Language and Languages: An Introduction to Linguistics

By Willem L. Graff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
CAUSES OF PHONETIC AND LINGUISTIC CHANGE

More Fundamental Explanations Sought

Many of the sins of the Neo-Grammarians in regard to phonetic laws and analogy can be summed up in the adage of medieval philosophy "cum hoc, ergo propter hoc." Mere accompanying circumstances are presented as necessary prerequisites without which certain effects would not have come about. In the meantime it has been shown that in many of our phonetic laws there exists no essential or inclusive relationship between the circumstantial premises and the following results, and so we are still confronted with the need of a more fundamental explanation. Why is it that sound changes occur at all, and why do they follow certain channels here, others there? Why are they so astonishingly regular and uniformly spread over large territories? Why are the alterations so few and slow during one period or in one language, so numerous and fast at other times or elsewhere? Questions like these are of the greatest interest, since the answers would at once enable us to group the many scattered and apparently independent changes under one or a few general headings and to understand the relationship that holds them together. Unfortunately, the attempts that have been made in this connection have only yielded a number of relatively plausible theories which give no more than a partial account of the phenomena.


Climate

In the first place, climatic conditions are sometimes alleged to be the cause of linguistic change in general and of phonetic

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Language and Languages: An Introduction to Linguistics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Illustrations xxiii
  • Abbreviations xxv
  • Phonetic and Other Symbols xxvii
  • Glossary xxxi
  • Part I - Constituents and Mechanism 1
  • Chapter I - The Phonetic Element in Language 3
  • Chapter II - Meaning 71
  • Chapter III - Units of Signification 94
  • Chapter IV - Accentuation 161
  • Chapter V - Categorizing in Language 186
  • Part II - Drift and Diversification 213
  • Chapter VI - Phonetic Change 215
  • Chapter VII - Causes of Phonetic and Linguistic Change 258
  • Chapter VIII - Changes Involving Meaning 277
  • Chapter IX - Principles of Language Classification 319
  • Chapter X - The Indo-European Family 352
  • Chapter XI - The Non-Indo-European Languages 397
  • Index 473
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