Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2017 Fund Drive.

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: parent and daughter languages
Question: I have read in several publications that the further the daughter language is from the ''epicentre'' the less change it undergoes. (I am not thinking of isolated language communities eg welsh in patagonia, but mainstream eg romance languages in europe) why is this?
Reply: Hi, Carolyn, In reality, this is just a question of geographical linguistics. We now know that almost all languages are in fact a bundle of coexisting 'dialects': socioeconomic ones, situational ones and literally geographic ones (boundaries -- physical, social or otherwise -- impede communication and therefore, since all languages are in a constant state of (partial) change, impede *common* change. Now, at the 'epicenter' of this situation, change will have been going on for the longest time, and 'capsules' of common change (ie, subdialects) will be more densely packed, that is, there will be more of them in less space. Meanwhile, in the 'suburbs' (outlying areas), there will have been, in a given area, less time for the changes to accumulate, and therefore less overall apparent change. So in a way it is not that there is less change, but rather that the change is less 'dense', so to speak, or noticeable. [Note: this is a partial and way oversimplified summary of how much of linguistic change seems to work.] Jim James L. Fidelholtz Graduate Program in Language Sciences Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Benem'erita Universidad Aut'onoma de Puebla, M'EXICO
Reply From: James L Fidelholtz      click here to access email
Date: 13-Oct-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: parent and daughter languages    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (15-Oct-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions