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Glottochronology

From Academic Kids

In linguistics, the technique of glottochronology is used to estimate the time of divergence of two related languages. It is analogous to the use of C14 dating for measuring the age of organic materials, in that a "lexical half-life" is estimated and used to extrapolate to the point in time at which a given two languages diverged from a common proto-language.

The method presumes that the basic vocabulary may be used as a sort of clock, on the assumption that basic vocabulary changes at a more-or-less constant rate through time. The process makes use of the Swadesh list, a list of basic lexical terms compiled by Morris Swadesh. This core vocabulary was designed to encompass concepts common to every human language, eliminating concepts that vary by culture and time.

Glottochronology is highly controversial, as many linguists argue that there is no substantial evidence that language change occurs at a steady rate. For instance, there is evidence that unwritten languages tend to change more rapidly than written ones, and many linguists therefore regard the method as invalid, or at least view glottochronological data with strong scepticism.

Lexicostatistics involves measuring the percentage of cognates (words that have a common origin) in "basic word lists". The larger the percentage of cognates, the more recently the two languages being compared are presumed to have separated.

Bibliography

  • Arndt, Walter W. (1959). The performance of glottochronology in Germanic. Language, 35, 180-192.
  • Bergsland, Knut; & Vogt, Hans. (1962). On the validity of glottochronology. Current Anthropology, 3, 115-153.
  • Callaghan, Catherine A. (1991). Utian and the Swadesh list. In J. E. Redden (Ed.), Papers for the American Indian language conference, held at the University of California, Santa Cruz, July and August, 1991 (pp. 218-237). Occasional papers on linguistics (No. 16). Carbondale: Department of Linguistics, Southern Illinois University.
  • Gudschinsky, Sarah. (1956). The ABC's of lexicostatistics (glottochronology). Word, 12, 175-210.
  • Hockett, Charles F. (1958). A course in modern linguistics (Chap. 6). New York: Macmillan.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1956). Lexicostatistics: A critique. Language, 32, 49-60.
  • Hymes, Dell H. (1960). Lexicostatistics so far. Current Anthropology, 1 (1), 3-44.
  • Lees, Robert. (1953). The basis of glottochronology. Language, 29 (2), 113-127.
  • McWhorter, John. (2001). The power of Babel. New York: Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-4473-2.
  • Sjoberg, Andree; & Sjoberg, Gideon. (1956). Problems in glottochronology. American Anthropologist, 58 (2), 296-308.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1950). Salish internal relationships. International Journal of American Linguistics, 16, 157-167.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1952). Lexicostatistic dating of prehistoric ethnic contacts. Proceedings American Philosophical Society, 96, 452-463.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1955). Towards greater accuracy in lexicostatistic dating. International Journal of American Linguistics, 21, 121-137.

External link

ja:言語年代学 nl:Glottochronologie

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