Darwin-L Message Log 1:241 (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.

<1:241>From sally@pogo.isp.pitt.edu  Tue Sep 28 17:52:38 1993

To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: On directionality in linguistic change
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 93 18:56:18 -0400
From: Sally Thomason <sally@pogo.isp.pitt.edu>

John Langdon asks if there is any "external influence determining
which [linguistic] changes" take place -- whether there's anything
in linguistic change that's analogous to "true natural selection
[, which] is given direction by an external influence -- the
inclusive environment".

  There may be, depending on what counts as environment.  Markedness
theory in linguistics (not confined to historical linguistics) makes
predictions that have relevance for linguistic change, about (for
instance) what sounds and sound sequences are easiest to pronounce
and to hear; such factors could be interpreted as (a crucial part of)
the environment in which language exists.  And the external social
environment in a language contact situation is *really* external, not
tied to the speaker/hearer; in that domain too certain predictions
can be made, and retrodictions, about what kind of situation must
have obtained in order to produce the observed results.  Rough
predictions, to be sure, but predictions nonetheless.

 Sally Thomason

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