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Darwin-L Message Log 2:16 (October 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.


<2:16>From LANGDON@GANDLF.UINDY.EDU  Mon Oct  4 10:49:31 1993

Date: Mon, 4 Oct 1993 10:49:31 -0500
From: "JOHN LANGDON"  <LANGDON@GANDLF.UINDY.EDU>
Reply-To: "JOHN LANGDON"  <LANGDON@GANDLF.UINDY.EDU>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Ease of articulation

In message <23100121550438@vms2.macc.wisc.edu>  writes:
> 	Let me ask a question of the biologists:
> 	A person carries around a variety of codes (languages) and can engage in
> code-switching (shifting to a more polite register in front of an elder, or a
> more formal register in the presence of a teacher, or into a foreign language
> when appropriate). How would you deal with these or parallel them in your
> field? The two languages which a bilingual speaks usually influence each
> other to some extent but for a long period of time these can coexist in the
> same place and in the same speakers (and over many generations). I assume we
> should be treating each of these codes (languages) as the "individuals" in
> our trees and treating language contact as hybridization (as previously
> discussed). The languages not the carriers (people) are the object of study
> and historical tracking.

I understand the original analogy to be between language and genotype, since
these are the two concepts that evolve. However, use of a languge (and that is
what is being considered above) would be analogous to a behavioral strategy, or
to a particular phenotypic expression of the genome. Are there biological
instances in which an organism displays different strategies/phenotypes in
different contexts? Certainly. A leopard locomotes one way in a tree and
another on the ground. A baboon is more wary for predators in the open than
when in a social group, where it is more concerned with conspecifics. A
chameleon turns different colors in different environments.

This appears to be a discussion of adaptive flexibility or generality within an
individual vs. long term evolutionary adaptation. As with language, some
individual organisms are more flexible or successfully adaptive than others.

JOHN H. LANGDON      email LANGDON@GANDLF.UINDY.EDU
DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY    FAX  (317) 788-3569
UNIVERSITY OF INDIANAPOLIS   PHONE (317) 788-3447
INDIANAPOLIS, IN 46227

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