[Lingtyp] Temporal features?

Avery Andrews Avery.Andrews at anu.edu.au
Sun Sep 30 03:12:48 EDT 2018

Hi all,

I don’t see how a strictly temporal view as such is really viable; what is viable is a cultural view that includes time, not only as in Peter’s work as mentioned by Randy, but also for example Fred Karlsson’s work on the history of recursion (Syntactic recursion and iteration, in  Harry van der Hulst, ed., Recursion and Human Language. Berlin/New York: Mouton de
Gruyter, 2010. Pp. 43-67) , wherein, iirc, it is found that non-literate languages tend not to user recursion very much, but may start to do so if the speakers start a literary tradition, and the amount of recursion increases for about 400 years and then levels off or even declines.


From: Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] On Behalf Of Randy LaPolla
Sent: Sunday, 30 September 2018 4:44 PM
To: Joo Ian <ian.joo at outlook.com>
Cc: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] Temporal features?

Hi Ian,
Peter Trudgill has addressed this issue, e.g. in “Societies of intimates and linguistic complexity” in DeBusser & LaPolla eds., Language Structure and Environment: Social, Cultural, and Natural Factors. Benjamins, 2015.

Sent from my iPhone

On 30 Sep 2018, at 12:04 PM, Joo Ian <ian.joo at outlook.com<mailto:ian.joo at outlook.com>> wrote:
Dear all,

We all know that languages spoken in a certain area (for example, Mainland Southeast Asia) tend to share areal features. But what about time? Do languages spoken at a certain time period, such as say, Bronze Age, share a certain feature distinct from the features of languages spoken during, say, Iron Age?
If so, then would a sample of languages spoken only at a certain time period (such as the 21st century) also be a temporally biased sample, similar to how a sample of languages spoken only in Europe would be an areally biased sample?
In order to create a trully non-biased sample of languages, is it also necessary to avoid temporal bias?

I can think of several “temporal features”:

  1.  Vocabulary. Languages spoken before the 20th century would not have any words referring to “computer.” Bronze Age languages would have no words related to iron.
  2.  Metaphors. Some have argued that some metaphors, such as TIME IS MONEY, arose only via industrialization (although I have argued against this<https://www.academia.edu/37137427/TIME_IS_MONEY_in_Classical_Chinese>, claiming that it has also existed in Classical Chinese)
  3.  Gender-bias. Most languages we speak today are biased towards male, for example the generic pronoun being the masculine singular pronoun. But in the 21st century, where we strive for gender equality, we see that there are conscious changes being made to fix this gender-bias.

But in terms of syntax, morphology, phonology, etc. are there specific temporal features?
I would appreciate any insights on this issue.

From Hong Kong,
Ian Joo
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