[Lingtyp] Temporal features?

Eitan Grossman eitan.grossman at mail.huji.ac.il
Sun Sep 30 09:55:15 EDT 2018

Hi Ian, hi all,

This has been discussed in the context of the Uniformitarian Assumption,
which people have written about from all sorts of perspectives (with a very
detailed disquisition on this in Brian Joseph and Richard Janda's
introduction in their Handbook of Historical Linguistics). Fritz Newmeyer
has also written about it, as have quite a few others.

As for studies that look at this from an empirical perspective, you might
be interested in the following in the domain of phonology. All are easily
found on the internet.

Marsico, E. 1999. What can a database of protolanguages tell us about the
last 10,000 years of soundchanges? In Proceedings of the XIVth
International Congress of Phonetic Sciences , pages 353–356, San Francisco.
Marsico, E., S. Flavier, A. Verkerk & S. Moran. 2018. BDPROTO: A Database
of Phonological Inventories from Ancient and Reconstructed Languages.

Moran, S & A. Verkerk. 2018. Differential rates of change in consonant and
vowel systems. In Cuskley, C., Flaherty, M., Little, H., McCrohon, L.,
Ravignani, A. & Verhoef, T. (Eds.): The Evolution of Language: Proceedings
of the 12th International Conference (EVOLANGXII). doi:10.12775/3991-1.077



On Sun, Sep 30, 2018 at 7:04 AM Joo Ian <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
> http://ianjoo.academia.edu
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