Darwin-L Message Log 1:255 (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.

<1:255>From wigtil@oerhp01.er.doe.gov  Wed Sep 29 10:44:42 1993

From: David Wigtil <wigtil@oerhp01.er.doe.gov>
Subject: Re: drift
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 93 11:49:37 EDT

One item that needs to be noted here is the
wide variability of linguistic forms within
a single community and even within a single
speaker, the phenomenon of allophones and of
alternative syntactic/morphological patterns.
If I pronounce the phoneme /k/ sometimes as
a palatal stop (or is the term apical? anyway,
positioned where French positions its
-gn- nasal), sometimes as a velar, sometimes
virtually as a guttural, or if I occasionally
neglect to aspirate it, or if I sometimes
release it in word-final position and
sometimes do not release it, then these varia-
tions might be viewed as the neutral changes
of linguistic evolution, might they not?
Similarly, the alternation in German of
subject-object-verb word order in indirect
statement with subject-verb-object order, or
the English use of both S-V-IO-DO order and
S-V-DO-prepositional phrase to denote the
indirect object, are these part of the drift
of language change, or are they only some of
the causative factors of historically observ-
able drift?
I suspect that it is too easy to assign an
existence as independent as a biological
organism to a "language", when the latter is
a far less identifiable entity, qua entity.

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