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8 - A new historical linguistics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2010

David Lightfoot
Affiliation:
Georgetown University, Washington DC
David W. Lightfoot
Affiliation:
Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University; Assistant Director, National Science Foundation
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Summary

Language change, contingency, and new systems

So languages change, both I-languages and E-language. There is a deep interrelationship and new languages are always emerging, of both kinds. Adults and children both play roles. The perspective we have developed, particularly the distinction between external E-language and individual I-languages, recasts matters of the role of children and adults, the gradualness of change, directionality, the spread of changes through populations, explanation, and other issues that have been central for traditional historical linguistics; see Janda & Joseph (2003) for a recent survey.

E-language, a group phenomenon, language out there, is amorphous and in constant flux. No two people are exposed to the same E-language and everybody hears different things. E-language is in flux because people say different things and use their grammars differently, both differently from other people and differently themselves over time. Some people use certain constructions provided by their I-language more or less frequently than others, and more or less frequently than themselves at other times or in different contexts. There may be whims and fashions, whereby people take on the speech forms of public figures, popular singers, politicians, or comedians, and certain expressions take on new forces or come to be used more or less frequently. Furthermore, people's speech may change through their lifetime, as one can see by looking at one's own letters written over a period of years.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • A new historical linguistics
    • By David W. Lightfoot, Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University; Assistant Director, National Science Foundation
  • David Lightfoot, Georgetown University, Washington DC
  • Book: How New Languages Emerge
  • Online publication: 02 February 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511616204.009
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  • A new historical linguistics
    • By David W. Lightfoot, Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University; Assistant Director, National Science Foundation
  • David Lightfoot, Georgetown University, Washington DC
  • Book: How New Languages Emerge
  • Online publication: 02 February 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511616204.009
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • A new historical linguistics
    • By David W. Lightfoot, Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University; Assistant Director, National Science Foundation
  • David Lightfoot, Georgetown University, Washington DC
  • Book: How New Languages Emerge
  • Online publication: 02 February 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511616204.009
Available formats
×