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Darwin-L Message Log 5:166 (January 1994)

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.


<5:166>From lgorbet@triton.unm.edu  Thu Jan 27 00:29:28 1994

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 1994 23:37:31 -0700
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: lgorbet@triton.unm.edu
Subject: Re: Posting re language adaptation

Brian Joseph wonders:

>Still, even if (counterfactually) the French nasalized vowels were
>the result of the climate in which the language was spoken, I submit
>that this is not quite the same as saying that the language, as if it
>were some sort of organism, adapted to the regions it was spoken
>in. Wouldn't such a view require there to be something beneficial
>*to the language*, as opposed to the speakers, in the putative
>adaptive change?  It is hard for me to see what value for the
>language as a system, for example, there would be in such a
>change.

No...not *beneficial*, just making it more likely to be passed on.  This
metaphor, it seems to me, is kinda like flowers (=languages) developing
features that insects or other animals which help pollinate them
(=speakers) "like".  It doesn't benefit the flowers *except in that they
are more likely to have offspring*.  A feature of a variety of a language
that makes it more easily learnable or whatever encourages its learning,
sociolinguistic spread perhaps, or in some other way may enhance the
likelihood that it persists to another generation.  Think of languages as
kinda parasites....

*  *  *
Larry Gorbet
University of New Mexico     lgorbet@triton.unm.edu
Anthropology Department      (505) 277-4524  OFFICE
Albuquerque, NM 87131-1086   (505) 883-7378  HOME

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