is ‘horse’ because those three sounds have equine qualities. There’s no correspondence between language and culture at a fundamental level. I could speak English and yet be completely Chinese in my outlook on life. Culture can, of course, influence language (which is where sociolinguistics comes in), but the link between culture X and language Y is completely random, just as the place where they keep your money could be called a wok if we all agreed that’s what it should be called. There’s no particular reason why it’s called a bank.
As far as I’m aware, Ancient Egyptian was an Afro-Asiatic language, related to a well-documented family of languages spoken in Africa and the Middle East. The description of Ancient Egyptian on wikipedia (which – sucks to you, Nanny – I’m reading via answers.com) isn’t telling me anything unexpected about it. I knew, for example, that we don’t know the vocalism of Ancient Egyptian.
Neither Mayan nor Nahuatl have any of the characteristic features of the Afro-Asiatic languages. They don’t appear to be related in spite of their close geographical proximity. Nahuatl is Uto-Aztecan; the Mayan languages are a family unto themselves. In fact, from one description of Mayan I’ve seen, I could claim that there’s a link with Chinese.
Think about it. Qin Shihuang, the first emperor, has a tomb built in the shape of a hill (i.e., a pyramid) near Xi’an. Where did he get the idea? Egypt. How do we know? Because in ancient Mesopotamia, they had ziggurats, thus proving that the idea was transported along the Silk Road.The Egyptians come into contact with the people of Central America, but they sail west through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic. The Chinese, on the other hand, sail east across the Pacific. Everyone ends up in the same place and all their languages are related.
How could we have all been so foolish as to miss these facts when they are so obvious? I should write to the Minehead Gazette at once.