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Darwin-L Message Log 1:253 (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.


<1:253>From HOLSINGE@UCONNVM.BITNET  Wed Sep 29 07:47:57 1993

Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1993 08:43:02 -0500 (EST)
From: "Kent E. Holsinger" <HOLSINGE%UCONNVM.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU>
Subject: Re: Heritability and cultural evolution
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Sally Thomason makes an important point:

> [Descent with modification] is not the way to look at *all* resemblances
> among language families --- there are other sources of similiarities,
> including structural principles common to all human languages, easy-to-learn
> sounds and sound sequences, and other typological factors that do not in
> themselves provide evidence for descent with modification ....

This is clearly the case.  A biological systematist (more precisely, a cladist)
might describe this as saying that only uniquely derived features shared
between two or more languages provide evidence of common ancestry.

Since I know nothing about linguistic evolution, I'd be curious to know whether
there is evidence for independent origin of certain language features or if
common features of otherwise unrelated languages always represent borrowing.

-- Kent

+--------------------------------------------------------------------+
|  Kent E. Holsinger    Internet: Holsinge@UConnVM.UConn.edu |
|  Dept. of Ecology &     BITNET: Holsinge@UConnVM     |
|  Evolutionary Biology, U-43              |
|  University of Connecticut               |
|  Storrs, CT 06269-3043               |
+--------------------------------------------------------------------+

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