This book "asserts that the origin and spread of languages must be examined primarily through the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis, rather than those of evolutionary biology" and "defends traditional practices in historical linguistics while remaining open to new techniques, including computational methods" and "will appeal to readers interested in world history and world geography."
Dr. Thrane makes an original contribution to one of the central topics in syntax and semantics: the nature and mechanisms of reference in natural language. He makes a fundamental distinction between syntactic analyses that are internal to the structure of a language and analyses of the referential properties that connect a language with the 'outside world' - and therefore derive in some sense from common human capacities for perceptual discrimination. Dr. Thrane argues that the failure to make this distinction and to attend separately to both kinds of analysis has vitiated previous general accounts of linguistic structure. The book focuses particularly on pronouns and on the role of determiners, quantifiers and other components of the noun phrase. Most of the data come from the modern Germanic languages, especially English, but Dr. Thrane considers also the structural peculiarities of 'classifier languages' like Vietnamese. The book will be important for students of English language as well as for general linguists.