Postal quote

Wallace Chafe chafe at LINGUISTICS.UCSB.EDU
Wed Nov 20 04:41:28 UTC 2002

It's on page 283:

"Of course there are some scholars who hold that all linguistic change is
the result of language contact, but this position seems too radically
improbable to demand serious consideration today. Assuming then that some
if not all phonological changes are independent of contact, what is their
basis? It seems clear to the present writer that there is no more reason
for languages to change than there is for automobiles to add fins one year
and remove them the next, for jackets to have three buttons one year and
two the next, etc. That is, it seems evident within the framework of sound
change as grammar change that the 'causes' of sound change without language
contact lie in the general tendency of human cultural products to undergo
'nonfunctional' stylistic change."

Wally Chafe

> Daniel Everett wrote:
>> it may be worth mentioning to readers of this list that Paul Postal said
>> something years ago about language change that still seems about right
>> to me (though I cannot for the life of me remember where he said it). He
>> said that change actuation likely has the same kind of explanation as
>> why cars have 'fins' some years and not others, based on social
>> questions of style and taste (etc.) that fall outside of the study of
>> grammar per se.
> Postal made this claim in his 1968 book *Aspects of phonological theory*
> (New York: Harper & Row) - I do not have a copy handy to check on which
> page.
> Bert Peeters

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