[Lingtyp] Temporal features?

Claire Bowern clairebowern at gmail.com
Tue Oct 2 13:22:34 UTC 2018

A further method is to sample densely in unrelated areas that include both
hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists, as colleagues and I did for our
hunter-gatherer languages project. See, for example

[loan patterns: hunter-gatherers aren't that different]
[numeral complexity: it's complicated]
http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2993/0278-0771-34.2.195 [ethnobiological
nomenclature: hunter-gatherers are variable]
[Wanderwörter: it's complicated]
http://www.pnas.org/content/113/48/13666.short [color in Pama-Nyungan, a
large family of hunter-gatherers; color nomenclature is variable]

I also wrote a survey paper of the issues:

Though I'm not sure we ever said this explicitly in this project, the
overall impression I got from coding and analyzing all this data was that
the sample of hunter-gatherers was more variable than intensive
agriculturalists, but not necessarily more so than small-scale
agriculturalists. Certainly none of the claims that hunter-gatherer
languages share features as a group distinct from agriculturalists is
impossible to maintain.



Claire Bowern
Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
Chair: Yale Women Faculty Forum (wff.yale.edu)
Department of Linguistics
New Haven, CT  06511

On Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 12:24 AM Eitan Grossman <
eitan.grossman at mail.huji.ac.il> wrote:

> Hi all,
> This conversation has taken all sorts of turns, so I'd like to go back to
> Ian's original question and point out again that there is an empirical way
> to look at this question, at least for some types of properties of language
> and to certain time depths.
> If you construct a sample of proto-languages for which a property can be
> reconstructed with some degree of confidence (so maybe "no" for multiple-wh
> questions, but maybe "yes" for some aspects of phonology, morphology, and
> maybe more), you can compare distributions in this sample to distributions
> in present-day languages. This is what Marsico, Verkerk, Moran and others
> did for sound inventories in the papers I mentioned earlier.
> Obviously, not all proto-languages are contemporaries, but there have been
> some suggestions about how to deal with this elsewhere, like Matthew
> Dryer's use of genera or Johanna Nichols' use of stocks.
> One might also mention Bickel and Nichol's Family Bias Method, which
> wasn't articulated for this particular question, but does end up
> identifying diachronic trends in families, and as such, might be useful for
> seeing whether earlier distributions are different from present-day ones.
> To my mind, this has a better chance of providing new results than trying
> to inferr earlier distributions from present-day ones, worthwhile and
> interesting as that is in its own right.
> Best,
> Eitan
> Eitan Grossman
> Senior Lecturer, Department of Linguistics/School of Language Sciences
> Hebrew University of Jerusalem
> Tel: +972 2 588 3809
> Fax: +972 2 588 1224
> On Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 6:39 AM Randy J. LaPolla <randy.lapolla at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Hi All,
>> There are different ways to understand complexity:
>> Related to David’s discussion of multiple levels of jurisdictional
>> hierarchy, Michael Halliday saw language as a resource for meaning
>> creation, and talked about how the resources for meaning creation developed
>> along with the increased complexity of societies, e.g. different registers
>> and jargons for different domains. This view might give us different
>> results from just looking at morphological complexity.
>> Related to Jeffrey’s insight, in complexity science, a more unconstrained
>> system is more complex, so understanding a morphologically simple language
>> like Chinese can be said to involve more complexity than understanding a
>> language that constrains the interpretation to a greater extent, e.g.
>> German. (I have an early 1995 paper that talks about relative complexity
>> like this).
>> As Marianne implied, the discussion so far has assumed that communication
>> involves the coding and decoding of symbols, but as she mentioned, and as
>> Bollinger talked about as early as 1960, much of language is formulaic (he
>> called it “idiomatic”), and so we are not generating or parsing sentences
>> in every case, as had been assumed by Chomsky.
>> Also, we need to keep in mind that it isn’t a simple correlation between
>> large society and simple grammar, as there are different variables
>> involved, such as the types of social networks that are involved and the
>> type of language acquisition that is involved, as the idea related to the
>> latter is that the simplification results from second language learners
>> acquiring a language that involves different habits from their own and so
>> they simplify out those differences.
>> Randy
>> -----
>> *Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA* (羅仁地)
>> Professor of Linguistics, with a curtesy appointment in Chinese, School
>> of Humanities
>> Nanyang Technological University
>> HSS-03-45, 14 Nanyang Drive | Singapore 637332
>> http://randylapolla.net/
>> Most recent book:
>> https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324
>> On 2 Oct 2018, at 2:52 AM, Marianne Mithun <mithun at linguistics.ucsb.edu>
>> wrote:
>> Of course it's not necessarily the case that morphologically complex
>> words are usually parsed morpheme-by-morpheme online, especially with high
>> frequency, frequency which might be enhanced in small societies.
>> Marianne
>> On Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 11:03 AM Heath Jeffrey <schweinehaxen at hotmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> An object lesson about correlations between societal complexity and
>>> linguistic complexity is the trajectory of Trudgill's work. His original
>>> basic idea was that small, tightly-knit societies allow (and perhaps favor)
>>> complex phonemic inventories and opaque morphology to develop. If you read
>>> "Sociolinguistic Typology" from cover to cover, you get the sense that
>>> halfway through writing it he realized that small, tightly-knit societies
>>> can also allow highly simple systems (like those David has brought to our
>>> attention). So large-population national languages are stuck in a narrow
>>> range in the middle, while those of small tightly-knit ones can range
>>> widely in both directions. Not fully elucidated by Trudgill but implied by
>>> his results: the common denominator between very high complexity and very
>>> low complexity is that both types of language put a high cognitive burden
>>> on the listener, who must either quickly parse words that contain many tiny
>>> morphemes in complex networks on the one hand, or must infer the speaker's
>>> meaning from limited lexical input on the other hand. It's cognitive
>>> complexity in this shifty sense, not mechanically computed complexity
>>> (number of phonemes, morphemes-per-word counts, etc.), that we should be
>>> looking at. But this doesn't make research methodology any easier.
>>> ------------------------------
>>> *From:* Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf
>>> of David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de>
>>> *Sent:* Monday, October 1, 2018 12:18 PM
>>> *To:* Martin Kohlberger
>>> *Cc:* lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org; josephdbrooks at ucsb.edu
>>> *Subject:* Re: [Lingtyp] Temporal features?
>>> Martin,
>>> On 01/10/2018 22:45, Martin Kohlberger wrote:
>>> > Dear David,
>>> >
>>> > Following Joseph's comment, I really don't follow your point.  How
>>> > does your "national language" value necessarily correlate with greater
>>> > socio-political complexity compared to a "local language only recently
>>> > part of larger polity"?  Are you implying that communities which speak
>>> > a local language that is not part of a larger polity are necessarily
>>> > socio-politically less complex than communities which speak a national
>>> > language?
>>> More or less, yes, that's what I'm implying.  Nation states have
>>> multiple levels of jurisdictional hieraerchy; they have newspapers,
>>> public transport, bureaucracies, football leagues, universities, you
>>> name it.  Hunter-gatherer societies have essentially none of the above.
>>> (I'm not quite sure what the source of the misunderstanding is.  If it
>>> has anything to do with apparent value judgements, I should emphasize
>>> that there is nothing inherently better or worse in being more complex,
>>> be it grammatically or socio-politically.)
>>> 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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