Postal quote/directionality/talking to oneself

Daniel Everett dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Sat Nov 23 08:25:01 UTC 2002

On Friday, November 22, 2002, at 04:38  pm, Steve Long wrote:

> In a message dated 11/22/02 8:26:51 AM, jlmendi at POSTA.UNIZAR.ES writes:
> << Although this could sound paradoxical, I agree with Everett, but
> not with
> Haspelmath or Croft. If 'actuation' (and diffusion) is (are) social
> and not
> functional, then the explanation of lg change is not really functional
> >>
> The problem here I think is in viewing "social" as somehow opposite to
> 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.

Hmm. This misses the point. Functionality constrains where change will
occur and, let us say, in what direction. But lots of languages have
the same functional/structural points in their grammar which would,
under some views, favor change. Yet not all do. That is, two languages
have the same structure favoring change, yet one changes and the other
doesn't. Why not? The reason is likely to be social.

Or in other cases, there is no functional/structural pressure to
change, yet change nonetheless occurs. For example, Piraha (Amazonian)
seems to have had a perfectly good pronominal system, with tones and
clitics, yet it borrowed its current pronominal system from
Tupi-Guarani (probably Nheengatu, possibly Tenharim - see Thomason and
Everett 2001, in the penultimate (?) BLS proceedings and on Thomason's
website at U of Michigan).

Social and functional are not necessarily in competition, though they
seem to be much of the time. But they *are* different.

-- Dan Everett
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