Essays on Time-Based Linguistic Analysis

By Charles-James N. Bailey | Go to book overview
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Prologue

When the publisher invited me half a decade ago to collect a number of my articles for the present volume--and I would like to express here at the outset my gratitude to the editors for deeming some of my work worthy of publication in this format--my first thoughts inclined to a series of papers on matters of English surface grammar that have been ignored or analysed incompletely or incorrectly in the better--known grammars. But it was concluded that what should be assembled here was rather a collection of articles on the time-based or developmental structuring of languages--how the patterning of development and its results in an existing grammar are invisible without comparing isolects (not those supposititious, non-comparable entities called 'idiolects')--together with a few additional articles on the cause of linguistic change and the origin of new languages.

When I wrote 'Trying to Talk in the New Paradigm' in 1971, I was seeking to figure out how to conceptualize and give expression to the notion of nonstatic analysis. I was aware that the synchronic-minilectal approach strait-jacketed analysis in ways that violated all intuitions about this exquisitely dynamic and variable phenomenon that we call language. And it was also obvious that 'diachronic' linguists merely adopted (without adapting) synchronic and anti- comparative models (and almost uniformly out-of-date ones at that) for the analysis of change and of comparative materials. None of these approaches has ever led to understanding the causes of change (cf. Bailey 1992a: 62, 143-4, 214, 237, 13-15, and also 7-8, 29, 49, 148-9, 151, 175, 187, 190, 203-4-which reflect ideas published over almost two decades, as evident at various places in the present volume). Looked at logically, how could a framework which excludes change and comparison from its scope hope to deal with change in any adequate manner?

Neither synchronics nor a transvestite diachronics which uses synchronic models can offer or has offered a theoretical understanding of real language, since explanation and prediction--in short, theory--obviously depend on understanding how structures have come to be ( Bailey 1992a: 6, 22, 27, 30, 56, 141). The writer's position agrees with Kiparsky ( 1968a: 10; cf. also 87-8, 91) obvious observation that the clue to the linguistic analysis of a perplexing phenomenon is analogous to 'a tiger lurking on the edge of a jungle, his stripes blending in with the background': The animal 'becomes visible the moment he

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