Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method

Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method

Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method

Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method

Synopsis

How and why are languages constantly changing? Historical lingustics seeks to find out by going beyond the history of individual languages to discover the general principles which underlie language change. But our evidence is severely limited. Most of the world's languages are stillunwritten, and even in areas with long written traditions, such as Europe and the Near East, documentary evidence stretches only a little way back along the path of the historical development of languages. How, then, can we uncover our long linguistic prehistory, and what can it tell us aboutlanguage change?This new textbook is an accessible general guide for students with an elementary knowledge of linguistics to the methods and theoretical bases of linguistic reconstruction, and of newer, less well established principles such as the application of linguistic universals and language typology, andquantitative techniques. Finally he reviews the principles for establishing language relationships and for uncovering information about the homelands and cultures of the prehistoric speakers of reconstructed languages.

Excerpt

After several decades of relative neglect, historical linguistics has increased in both importance and popularity in recent years. Not only have considerable advances been made in the understanding of language change, but specialists in other areas of linguistics, such as syntactic theory, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, and language typology, are increasingly making appeals to historical evidence in support of their arguments.

This renewed interest is reflected in the provision of courses and textbooks; courses in historical linguistics are now commonplace, and new textbooks appear with increasing frequency. However, most recent textbooks are concerned more with the theory of language change than with the methods of linguistic reconstruction. Though most contain a chapter or two on the. Comparative Method and Internal Reconstruction, these form only a small part of a larger whole where the focus is elsewhere. Some recent works omit discussion of reconstruction altogether.

Yet reconstruction continues to be an important issue in historical linguistics, and there have been significant developments in this field as well as in the general theory of language change. Some of the major areas of current controversy in historical linguistics--such as the significance of language typology, or Greenberg's classification of the native languages of America--are matters of concern for the principles and practice of reconstruction, and it is therefore important that the theoretical and methodological questions relating to reconstruction should continue to be addresed, and that students should be exposed to them, if they are to be given a balanced and up-to-date view of the subject. And it continues to be the case that a great deal of the evidence for language change is from reconstructed sources, in spite of the current interest in ongoing change in contemporary language.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.