Darwin-L Message Log 5:180 (January 1994)

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.

<5:180>From sally@pogo.isp.pitt.edu  Thu Jan 27 11:25:50 1994

To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Posting re language adaptation
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 94 12:33:25 -0500
From: Sally Thomason <sally@pogo.isp.pitt.edu>

   Brian Joseph asks what it would mean for a language to be adapted
to a particular climate.  I don't have a real example of that,
but I do know of one serious paper that suggests that the
idea of language being influenced by geography is not necessarily
entirely silly: Ian Catford, in the 1974 Chicago Linguistic Society
volume, has an article about the possibility that voicing of
consonants might be disfavored in languages whose speakers live
high up in high mountains (such as the Caucasus); his argument
has to do with the greater difficulty of achieving the right
subglottal pressure -- I may have this garbled, I haven't reread
the article for some time -- to get phonetic voice, i.e. vibration
of the vocal cords.  Catford didn't claim that the effects of
altitude would dictate lack of voiced consonants, but rather that
there might be a tendency to devoice originally voiced consonants
in a language whose speakers moved high up into the mountains.

    Sally Thomason

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