[Lingtyp] Proto-World explains universals

Nicholas Evans nicholas.evans at anu.edu.au
Thu Jan 23 20:53:17 EST 2020


THanks Martin for pointing out this interesting discrepancy. I would be very sad if my views never changed with the passage of time and the surging of new ideas.... I'm not sure I would now agree with that 2009 passage

Best NIck
________________________________
From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of Haspelmath, Martin <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>
Sent: Thursday, January 23, 2020 10:24 PM
To: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] Proto-World explains universals

There is an interesting tension between one passage in Evans (2017):


“widespread multilingualism should increase the rates of language change, in particular the rate at which new typological features appear.” (Evans 2017: 930)

and one passage in Evans & Levinson (2009):


“The structural properties of language change on a near-glacial time scale. ... a structural feature within a single large language-family like Austronesian changes on average just once about every 50,000 years. What that implies is that all the languages we now sample from are within structural spitting distance of the ancestral tongue! It is quite surprising in this light that typologists have been able to catalogue so much linguistic variation.” (Evans & Levinson 2009: 477)

Dear Colleagues

In connection with this, you might be interested in the attached article where I argue that the old battlefield of 'monogenesis vs polygenesis' should be reconceptualised to one of 'polysemigenesis', where language arose by putting together various semi-languages, developed in separate places, and pooling their 'inventions' in a multilingual environment. That has obvious consequences for Martin's question.

Best, Nick Evans
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From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org><mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of Ian Maddieson <ianm at berkeley.edu><mailto:ianm at berkeley.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2020 12:50 PM
To: David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de><mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>
Cc: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org<mailto:lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org> <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org><mailto:lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] Proto-World explains universals

I agree with David that monogenesis of human language is unlikely for various reasons, but I think Martin’s
original question had to do with whether an argument had been presented in the linguistic literature with the
specific form of claiming that a universal exists because it was in the prototype of all languages. An argument
of this basic form could be made without assuming monogenesis if the hypothesis was that each episode of 'language
creation' started in similar ways.

Ian

On 20/01/2020 19:45, Haspelmath, Martin wrote:
Dear all,

Does anyone know a case where it has been proposed (or suggested) concretely that an observed universal tendency (or absolute universal) is due to inheritance from Proto-World?

Cysouw (2011: 417) has suggested this as a possibility:

"It is possible that there are still founder effects available in the current distribution of the world’s languages, i.e., that there are preferences in the current world’s languages that go back to incidental events during the spread of languages over the world (Maslova 2000)."

But while this is logically possible, are there any concrete suggestions with a global scope?
Word order universals such as the Greenbergian correlations, or phonological universals such as vowel dispersion cannot be due to Proto-World (or some other founder effect), because the universality lies in the implicational patterns, not in specific structures that all languages share. Has anyone suggested that any other universal properties (e.g. the fact that all languages can express negation or questions, or that agent-patient organization is universal, or that all languages have recursion) may be due to Proto-World inheritance?

Thanks,
Martin

************

References:
Cysouw, Michael. 2011. Understanding transition probabilities. Linguistic Typology 15(2). 415–431.
Maslova, Elena. 2000. A dynamic approach to the verification of distributional universals. Linguistic Typology 4. 307 – 333.


--
Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de<mailto:haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10
D-07745 Jena
&
Leipzig University
Institut fuer Anglistik
IPF 141199
D-04081 Leipzig



--
Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de<mailto:haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10
D-07745 Jena
&
Leipzig University
Institut fuer Anglistik
IPF 141199
D-04081 Leipzig
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