Darwin-L Message Log 8:9 (April 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.

<8:9>From @SIVM.SI.EDU:SIPAD002@SIVM.SI.EDU  Wed Apr  6 07:58:14 1994

Date: Wed, 06 Apr 1994 09:52:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: "Cladistics" and "typology"
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

In response to Sally Thomason's note:

Sally, just as you hope to learn about systematics from the obscure
cladistic discussions here, perhaps we systematists can learn about
linguistic analysis by reading those various responses - so keep 'em

One problem with reconstructing phylogeny of various organisms has been
the fear that convergences, reversals, etc. may have swept clean the trail
of phylogeny.  We optimistically assume parsimony, but as eminent a soul
as Dave Swofford has cast doubt on our actually ability to reconstruct
phylogeny from what we know now.  Isn't this trail even more dubious
in language and other cultural or behavioral studies?  I don't mean
to discourage striving.  But do linguists feel nervous about the
prospects of ever succeeding?

Secondly, what actually is a language "family."  Is it analogous to so-called
"subspecies" in zoology - a fuzzy non-monophyletic, varying concept?

Thanks, Peter C.

Peter F. Cannell
Science Editor, Smithsonian Institution University Press
voice: 202/287-3738 ext. 328    fax: 202/287-3637

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