LINGUIST List 16.1087

Thu Apr 07 2005

Disc: Re: 16.970: Punctuated Equilibrium Model

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        1.    Ahmad Reza Lotfi, Re: 16.970: Historical Ling: Punctuated Equilibrium Model
        2.    Chris Cleirigh, Re: 16.970 Historical Ling: Punctuated Equilibrium Model

Message 1: Re: 16.970: Historical Ling: Punctuated Equilibrium Model

Date: 06-Apr-2005
From: Ahmad Reza Lotfi <>
Subject: Re: 16.970: Historical Ling: Punctuated Equilibrium Model

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Dear linguists,

Marinus van der Sluijs wrote:

>Dixon's discussion offers much food for thought, but I believe his
>model is fundamentally flawed. In terms of Dixon's model, the
>global community is currently in a period of punctuation, as rapid
>changes in communication take place and the English language
>spreads its influence abroad. Dixon also claims that in times of
>punctuation, languages split into family trees. This is at odds with
>the observation that languages are seen to converge now, rather
>than to diverge

Not necessarily! As languages coverge, they go through INTERNAL drastic changes
in order to pay for the EXTERNAL linguistic conflicts inevitably occurring
between two converging languages (see Jespersen's account of changes introduced
in English as it came in contact with French in the 11th century under William
the Conqueror: such changes, according to Jesperson, are not what English has
BORROWED from French, but the simplifications it had to make in order to avoid
the conflict beween these two systems). Split, however, is inevitable as such
internal changes are not uniform within either of these speech communities. The
logic here is dialectics: assimilation (between languages in order to satisfy
certain needs whatever they are: communication, prestige, etc) and split (within
them in order to afford accommodation) go hand in hand. Anyway, each language
loses its original long-established equilibrium in a short period of time, but
may be finally back to a new state of equilibrium over time.

>in many parts of the world where English is spoken in a bilingual
>context, local languages assimilate themselves to English,
>sometimes modifying the English language itself to the effect that
>creoles or pidgins are produced.

You see! The production of such creoles/pidgins is the very split
we were looking for in this phase of punctuation.

Ahmad R. Lotfi
English Dept. Azad University (IRAN)


Jespersen, Otto. (1993). Progress in Language with Special Reference to English.
John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Ahmad R. Lotfi, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of linguistics,
English Dept. Graduate School
Azad University at Khorasgan (IRAN)

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Message 2: Re: 16.970 Historical Ling: Punctuated Equilibrium Model

Date: 06-Apr-2005
From: Chris Cleirigh <>
Subject: Re: 16.970 Historical Ling: Punctuated Equilibrium Model

Note also that Dixon repeats the error of Eldredge & Gould of misinterpreting
evolutionary gradualism as change at a constant speed instead of change by
degrees, as Richard Dawkins pointed out more than 20 years ago.

Chris Cleirigh

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

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