rate of change
Rick Mc Callister
rmccalli at sunmuw1.MUW.Edu
Thu Feb 4 16:44:13 UTC 1999
In the case of Romance languages, Latin was the joker, in that they
were always borrowing and reborrowing from Latin. This happenend to the
exent that Mediterranean Romance languages superficially resemble one
another to a great degree than Germanic languages resemble each other
superficially. And Germanic separated at a later date.
They borrowed a lot, of course from one another as one or another
Romance language became a regional standard [e.g. Gallaico-Portuguese was
the Ibero-Romance literary standard until the Renaissance, when it was
superceded first by Leonese, then by Castillian]
or happened to be dominant in a specific field [e.g. Spanish
nautical terms often come from Catalan until the 1400s, when they begin to
often come from Portuguese].
Swadesh, I believe, shows Castillian and Portuguese as "splitting"
c. 1500. In reality, you can tell they are separate languages from the
earliest texts from around the early 1st millenium [earlier for some
Spanish & Ibero-Romance dialects/languages]. Spanish & Portuguese are still
cross-pollenating to the extent that many South Brazilians speak a
Portuguese that sounds like Spanish with a Brazilian accent and few lexical
and grammatical differences thrown in.
I don't know Slavic languages, but I'd guess that Old Church
Slavonic probably played a similar, if lesser role.
If cross-pollenation [when known] could be taken into account by
the Swadesh lists, it would help square things a bit.
>Anyway, if it were true that Swadesh's norm was
>ALMOST always right, with only very occasional
>exceptions, then of course we could still use
>his methods of glottochronology and lexicostatistics
>but the results would always be subject to a small
>amount of uncertainty.
>I conjecture that this is in fact the
>[ Moderator's comment:
> I was under the impression--given by a supporter of glottochronology, Dyen--
> that G/L dates for the Romance languages, for example, are wildly off when
> compared to the known history. Given that no testable languages have ever
> agreed with Swadesh's hypothesis, can we really treat this method as "almost
> always right" with regard to those languages we cannot otherwise date?
> --rma ]
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