Darwin-L Message Log 4:6 (December 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.

<4:6>From CRAVENS@macc.wisc.edu  Fri Dec  3 14:31:34 1993

Date: Fri, 03 Dec 93 14:32 CDT
From: Tom Cravens <CRAVENS@macc.wisc.edu>
Subject: Re: linguistic drifts or "imbalances"
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

It may be of some interest to the List that 'drift' is (sort of) a
technical term in linguistics, attributed to Edward Sapir, who wrote:

"Language moves down time in a current of its own making. It has a drift.
If there were no breaking up of a language into dialects, if each language
continued as a firm, self-contained unity, it would still be constantly
moving away from any assignable norm, developing new features
unceasingly and gradually transforming itself into a language so
different from its starting point as to be in effect a new language."
(Sapir, Edward. 1949 [1921]. Language. New York: Harcourt, Brace. p. 150.)

The implication is that 'drift' refers primarily to structural
(phonological, morphological, syntactic) realignments--internally
motivated for the most part, and evincing linguistic change--, rather
than lexical additions from external sources, with only lexical

An article examining the history and acceptance of the term is:

Malkiel, Yakov. 1981. Drift, slope, and slant. Language 57.535-570.

Tom Cravens

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