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Darwin-L Message Log 1:232 (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.


<1:232>From rho@linda.CS.UNLV.EDU  Tue Sep 28 12:52:52 1993

To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Heritability and cultural evolution
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1993 10:50:34 -0700
From: "Roy H. Ogawa" <rho@linda.CS.UNLV.EDU>

In message <01H3HBWQXJXY005U8X@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU>you write:
 >I think it's pretty well agreed that people tend to speak the language of
 >their parents and their communities (not necessarily the same thing of
 >course). And I'm willing to go along with the hypothesis of descent-
 >with-modification as an explanation for the resemblances among languages
 >and language families. But not natural selection.

I agree that natural selection does not apply for whole languages.
But I think that natural selection occurs in the small within a language.
People may speak the language of their parents and communities but maybe
not (lots of argumentation on this) because of language genesis.
The area in which actual language genesis occurs seems to be with Pidgins
and Creoles.  Otherwise it is language change or new language acquisition.
It is pretty well understood how Pidgins are created and maintained.  But
the genesis of Creoles is not.  Maybe children invent them (Bickerton),
maybe adults invent them, maybe teenagers invent them and replace their
first languages (both their parents' first language and their parents'
pidgin).

 >Now what? There are some next questions, e.g.: (1) people pretty much tend
 >to speak the language of their conquerors too, or at least their
 >children do. Do we have a theory for this? (2) Sometimes one segment of a
 >society adopts someone else's language for many purposes. 19th century
 >Russia is an example, where French and German were used in court and
 >scientific community on a routine basis. Do we have a theory for this?

There is work in linguistics on these concepts under Language Contact
in the field of Sociolinguistics.  A book is by Thomason and Kauffman
whose title escapes me but it does have `Language Contact' in it.
It also discusses Pidgins and Creoles a bit and the History of English
from the Language Contact point of view.  A good book on Pidgins and
Creoles is a 2 volume set by Ian Holm with that as title.

Roy H. Ogawa
Computer Science
University of Nevada at Las Vegas
rho@unlv.edu

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