Evolutionary change, 'functional' and 'social'

Daniel Everett dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Sat Nov 23 08:34:26 UTC 2002

On Friday, November 22, 2002, at 05:56  pm, Bill Croft wrote:

>      As Dan Everett observes, one must distinguish between
> innovation (actuation) and propagation for evolutionary change
> (those that occur by replication), such as language change. For
> that reason, there is no incompatibility between Labov's
> critique of functionalism and what I proposed (pace Dick
> Hudson). Only innovation is 'functional'; propagation is social.
> Labov and I agree on that point. But I'm not sure who has said
> actuation/innovation is 'social', as Dan has stated in his
> posts.
>       (Actually, I am too hasty in equating 'actuation' with
> 'innovation' here. As far as I understand Weinreich, Labov &
> Herzog 1968, the actuation question is both the question of how
> innovation occurs and the question of when & where it occurs.
> The latter question is tantamount to deterministic prediction.
> This doesn't really have a place in a probabilistic model such
> as evolutionary change, as several here and elsewhere have
> noted.)

My definition of 'actuation' is the point (social/temporal) at which an
idiolectical change begins to propagate. It was influenced by Weinrich,
Labov, and Herzog, but is not identical to their view.

-- Dan

Dan Everett
Professor of Phonetics and Phonology
Department of Linguistics
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
Manchester, UK
M13 9PL
Phone: 44-161-275-3158
Department Fax: 44-161-275-3187

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