LINGUIST List 8.858

Tue Jun 10 1997

Disc: Evolution analytic > synthetic

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Geoffrey S. Nathan, Re: 8.826, Disc: Evolution analytic > synthetic

Message 1: Re: 8.826, Disc: Evolution analytic > synthetic

Date: Wed, 04 Jun 1997 09:16:25 -0500
From: Geoffrey S. Nathan <>
Subject: Re: 8.826, Disc: Evolution analytic > synthetic

	Just to add a little more to the value judgment part of Martin
Haspelmath's very clear explication of current views of the evolution of
typology, I should point out that Otto Jespersen believed that the
evolution from synthetic to analytic (such as has happened between Old and
Modern English) was an overall improvement, with an assumption that totally
isolating languages like Chinese represented the ideal goal of languages.
I don't have my copy easily available, but I believe this view can be found
in The Philosophy of Grammar. I have heard it suggested that the reason J
believed this was he believed English was close to an ideal language.

	I second Martin's claim that the view that there is a fairly clear
consensus among historical linguists about the directionality he discusses.
 Current introductory texts certainly include discussion of this view--a
nice discussion can be found, for example in Terry Crowley's _An
Introduction to Historical Linguistics_ (Oxford, 1992), and similar
discussions can be found in other current texts.


Geoffrey S. Nathan
Department of Linguistics
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale,
Carbondale, IL, 62901 USA
Phone: +618 453-3421 (Office) FAX +618 453-6527
+618 549-0106 (Home)
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