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Darwin-L Message Log 4:69 (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.


<4:69>From mufw@midway.uchicago.edu  Fri Dec 17 11:46:44 1993

Date: Fri, 17 Dec 93 11:46:39 CST
From: "salikoko mufwene" <mufw@midway.uchicago.edu>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: RE: DARWIN-L digest 94

William Kimler writes:
>                                               As with all
>the comparisons of cultural change to biological evolutionary change,
>the difficulties for the metaphor lie in finding the proper
>equivalents.

  I think my rejoinder to Tom Cravens suggests how the metaphor may be
extended.

>Although they need an "ecological setting" for the
>idea of fitness to make sense, I am not quite certain what linguists
>want the "ecological setting" for linguistic fitness to mean.

  I am not speaking for linguists or linguistics, since to my knowledge the
ecology metaphor (at least with the term "ecology") is not commonly used.
One linguist I remember using the term is Einar Haugen, in the title of a
paper, "The ecology of language" (1971). In the second paragraph of the
paper he defines "language ecology" as "the study of interactions between
any language and its environment." Some lines below, he specifies that
society and nature are part of this ecology. I went a little bit farther in
my rejoinder to Cravens, but I speak for myself. There are, however, several
studies in which ecology is assumed or discussed but not explicitly
articulated, which makes it difficult to speak for linguistics without
having to do some research.
Salikoko S. Mufwene
Linguistics, U. of Chicago
s-mufwene@uchicago.edu
312-702-8531

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