Cases in Indo-European

Dr. John E. McLaughlin and Michelle R. Sutton mclasutt at
Tue Jan 26 14:37:13 UTC 1999

[ moderator re-formatted ]

H. Mark Hubey wrote:

> H. Mark Hubey wrote:

>>No, I am assuming that everyone would agree that in a highly literate society
>>language changes would be small and minimal, and that in an illiterate
>>society bilingual speakers would behave much more differently than bilingual
>>speakers in literate peoples. The latter is due to personal observations and
>>the former is partly derived from the latter and partly attempt at logical

>>[Moderator's comment:
>> Personal observation is a poor substitute for examination of long-term data.
>> Language changes, even in highly literate society, pay no attention to the
>> written word.
>> --rma ]

> Large scale changes cannot occur in large systems. Conversely, large
> scale changes are possible and likely in small systems. If large scale
> changes are observed in a system in two time periods T1 and T2, then (1)
> the system was small, (2) the difference T2-T1 is large, or (3) the
> changes were externally driven. That cannot really be disputed; there is
> too much math, physics, and systems theory behind it and is also based
> on studies and empirical evidence.

Unfortunately, there's no linguistics behind it.  Take syntactic change, for
example.  Thirty years ago, there was no discourse connector/predicate
marker/etc. 'like'.  Now it is like becoming the most widespread marker in the
American language.  Deal with it.  Our language is constantly changing in ways
that you would consider large-scale.  Another example is the common rising
intonation on the end of like all declarative sentences.  Like, you know, it's
not a question, but it's just a statement (rising intonation right up like
through the period).  Most Americans treat the written language as a separate
tongue and speak in a different manner, splitting infinitives, dangling
prepositions, piling on negatives, adding 'like', infixing 'f**king' in
prestress position.  There are hundreds of things going on in standard American
dialects that have no reflection in the writing system because Americans have
perceived a difference.

John McLaughlin
Utah State University

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