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Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time

by Johanna Nichols

  • ISBN: 9780226580562
  • ISBN10: 0226580563

Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time

by Johanna Nichols

  • List Price: $87.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 07/01/1992
  • ISBN: 9780226580562
  • ISBN10: 0226580563
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Description: Scholars have long sought to discover whether there is a detectable genetic relationship among the world's languages, whether linguistic methods can demonstrate that all of the world's languages evolved from a single "mother tongue". In this book, Johanna Nichols offers original and important material that is likely to change significantly the way this exploration is conducted. For over a century, the comparative method has been the principle analytic tool in the reconstruction of prehistoric languages from which historically attested languages have developed. This method looks for regular laws which govern sound correspondences among the cognate words of related languages. The problem with cross-linguistic work based on theories of sameness is that it is necessarily limited to seeking genetic relatedness and reducing structural variety to types. It is restricted to shallow time depths and cannot draw inferences from diversity. But unless it is fairly well understood in what ways languages may group and differ over great depths of time within a geographical area, speculation about whether a certain isolated shared feature signals a genetic relationship is futile. In this groundbreaking book, Nichols proposes means of describing, comparing, and interpreting linguistic diversity, both genetic and structural, and thereby provides the foundations for a theory of diversity based upon population science. Using a database of 174 languages representing the world's linguistic families and surveying a number of structural features and grammatical categories as well as geographical distribution, Nichols establishes the relative frequencies and markedness of grammatical properties, theirinteraction with each other, their relative diachronic stability, and their correlations with geographical location and type of linguistic area. Maps, tables, appendices, and a reproduction of the sample and database will enable readers to test Nichols's conclusions, explore further hypotheses, expand existing databases, and assign cross-linguistic problems to students. This book will be of critical interest to linguists, archaeologists, population specialists, and anyone interested in ways of classifying mankind.
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