[Lingtyp] Temporal features?

Johanna NICHOLS johanna at berkeley.edu
Mon Oct 1 15:14:30 UTC 2018

What are "ancient languages" and "contemporary languages" or "more
recent languages"?  I gather all of those you're studying are spoken
now, so all are contemporary.  And the origins of language descent
lines go back farther than we can trace so we can't give them
different ages.

On Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 8:05 AM David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de> wrote:
> Dear all,
> On 01/10/2018 17:05, Hartmut Haberland wrote:
> I have been told that in Florutz German (spoken in an Alpine valley) you have to put the potatoes that you have peeled down or up into the dish depending on whether the dish is between you and the stream in the middle of the valley (‘down’) or you are between the stream and the dish (‘up’). That might be a myth, but it is a nice story. Hartmut
> An analogous system is certainly no myth in many dialects of Malay/Indonesian (as well as their respective substrate languages).
> But I would like to offer a complete different example of a "temporal feature".  Earlier in this thread there was mention of work by Trudgill and others suggesting that small societies (of the kind that were more widespread in past eras) are more conducive to linguistic complexity.  For the past several years I have been engaging in an experimental project measuring the complexity of thematic role assignment across the world's languages, and my findings are that greater grammatical complexity in this domain actually correlates positively with greater socio-political complexity (and hence, by implication, with more recent languages).  So for example, larger contemporary languages are more likely to distinguish agents from patients than smaller contemporary and hence presumably also ancient ones.  (These findings need not be construed as contradictory to the Trudgill et al position, since both the grammatical domains and the time frames are different in the two studies.)
> (Unfortunately, I don't yet have a written reference to offer. I've presented these results at several conferences, including ALT, and have an unpublished extended abstract to offer anybody who's interested. But I'm still working on writing up the complete study.)
> David
> --
> David Gil
> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
> Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
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