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Darwin-L Message Log 5:223 (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.


<5:223>From delancey@darkwing.uoregon.edu  Sun Jan 30 18:53:31 1994

Date: Sun, 30 Jan 1994 16:52:49 -0800 (PST)
From: Scott C DeLancey <delancey@darkwing.uoregon.edu>
Subject: Re: Who, what, where, when, etc, Re: DARWIN-L digest 132
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Iain Davidson comments on my example of a Thai interrogative set
somewhat parallel to the Indo-European one:

> Thanks.  I think the hunt may be on.  Point is that the historical
> linguistic stuff that was so roundly criticised before may be hugely
> influence by the historical particularities of particular languages.  What
> we have in these  interrogative pronominals is something that is a
> fundamental feature of the behaviour of those creatures that first used
> language.  Plotting their history and relationships might be a manageeable
> and meaningful task.

I'm not sure what you're getting at here, but conclusions may be being
jumped to.  The process I referred to by which sets like these may
develop is a pretty normal aspect of language use--we see it in English
when we need a new interrogative that we don't have inherited from
Indo-European (e.g. _which way_, _how much_), and new forms can in
principle develop any time (currently _what time_ is beginning to
encroach on the turf of _when_, e.g. _What time should I pick you
up?_)  There's nothing particularly prehistoric about this process.
The Thai forms that I gave as examples are pretty shining new, and
probably developed within the last 1,000 years or so.  (I could check
on this, but it would take a little while).  Even the Indo-European
paradigm that we started with isn't that old--it reconstructs for
Proto-Indo-European, but even guessing that it had already been
around for a long time by then wouldn't make it more than maybe
10,000 years old--nowhere near coeval with "those creatures that
first used language".

Scott DeLancey                        delancey@darkwing.uoregon.edu
Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403

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