Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Book Information

Sun Image

Title: Fundamentals of Diachronic Linguistics
Written By: Göran Hammarström
Series Title: Linguistics Edition 84

The author advocates a basically new approach to language change.

A change begins when a speaker says something new choosing between
several possibilities following nothing more complicated than the principle
variatio delectat. If other speakers like the new sound or expression, it may
become a language innovation. Since it is first used by a group of speakers,
it has distinct sociolectal value.

In order to communicate messages the old and the new sound or expression
function equally well. Traditionally linguists have generally tried to find some
weak point which is the cause of the language change. They have tried to
find causal explanations where there are none.

Language is a branch of human culture. Its changes can no more be
explained than changes in literature, music, visual arts or the length of
women’s skirts. The innovator may choose the new sound or expression
because of similarity with some existing feature of the language. The author
calls this assumed process a prompt, which is similar to a cause but is not

The notions of information value and redundancy, borrowed from information
theory, can elucidate some aspects of language change.

Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Review: Read the review
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Issue: All announcements sent out by The LINGUIST List are emailed to our subscribers and archived with the Library of Congress.
Click here to see the original emailed issue.

Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9783862882359
Pages: 73
Prices: Europe EURO 46.80