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Language Planning as a Sociolinguistic Experiment

By: Ernst Jahr

Provides richly detailed insight into the uniqueness of the Norwegian language development. Marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian nation following centuries of Danish rule

New from Cambridge University Press!


Acquiring Phonology: A Cross-Generational Case-Study

By Neil Smith

The study also highlights the constructs of current linguistic theory, arguing for distinctive features and the notion 'onset' and against some of the claims of Optimality Theory and Usage-based accounts.

New from Brill!


Language Production and Interpretation: Linguistics meets Cognition

By Henk Zeevat

The importance of Henk Zeevat's new monograph cannot be overstated. [...] I recommend it to anyone who combines interests in language, logic, and computation [...]. David Beaver, University of Texas at Austin

Academic Paper

Title: Myths and the prehistory of grammars
Author: DavidWLightfoot
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Georgetown University
Linguistic Field: Syntax
Abstract: Only a small number of the world's languages have any kind of recorded history over more than a few generations, and in no case do records go back more than a few thousand years. From some perspectives, this doesn't matter. There are plenty of grammars to write and plenty of changes to describe accurately and then to explain in these recorded histories. Explanations for structural changes may be grounded in grammatical theory, and careful examination of historical changes, where the goal is explanation for how and why they happened, sometimes leads to innovations in grammatical theory, illuminating the nature of grammatical categories or the conditions for movement operations, for example. That has been the focus of some work on language change and data from changes have been used to argue for claims not only about grammatical theory but also about language acquisition, that children learn only from simple structures (DEGREE-0 COMPLEX) and that acquisition is cue-based (Lightfoot 1991, 1999). That is not to say, of course, that these propositions could not have been based on other kinds of data, but the fact is that they were based on analyses of historical change. From analyses of historical changes, we have learned things about the nature of the language faculty and about how it develops in children, unhampered by the limited inventory of changes.


This article appears in Journal of Linguistics Vol. 38, Issue 1, which you can read on Cambridge's site .

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