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The Rise and Fall of Languages

The Rise and Fall of Languages

$48.99 (P)

  • Date Published: January 1998
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521626545

$ 48.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • This book puts forward a new approach to language change, the punctuated equilibrium model. This is based on the premise that during most of the 100,000 or more years that humans have had language, states of equilibrum have existed during which linguistic features diffused across the languages in a given area so that they gradually converged on a common prototype. From time to time, the state of equilibrium would be punctuated, with the expansion and split of peoples and of languages. Most recently, as a result of European colonization and globalization of communication, many languages face imminent extinction.

    • Contributes to the 'language evolution' debate, with an alternative model for long-term language change, the punctuated equilibrium model
    • Challenges speculation concerning the reconstruction of the 'proto-languages' of humankind
    • Points to the limited usefulness of the 'family tree' model and 'comparative method' of reconstruction in historical linguistics
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "This book is required reading for anyone seriously interested in what we can honestly recover from the past history of languages." James A. Matisoff, University of California, Berkeley

    "This book will be seminal in bringing about a paradigm shift in historical linguistics." Randy J. LaPolla, Academia Sinica Taiwan and City University of Hong Kong

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 1998
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521626545
    • length: 176 pages
    • dimensions: 203 x 127 x 10 mm
    • weight: 0.22kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Preliminaries
    3. Linguistic Areas and Diffusion
    4. The Family Tree Model
    5. Modes of change
    6. The Punctuated Equilibrium Model
    7. More on proto-languages
    8. Recent history
    9. Today's priorities
    10. Summary and prospects
    Appendix - where the comparative method discovery procedure fails

  • Author

    R. M. W. Dixon, La Trobe University, Victoria

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