Darwin-L Message Log 1:240 (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.

<1:240>From GA3704@SIUCVMB.SIU.EDU  Tue Sep 28 17:11:30 1993

Date: Tue, 28 Sep 93 17:07:39 CST
From: "Margaret E. Winters" <GA3704@SIUCVMB.SIU.EDU>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: drift

Rich Hilliard asks about the status of the notion of cyclical
change in historical linguistics.  It is an idea which is still
very much alive and addresses various kinds of language change -
synthetic (forms which contain several semantic units which may
not be dividable by dividing the parts of the physical word) vs.
analytic (forms can be taken apart) is only one of them.  Another
well studied cycle has to do with negation - the use of what
are called vivid language forms to reinforce negation (`at all'
`not a step'l...) which may in time become the negatives
themselves - French negative pas comes in fact from the word
`step' and at some point reinforced the negation of _ne_ which
comes directly from the Latin.  Now _ne_ is disappearing, at
least in casual speech, and _pas_ is the main negator.  A third
is pendular - languages tend to swing (over long periods of time)
from basic Object - Verb word order (like Japanese today) to
Verb - Object (like English) and back again.  I think bibliographies
are too long for the list, but I can send some references to
anyone who asks me personally.
Oh yes - one other point.  This is not linear, I agree, but I
am not sure these cyclical changes don't show as much (or as
little) progress as any other - as I and others have said
a couple of times already, progress in change is hard to
measure or even recognize.
          Margaret Winters
P.S.  I've just finished a paper on cyclical changes so you
all paid the price - a much longer answer than I would have
posted otherwise!

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