Postal quote/directionality/talking to oneself

Jose-Luis Mendivil Giro jlmendi at POSTA.UNIZAR.ES
Fri Nov 22 17:43:00 UTC 2002

At 11:38 -0500 22/11/02, Steve Long wrote:
>The problem here I think is in viewing "social" as somehow opposite to

Of course, we are not using 'functional' in the same sense. Adopting a linguistic innovation may be functional in social terms, but it needn't be linguistically or structurally functional.

>Martin Haspelmath's original point was that linguistic change has
>"directionality", something that apparently does not occur in "fashion" - and
>therefore that such change must be functional.

The problem lies in the 'therefore'. Certain directionality (i.e. some 'paths' open to change based on structural patterns, phonetic conditions, economy, etc.) does not imply that the cause of the change was functional. What's the matter then when p does not change into f and remains as it is for hundreds or thousands of years? Is this functional inclination waiting for his opportunity to be satisfied?

If the motivation for the spread of a change is social, it is not (linguistically) functional; otherwise changes should not propagate following social factors such as sex, prestige, etc. As Lass puts it: "Because unless a motivation is arbitrary, its implementation ought not to be subject to contingent factors like age, sex, prestige, etc." (1997: 364).

He is even more radical: "Say a change starts in one speaker, or a very small group, and moves from that focus along networks (...) This must mean that the 'reasons' for the change can't be functional, because in fact they are different for the initiator(s) and the followers; the motivations for the latter are functional. Or did they pick up the original motivations as well, suddenly discovering under the pressure of prestige that they really had the same motivations all along?" (Lass, 1997: 364).

Jose-Luis Mendivil

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