Darwin-L Message Log 1:163 (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.

<1:163>From GA3704@SIUCVMB.SIU.EDU  Fri Sep 17 11:02:07 1993

Date: Fri, 17 Sep 93 10:56:20 CST
From: "Margaret E. Winters" <GA3704@SIUCVMB.SIU.EDU>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Progress and Taxonomies

Two, partly disjoint, comments:

1. That "Old Chinese" taxonomy is somewhere in the writing of the
surrealist, Borges.  I wouldn't swear to it since I read the original
years ago, but I have always understood it as a parody (among other
things) of scientific taxonomies.

2.  In the 19th century, linguistics worried about progress in
language evolution, given a basic typology of languages as
isolating (each form is a separate meaning like Chinese), agglutinating
(forms may be strings of meanings, but each is clearly separable from
the others) and inflecting (like Latin, English... where multiple
meanings may be encoded in one form - Latin -o is first person,
singular, present tense, active, etc.).  The question of progress
was argued in two directions: either movement toward isolating was
progress since one form = one meaning was the preferred state, or
movement toward inflecting was progress since western
languages were inflected and more sophisticated things were
stated in such languages.  I'm not claiming that all of this,
obviously, is system-internal as argumentation, but that these
conflicting views of progress in evolution of languages competed.

By the way, since I am new on the list, let me introduce myself.
I'm a historical linguist interested in syntax and semantics, and
also do some work in the history of the field of linguistics

           Margaret Winters

P.S.  My apologies if the linguistics point has already been
made.  As I said, I'm new to the list - and enjoying it|

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