Darwin-L Message Log 4:62 (December 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.

<4:62>From CRAVENS@macc.wisc.edu  Thu Dec 16 16:58:13 1993

Date: Thu, 16 Dec 93 17:00 CDT
From: Tom Cravens <CRAVENS@macc.wisc.edu>
Subject: Re: fitness
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

A clarification.

I should, perhaps, clarify what I meant by "social parameters" of
language change. I was referring not to the change itself, or the
gamut of possible alternatives from which a successful change is
selected, but the conjunct of social features (gender, socio-economic
status, etc.) which define who accepts and/or promulgates a given
change. (Those interested in language change might want to take a
look at Jean Aitchison. 1991. _Language change: Progress or decay?_.
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0 521 42283 3 paperback. The writing
is crystal clear [not always guaranteed in linguistics!], and she does
an extraordinary job of summarizing and illustrating up-to-date thinking.)

Also, it may not have been clear from my cursory note that the
"generators" and the generated within the linguistic system as well
as ultimate selection/acceptance as change ("valuation?") are viewed
by at least some linguists as legitimate historical nuts for cracking,
but the first gets much more attention.

The system-internal changes are easier to deal with (which does not mean
easy to deal with), and they also hold promise as indications of how
linguistic systems work, so that's what most historical linguists
investigate. Social acceptance is definitely of interest in a full
description of linguistic change, but it's 1) not easy to deal with
(and all but impossible when examining past stages); 2) extra-systemic,
thus not attractive to those whose brief is confined to language-as-

This is my reading of things. It could, no doubt, stand some correction
by the other linguists on the list!

Tom Cravens

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