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Darwin-L Message Log 1:223 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<1:223>From delancey@darkwing.uoregon.edu  Mon Sep 27 15:47:44 1993

Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1993 13:45:00 -0700 (PDT)
From: Scott C DeLancey <delancey@darkwing.uoregon.edu>
Subject: Re: Language Change
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

On Mon, 27 Sep 1993, Rich Hilliard wrote:

> QUESTION for the historical linguists:
> I once read a paper by Robin Lakoff, "Another Look at Drift" which,
> if I recall correctly [it was a LONG time ago], suggested that
> language evolution, at least in the analytic/synthetic dimension was
> cyclical, rather than linear or progressive.  What the status of ideas
> like that?

This is an old idea, and essentially true.  That is, language change
in general is clearly not unidirectional.  It is easy to find examples
of analytic languages developing more synthetic structures (which some
19th century linguists thought was the universal pattern of change),
and of languages with more synthetic patterns changing in the other
direction (which Otto Jespersen claimed was the universal tendency).
On the other hand, you won't necessarily find a neat cyclical pattern
in the history of any given language.

Scott DeLancey
Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403

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