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Feedback, Help and Forum Policy / Re: Introduction to Philology
« Last post by Daniel on November 26, 2021, 12:43:24 PM »
For introductory level textbooks in Historical Linguistics, here are some good options:

Lyle Campbell, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction

Hans Henrich Hock & Brian D. Joseph, Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship: An Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics

Longer, graduate-level version:
Hans Henrich Hock, Principles of Historical Linguistics

Tore Janson, The History of Languages: An Introduction 2012, Oxford.

Each of those books has several editions. The older edition of Janson's book was called Speak but it's substantially similar content if you find a copy of that instead.

Campbell is a popular textbook, while Hock & Joseph is somewhat more comprehensive but still accessible to undergraduates, and Hock's graduate-level textbook is a dense and extremely thorough introduction that would cover just about everything you'd want to know starting out if you want to dive right into the deep end of the topic. These all cover sound change and other topics.

Janson is a different kind of introduction, and not very technical at all, also not really covering sound change. But I would recommend it (probably in addition to one of the others), because it's a very interesting read. It really talks about the history of languages, rather than historical linguistics in a narrow sense, and it takes a sociolinguistic perspective on how languages change through contact. It's a very accessible book to read for non-experts, but also interesting enough to keep the attention of experts, so it's a unique kind of non-technical but useful book.

One more I might add to the list, on a more specific topic:

David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World,_the_Wheel,_and_Language

That one is about a specific topic, from an anthropological perspective on the history and spread of the Indo-European languages. It's well regarded by linguists, and also generally accessible to a non-specialist audience.

There are a lot of other interesting things to read, but that's a reasonable start. Some fun things to consider beyond this, but still with some relevance to familiarizing yourself with these topics, you might take a look at:

Edward Vajda, "J.R.R. Tolkien's imaginary languages" (YouTube lecture)
(A fun and surprisingly relevant discussion of historical linguistics applied to Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was originally a philologist, and only secondarily an author! LOTR was in some sense based initially around the fictional languages he had created as a story and world to hold them.)

A bit more of a tangent, and not so strictly academic, but again fun for thinking about these topics:
(A really well made documentary about conlangs)

David J. Peterson, The Art of Language Invention

I mention those not because they are directly about historical linguistics per se, but because they bring up a number of related topics that might help make them more accessible to you from a non-technical perspective, but tying into the same questions we ask about language structure and how those structures change. One of the best ways to make a conlang is to "evolve" it from an earlier stage into the final form you choose, and that means applying the principles of historical linguistics. Peterson in particular is serious about making naturalistic conlangs through this process, and he has been successful in that of course, if you've seen his work in Game of Thrones and other movies and TV.
Feedback, Help and Forum Policy / Introduction to Philology
« Last post by Meta_Anagram on November 26, 2021, 08:50:15 AM »
Hi, people from the forum. I'm a 21 year old guy  interested in the historical evolution of (some) natural languages, ranging from the sounds nuances to the historical context that they developed. So, can you guys recommend books or online courses that outline this area of study, preferenciably something in the likes of a academic environnement?
Linguistics Links / Re: Russell: “On Denoting”
« Last post by waive15 on November 19, 2021, 02:02:25 AM »

Daryl Zero: A few words here about following people. People know they're being followed when they turn around and see someone following them. They can't tell they're being followed if you get there first.

Daryl Zero: Passion is the enemy of precision. Forget the misnomer 'crime of passion'. All crime is passionate. It's passion that moves the criminal to act, to disrupt the static inertia of morality. The client's passion for this dead woman had facilitated his downfall. And the blackmailer's passion will facilitate hers. When you live with no passion at all, other people's passion come into glaring relief.

Daryl Zero: I can't possibly overstate the importance of good research. Everyone goes through life dropping crumbs. If you can recognize the crumbs, you can trace a path all the way back from your death certificate to the dinner and a movie that resulted in you in the first place. But research is an art, not a science, because anyone who knows what they're doing can find the crumbs, the wheres, whats, and whos. The art is in the whys: the ability to read between the crumbs, not to mix metaphors. For every event, there is a cause and effect. For every crime, a motive. And for every motive, a passion. The art of research is the ability to look at the details, and see the passion.

Historical Linguistics / Re: How did 'to wit' shift to denote 'that is to say'?
« Last post by Rock100 on November 15, 2021, 02:47:27 PM »
For me, a nonnative English speaker, the relation between Slovenian/Slovak/Russian videt’ and to wit/witness appeared to be a big surprise. So, I have decided to check another word that seems pretty old to me – gl’adEt’ (to look at). Well, now I know where Irish glen in Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie comes from. But I will need to buy a bottle of each one to double check my speculations on why the Internet claims these two (gl’adet’ and glenn) are related. Linguistics turns to be more and more pleasant…
Historical Linguistics / Re: How did 'to wit' shift to denote 'that is to say'?
« Last post by Daniel on November 13, 2021, 10:46:06 AM »
Yes, that makes sense, and there are other parallels in English like "let it be known".
Historical Linguistics / How did 'to wit' shift to denote 'that is to say'?
« Last post by scherzo on November 13, 2021, 12:07:28 AM »
Unquestionably, "knowing" isn't the same concept as "saying". Thus how did 'that is to wit' shift to denote 'that is to say; namely'?

Phonetics and Phonology / Re: Phonological theory that denies phonemes?
« Last post by panini on November 08, 2021, 12:57:30 PM »
There are various things that might be denied. One is that humans have a symbolic system for categorizing speech. I take that to not be reasonably deniable, however I believe that certain phoneticians adhere(d) to a non-categorial analysis of speech recognition.
Another that can be denied is the specific package-deal "phoneme" as contrasted with allophone with all of that biuniqueness stuff. I do deny that there is such a thing as a "phoneme", where /t/ is a phoneme of English and [tʰ t̚ ɾ] are allophones. It is true that [tʰ] can be derived by rule from /t/, but that doesn't justify creating a special theoretical category. There is a difficult question as to which structures exist in the phonological component and which only exist in the phonetic component, and for example there is good evidence that "nasal vowels" are not a phonological category of English, they are the result of phonetic implementation: but the flap is clearly a phonological entity.

A further question is what kind of thing a "phoneme" is. Is it part of phonological grammar, phonetic grammar, or something on the periphery of language, at the auditory interface with phonetics? The "speaker awareness" test is, indeed, not reliable exactly because speakers need specific training in their writing system, and they do not learn a general skill about "phonemes" from one language that can be translated to other languages. E.g. a speaker of Logoori may know how to write English and Swahili, and even Logoori but the writing system is defective in not representing all of the phonemes. Unless one engages a speaker in training in linguistics, the standard reaction to a vowel-quality, vowel-length or tone minimal pair is that "they are spelled the same". You can experimentally get them to identify words, but they don't have any awareness of what's a "phoneme" in their language.
Phonetics and Phonology / Re: Phonological theory that denies phonemes?
« Last post by Daniel on November 07, 2021, 04:46:44 PM »
It would be relevant to investigate this with speakers of languages that have different kinds of writing systems. In my Morphology class, I've discussed how although orthography does not directly indicate structure, there do seem to be some ways in which certain orthographies fit the organization of some languages better than others. The consonant-only writing of Ancient Egyptian and Semitic languages almost certainly has something to do with their templatic morphology and focus on consonantal roots, while the Greeks then accidentally created vowels as a misinterpretation of the Phoenician alphabet (really abjad). Chinese is another example of a different kind. Or consider Japanese where the written language is organized into content words (kanji = Chinese characters), grammatical particles/suffixes (hiragana syllabary) and borrowed content words or onomatopoeia (katakana syllabary). (I wonder if Japanese speakers would have different phonemic perception of content words vs. grammatical morphemes, although they can also write everything in hiragana, and children are taught that way, so it may no longer be so cognitively salient. Similarly for Chinese they know how to use Pinyin or similar systems of transliteration, so phonemes may also be familiar. But also consider the organization of Japanese into moras instead of syllables, which is somewhat reflected in the orthography.)

So phonemes are an abstraction.
Yes, an abstraction, but one that seems cognitively real at least in some ways. We have categorical perception of phonemes. And also more generally, take a moment to realize how remarkable it is that we can in fact write spoken language using discrete symbols. So far, signed languages have evaded any kind of conventional writing system because they are not (entirely) discrete in the same way, so it is not clear what units to write down. There have been many proposals, but remarkably for a visual medium, it has not been successfully represented in (visual!) writing, at least not in terms of any writing system being widely adopted. And even in principle, it may not be possible to write signed languages completely in discrete symbols, because some signs simply aren't discrete where the signing space is used as a continuous 3D space for representing spatial relationships (although we could approximate that in writing). There's a similar problem with intonation for oral languages, actually, and linguists sometimes use impressionistic systems of prosody but it's not clear whether this fully captures the information in speech: for example,
Phonetics and Phonology / Re: Phonological theory that denies phonemes?
« Last post by Forbes on November 07, 2021, 01:40:19 PM »
but the topic is interesting

It is!

It is undeniable that speech is continuous, but we feel it is segmented. The question is though whether we feel that way because we write alphabetically. Is the concept of the phoneme motivated by the fact that we write alphabetically, or do we go back and insist that the alphabet assumes a phonemic analysis? A chicken and egg question.

In another forum there was a discussion about whether affricatives are one or two phonemes. I think it has to be a bit flexible and to an extent language dependent, It comes down to whether you think you can make a phonemic analysis of language without reference to morphology and semantics. In the end any division is speech is arbitrary and the question should be what units are helpful in any context.

Emphasising that speech is continuous, spectrographic analysis has shown that phonemes "react" with each other. For example, in /kæt/ the k is a "k before æ"; the æ is a "æ after k and a æ before t"; the t is a "t after æ". So phonemes are an abstraction.
Phonetics and Phonology / Re: Phonological theory that denies phonemes?
« Last post by Daniel on November 06, 2021, 11:38:48 AM »
Hm, that specific website doesn't sound familiar to me, but the topic is interesting, so I'd want to take a look if you find it.

The general idea that phonemes are not a real part of our mental grammars is not a new question/suggestion, and phonemes are actually somewhat controversial, but for more subtle reasons than the summary of the website you described suggests. That is, there are problems with uniquely identifying phonemes (e.g., although in general I think there is scientific consensus that we generally have categorical perception in some sense for phonology.

And this paper came to mind, which might be relevant for you (if you don't already have it):
Maddieson, Ian. 2018. Is phonological typology possible without (universal) categories? In Larry M. Hyman & Frans Plank (eds.), Phonological Typology, 107–125. Berlin: De Gruyter.
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