[Lingtyp] "clitics": recent historical origins

Sebastian Nordhoff sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de
Wed Dec 8 15:05:20 UTC 2021

On 12/8/21 15:34, Martin Haspelmath wrote:
> But when it comes to terms like "wing" (in comparative biology) or 
> "money" (in comparative anthropology) (as recently discussed by Nick 
> Evans, see https://dlc.hypotheses.org/2421), there may be terminological 
> issues in these fields, but biologists (and anthropologists) don't seem 
> to confuse their terminological problems with theoretical problems.

I am not sure that this is correct. Obviously, once you have realized 
that there is a confusion, you have almost solved it. I recall some 
talks about phylogeny/cladistics which traced the history of the fields 
and showed that two different subgroups of biologists coming from 
different angles approached phylogeny with different tools, but used the 
same terms. When they eventually met, they talked past each other. They 
also had different persuasions of what is was they were actually doing. 
Is a "taxon" a real thing and should we care? This does not sound too 
far away from what we see in linguistics.

It also appears that in the field of statistics, different people have 
different ideas about what "significance testing" actually is. (It is my 
understanding, though, that the issue in statistics could be solved if 
everybody did their homework.)

So, we should not feel too bad as linguists ;) Terminological confusion 
is all over the place. The grass is always greener on the other side, 
and terminology looks so much neater on the other side, but if you look 
closer, you see that this is actually not true. Last anecdote: 
apparently, archeologists envy linguists because the linguists' data are 
so neat. And the other way round ;)


More information about the Lingtyp mailing list