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
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.

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