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David Marjanović
I think if we remain really conservative and strict about our correspondences (something previous Afro-Asiaticists haven't really done), we might find more than we think in terms of good correspondences.

This has worked out beautifully in Uralic: the list of Proto-Uralic roots was slashed and burned down to half of its former size in the 1980s, and has now increased again by work on Samoyedic and on words that had traditionally been thought to exhibit more or less irregular correspondences.

and should explore smaller possible subbranches first, like Berbero-Semitic.

As a phylogeneticist in biology, I disagree. The more languages you compare, the fewer gaps there will be in your dataset, and the more robust the resulting tree.

What should probably be done first in Afro-Asiatic is a lot of work on the less well understood branches. You cite Proto-Central-Chadic reconstructions above; AFAIK, that's because there is no Proto-Chadic reconstruction that you could use instead, and that is because the other branches of Chadic haven't been researched enough. Many individual Chadic, Cushitic and Omotic languages have never been described to the extent that they could be used in protolanguage reconstruction. Oh, sure, Omotic in particular may not belong to AA in the first place, but (what I know of) the current state of research can't tell either way with reasonable certainty.

As a phylogeneticist in biology, I disagree. The more languages you compare, the fewer gaps there will be in your dataset, and the more robust the resulting tree.

Hmm, it's complicated. Morphologically Berbero- Semitic relationships are much more promising than say, Chadic and Berber.

While you probably shouldn't exclude language from your the research, I think it can be informative to look for subbranches of Afro-Asiatic, and find a way to more solidly talk about that subbranch. With the huge amount of ambiguous data that studying ALL of afro-asiatic can generate, I think it there are chances you might overlook something, simply because I think it's probably outside of the scope of anyone's abilities to know all branches of Afro-Asiatic well enough to find good parallels.

Focusing then on very promising subbranches is perhaps a good idea.

But yes, I agree hard work on reconstructing the respective Proto-Languages is still very needed. I think there is some amount of work on Proto-Chadic (Jungraithmayr's Chadic Lexical Roots), but the most recent work, which I think is of incredibly high quality is Gravina's work (Open-Access!) on Proto-Central Chadic.

But of course, even that book is not an Etymological dictionary, Berber doesn't have one, even Semitic doesn't really have one. But we have two (very bad) Etymological dictionaries of Proto-Afro-Asiatic, which really seems the wrong way around.

I think Proto-Berber is coming to a point that we can write an etymological dictionary, and I'd love to write one one day, but it's hard to get funding for.

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