Postal quote

Daniel Everett dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Wed Nov 20 08:02:10 UTC 2002

Wally's speed and organization in finding and posting this quote for
the rest of us is quite impressive (and to Bert Peeters, thanks as
well). Looking at it now, after all these years, I can see that I do
not agree with all of it, but the basic idea, that change actuation is
a social phenomenon, seems right.


On Wednesday, November 20, 2002, at 04:41  am, Wallace Chafe wrote:

> 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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