Here is what I posted on FB two weeks ago:
It seems I have read a different article than the Washington Post author, but also than the many linguists who reacted to Pagel et al.’s recent PNAS article on ultraconserved words (see for instance Geocurrents.info).
Here is what I found in the PNAS article by Pagel et al. Continue reading
Recently on LINGTYP, a question was raised, which can be paraphrased as such: are there languages in which the P of a transitive clause is marked by two co-occurring flags (‘case-markers’), e.g., ACC1-N-ACC2 (or, presumably, N-ACC1-ACC2 or ACC1-ACC2-N)? After quite a bit of back-and-forth, it turns out that such situations seem to be extremely rare, while the co-occurrence of indexing and flagging seems to be much more common. Based on the discussion, and a closer look at some other sources, it turns out that only three scenarios are known to lead to double flagging. Interestingly (if not surprisingly), they all involve Differential Object Marking (DOM). Continue reading
“A struggle for life is constantly going on among quotations in academic writings. The better, the shorter, the easier forms are constantly gaining the upper hand and they owe their success to their own inherent virtue.” Sounds familiar? Perhaps because it’s a variation on a bon mot attributed to Charles Darwin that you may have seen in any of a range of recent papers on how language evolves.
We’ve seen the remarkable role of acacia trees in language evolution (Geraint 2011); now behold a case of parallel evolution towards a mutant quotation. Terence Deacon in PNAS (2010); Morten Christiansen & Nick Chater in BBS (2008); Mesoudi, Whiten and Laland in Evolution (2004) — they all quote the following words from Darwin 1871/1874:
A struggle for life is constantly going on among the words and grammatical forms in each language. The better, the shorter, the easier forms are constantly gaining the upper hand, and they owe their success to their own inherent virtue.
Except that if you look up the original, you’ll find that these words aren’t by Darwin, but by Max Müller.
There is a tradition of dividing all of (non-compounding) morphology into inflection and derivation in European languages, and like other European traditions, this one has been carried over to languages around the world. But on what basis?
There are clear cases of inflection and derivation where nobody would argue Continue reading