Language Change: The Interplay of Internal, External, and Extra-Linguistic Factors

Language Change: The Interplay of Internal, External, and Extra-Linguistic Factors

Language Change: The Interplay of Internal, External, and Extra-Linguistic Factors

Language Change: The Interplay of Internal, External, and Extra-Linguistic Factors

Synopsis

This volume focuses on the interface of different motivating factors that contribute to language change. It combines linguistic case studies with current theoretical debate and contains hitherto unpublished data from English, French, Karaim, Modern Greek, Jordanian, Spanish, Latin and Arabic.

Excerpt

The main aim of this volume is to provide evidence from a number of different languages and language families to counter the apparent tendency that has existed in the past to see the explanation of language change as a choice between “language-internal” (i.e. intra-systemic) and “language-external” factors (i.e. contact). Admittedly, demonstrating that, in many cases, more than one type of motivation may lie at the root of the language change is not, in itself, anything new – the notion of “multiple causation” was used and discussed by Thomason and Kaufman more than a decade ago (1988: 57). However, the present volume extends the work of Thomason and Kaufman by positioning these interacting forces at the very heart of the discussion and by broadening the frame of debate to encompass the written as well as the spoken language. Moreover, as well as considering the “traditional” dichotomy of “language-internal” and “language-external” motivations, the volume also examines the role of “extra-linguistic” (i.e. sociopolitical and economic) motivations in language change and their interactions with “language-internal” and “language-external” forces.

2. Dangerous dichotomies

The question of why languages change has preoccupied linguists for a long time. One of the earliest attempts to resolve the question was made by the Neogrammarians who, in the 1870s, claimed that all regular sound change is internally motivated. Although influential, the views of the Neogrammarians were not the only ones to be heard on this subject in the nineteenth century. Hugo Schuchardt, for example, was one early advocate of the study of language contact: “Ich habe behauptet, daß unter alien Fragen mit welchen die heutige Sprachwissenschaft zu tun hat, keine von größerer Wichtigkeit ist als die der Sprachmischung” “'I have maintained that of all the questions contemporary linguistics must tackle, none is of greater importance than that of language mixing'” (1884: 3).

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