Darwin-L Message Log 1:252 (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.

<1:252>From HOLSINGE@UCONNVM.BITNET  Wed Sep 29 07:39:26 1993

Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1993 08:29:21 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Heritability and cultural evolution
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

> I'm willing to go along with the hypothesis of descent-with-modification
> as an explanation for the resemblances among languages and language
> families.  But not with natural selection.

I never intended to suggest that natural selection was a component of the
explanation.  What we *do* have is a reasonable explanation for the *pattern*
of relationships among major language groups (at least Indo-European language
groups).  Notice that this theory actually makes some pretty strong claims:

1) All Indo-European languages are lineal descendants of a single common
 ancestral tongue, just as French, Italian, and Spanish share Latin as a
 common ancestor.

2) The diversity of language groups is accounted for largely by descent with
 modification, i.e. local language groups diverging from one another.

The second of these is a particularly strong claim because many languages,
like English, show extensive borrowings ("hybridization") from languages in
other parts of the family tree.  The claim is that divergence among local
language groups has been more important in producing the diversity among
Indo-European languages than has borrowing among them.

-- Kent

|  Kent E. Holsinger    Internet: Holsinge@UConnVM.UConn.edu |
|  Dept. of Ecology &     BITNET: Holsinge@UConnVM     |
|  Evolutionary Biology, U-43              |
|  University of Connecticut               |
|  Storrs, CT 06269-3043               |

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