Darwin-L Message Log 1:246 (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.

<1:246>From dpolicar@MIT.EDU  Tue Sep 28 22:20:57 1993

Date: Tue, 28 Sep 93 22:55:13 EST
From: dpolicar@MIT.EDU (David Policar)
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Heritability and cultural evolution

> (Correct me if I am wrong-- I am an evolutionary anthropologist, not a
> linguist.) True natural selection is given direction by an external
> influence-- the inclusive environment-- even if that direction is not
> predictable.

Well, I'm just a layman, but I'll toss my two cents in -- certainly,
there are differences between languages in terms of what can be said in
them, and how quickly and easily they adopt new words for the things
that *cannot* be said in them.  Since there is an external environment
that contains things to talk about of varying value, it is
(theoretically) possible to compare languages in terms of the positive
and negative selective value of talking about the things that it is
easier and harder to talk about in it.

But yes, if there is no mechanism whereby the environment exerts
pressure on a language's development, then that development is more
analogous to genetic drift than evolution.

--dave policar

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