rate of change

manaster at umich.edu manaster at umich.edu
Mon Feb 8 02:20:35 UTC 1999

On Thu, 4 Feb 1999, Rick Mc Callister wrote:

> 	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.

But such borrowing may not be very evident in the 100-word list.


> 	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 dont know where specifically this is discussed, but I think you miss
the point that before a certain date Castillian and Portuguese
while certainly distinct where no more distinct than many pairs of
forms of speech (for lack of a better term) which we usually consider
to be dialects.  The 100-word list for the English of say Larry
Trask (a native of the US) and the English of Colin Renfrew (a native
of the UK) are identical (I dont use myself 'cause I am not
a native speaker), presumably, yet there are several hundred
years separating these forms of English.  The Swadesh method is
not meant to handle this kind of separation obviously.


Back to the drawing board.

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