Darwin-L Message Log 1:102 (September 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.

<1:102>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Sat Sep 11 21:59:27 1993

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 1993 23:05:51 -0400 (EDT)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: Re: Evolution in linguistics?
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro

Joseph Raben asks about explicit comparisons between linguistic evolution and
biological evolution.  Let me divide the question into two parts.

First, are there explicit comparisons between the process of language change
and the process of evolution (i.e. variation and selection in populations)?
That I can't say, although I feel there must be some out there.

Second, are there explicit comparisons between language history and
evolutionary history (phylogeny)?  The answer to this is a decided "yes".
Dick Burian correctly remembers one, by Platnick and Cameron in 1977, but
these comparisons have been made since the mid-1800s.  Darwin uses a couple
of linguistic examples in the Origin of Species, for example, to illustrate
the difficulties caused by the absence of intermediate forms.  This general
topic may be called the topic of "trees of history" -- the history of
entities like languages, species, and populations that have branching
genealogies.  I have a pretty good bibliography on "trees of history" and
will post it following this message.  The first section of the bibliography
lists several explicit phylogeny/philology comparisons.  (As mentioned
before, I plan to mount these bibliographies on the ukanaix computer sometime
soon, but am still learning the list management business so it may take a
little while.)

Perhaps the most comprehensive single volume on the topic, for those who
don't want to work through the whole bibliography, is:

 Hoenigswald, Henry M., & Linda F. Wiener, eds.  1987.  Biological Metaphor
 and Cladistic Comparison: An Interdisciplinary Perspective.  Philadelphia:
 University of Pennsylvania Press.

It contains a variety of historical and theoretical papers by systematists
and philologists, including a very good one by Cameron that expands upon his
earlier work with Platnick.  This is the only volume of its kind to date,
though, as far as I am aware.

Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner

Robert J. O'Hara (darwin@iris.uncg.edu)
Center for Critical Inquiry and Department of Biology
100 Foust Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A.

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