Darwin-L Message Log 7:2 (March 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.

<7:2>From CRAVENS@macc.wisc.edu  Thu Mar  3 22:35:41 1994

Date: Thu, 03 Mar 94 22:34 CDT
From: Tom Cravens <CRAVENS@macc.wisc.edu>
Subject: Re: Introductions are welcome
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

In a belated reply to John Sutton, let me say that, from the description
given, superposition is a topic of interest in historical linguistics,
although I've never seen it given that name. In the phonological realm,
it's usually referred to as rule competition or rule clash or something
similar. See if this fits under superposition:

The working hypothesis is that sound change is regular. It isn't, it
turns out, but the hypothesis holds just well enough that (apparent)
exceptions to regular change call for investigation. Among the more
interesting of the ifs and buts is the case of competing sound changes.
Sound change B (changing X to Y) comes into competition with sound change
A (X to Z) before A has run its course, so that the ultimate result is both
X > Y and X > Z, an irregularity in the overall view, but due to the
clash of two regularities.

In an ideal clean case such as the illustration, the emergent mixture
would have the original ingredients (results of the earlier rule) distinct
and distinguishable. In the real world of scanty documentation and changes
long digested by the system, the situation of overlay is usually much less
clear, in my experience, but the discrepancy is still noticeable.

Is this superposition in the sense intended?

Tom Cravens

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