Historical Linguistics: Questions of reconstruction and relatedness Ian Roberts Downing College email@example.com The Indo-European family tree The Indo-European Language Family (More) Correspondences English: mouse, father, three, fish German: Maus, Vater, drei, Fisch Latin: mūs, pater, trēs, piscis Kannada: ili, appa, muru, minu The Comparative Method If a similarity between forms in two languages is observed this can in principle be attributed to: Necessity (BUT: linguistic signs are arbitrary, and cf. Kannada etc etc) Chance (this is always the most boring account of anything, but cf. English dog, Mbambaram dog) Borrowing (e.g. Japanese kompyutaa) A historical connection: common origin: So we can conclude that English and German are quite closely related, and that Latin is more distantly related to both, while Kannada is unrelated to either. Grimm’s Law (or the First Germanic Consonant Shift) (oder die erste Lautverschiebung) Verner’s Law (the second Germanic consonant shift; die zweite Lautverschiebung) PIE: Gothic: German: bhrātēr- pətērbrōþar fadar Bruder Vater “brother” “father” Why the different medial consonants? Verner: voiceless intervocalic stops become voiced when the preceding vowel is unaccented. Sanskrit, Greek show “father” originally had an unstressed first syllable. (cf. http://mr-verb.blogspot.com/2009/10/verners-law- movie.html) The Neogrammarian Thesis Sound laws are exceptionless!! (Osthoff & Brugmann 1878) Ausnahmslosigkeit! Hence phonological reconstruction can be relied on. But what about syntax? What we know about PIE I: Phonology Proto-Indo-European consonant segments Velar Labi a l Coron al *m *n voiceless *p *t *ḱ *k *kʷ voiced (*b) *d *ǵ *g *gʷ aspirate d *bʰ *dʰ *ǵʰ *gʰ Nasal Plosiv e Fricative *s Liquid *r, *l Semivowel pala pla labi Laryngeal t i a a n l l *gʷ ʰ *h₁, *h₂, *h₃ *y *w What we know about PIE II: Morphology Singular Anim Neut Nominative *-s, *-Ø*-m, Accusative *-m *-m,*-Ø Vocative *-Ø *-m, *-Ø Genitive *-(o)s Dative *-(e)i Instrumental *-(e)h₁ Ablative *-(o)s Locative *-i, *-Ø Dual Anim Neut Anim. *-Ø *-h₁(e) *-ih₁ *-es *-ih₁ *-ih₁ *-ns *-h₁(e) *-ih₁ *-es *-h₁e *-om *-me *-mus *-bʰih₁ *-bʰi *-ios *-ios *-h₁ou *-su Plural Neut. *-h₂, *-Ø *-h₂, *-Ø *-h₂, *-Ø (from Beekes (1995) Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction, John Benjamins). Syntax? Lightfoot (1998:257): “the kind of reanalyses that occur in catastrophic change constitute cutoff points to reconstruction”. Proto-languages are no more amenable to reconstruction than proto-weather. Harris & Campbell (1995:353): syntactic reconstruction may be possible provided we can solve the correspondence problem. In phonology, this problem is straightforward: yesterday’s segments correspond in some fairly systematic way to today’s (e.g. Gmc /f/ is the inherited reflex of PIE /p/). But what was the Latin parent of L’état, c’est moi? Watkins (1976:306): “the confirmation by Hittite of virtually every assertion about Indo-European word order patterns made by Berthold Delbrück .. [is] .. as dramatic as the surfacing of the laryngeals in that language”. The IE clause Hale’s (1995) structure for the Vedic Sanskrit clause: [ Topic [CP C [ Focus IP ]]] A tendency for the verb to be second (cf. also Garrett (1990) on Anatolian, Kiparsky (1995) on the prehistory of Germanic, Newton (2006) on Celtic, and Fortson (2004) for a summary) Older Germanic Fuß (2008) on Old High German: [ Topic [ wh-phrase [ V IP ]]] Roberts (1996) on Old English: [ Topic [ Focus (Verb) [ weak pronoun .. Latin a. Si bovem .. serpens momorderit. If cow-Acc.sg. snake-Nom.sg. has-bitten “If a snake has bitten a cow” (DS 116; Cato De Agri Cultura 102.1) b. in adulterio uxorem tuam si prehendisses in adultery wife-Acc. your-Acc if you-havecaught “If you have caught your wife in adultery” (DS 119; Cato Orat 222.1) “probably represents a more archaic typology” (Devine & Stephens (2006) Latin Word Order OUP). PIE Syntax Null subjects (like Modern Italian, Greek) SOV word order Wh-movement (like Modern Indic) (like Modern English) Productive topicalisation/focalisation to the “left periphery” (like Modern Slavonic) Second-position effects (pronouns, adverbs, verbs) (like Modern Germanic, South Slavonic) Nostratic Syntax Definitely head-final (Dolgopolsky, Bomhard 2008). Uh … A related question: quantifying distances between languages while languages differ from one another in all aspects of their structure, some pairs of languages differ from each other more than others do: Spanish and Portuguese are very similar to each other indeed, English is quite similar to German and Japanese is significantly unlike almost all other languages. many, if not all, of these degrees of structural and lexical difference can be correlated to historical relationships. The central activity of historical linguists for two centuries has been the establishment and organisation of these relationships. Recent developments are changing this picture though … Indo-European cladistics Ringe et al (2000) used techniques from evolutionary biology to try to identify the firstorder subgrouping of Indo-European languages. More recent work on the same idea by Nakleh et al (2005), Warnow et al (2005) and http://www.cs.rice.edu/~nakhleh/CPHL Character "an identifiable point of grammar or lexical meaning which evolves formally over the course of the language family's development, .. each state of the character ought to represent an identifiable unique historical stage of development - a true homology [shared trait inherited from a common ancestor]" (71). Examples of characters a lexical character: Eng hand (=1), Ger Hand (=1), Fr main (=2), It mano (=2), Rus ruká (=3). a phonological character: sequence of changes Grimm's Law, Verner's Law, initial-syllable stress, merger of unstressed *e with *i except before *r. Absent = 1, present = 2 (singles out Germanic). a morphological character: most archaic superlative suffix 1. *-isto-, 2. *-ismo-, 3 etc. absent (2 singles out Italo-Celtic). Database 24 languages representing all 10 IE subgroups, and 322 characters (22 phonological, 15 morphological and the rest lexical). Result of running tree-optimisation software: 18 characters were incompatible with the best tree, "in computational terms our result is a total failure” (86). Italo-Celtic, Balto-Slavonic, the satem group and Graeco-Armenian emerge as IE subgroups. Possible Indo-European tree (Ringe, Warnow and Taylor 2000) Controversies for Indo-European history Subgrouping: Other than the 10 major subgroups, what is likely to be true? In particular, what about Indo-Hittite Italo-Celtic, Greco-Armenian, Anatolian + Tocharian, Satem Core? Our best PPN (Language, 2005) Modularised Global Parametrisation Developed by Chiara Gianollo, Christina Guardiano and Giuseppe Longobardi, U of Trieste Uses Universal Grammar syntactic parameters to measure distances among languages Universal Grammar (UG) the set of grammatical principles which makes human language possible (and defines a possible human language) determined by the human genome physically exists (in res extensa) in the brain otherwise known as the “language faculty”, the language acquisition device (LAD), the initial state of language acquisition and the language bioprogram. Some assumptions: a. There exists a rich, innate language faculty (UG) which is a species characteristic. b. There are no racial or cultural biases towards particular languages or language types. c. There is clear evidence that a sentence which is wellformed in one language L may be ill-formed in some other language L’: i. ii. *John Mary hit. John-ga Mary-o butta. UG contains: invariant principles associated parameters of variation OV (e.g. Japanese, German) vs. VO (e.g. English, Italian). UG principles define V, O and how they go together (VP); a parameter determines their order. Parameters tell us what is variant (and by implication what is invariant) in grammars, and as such they predict the dimensions of language typology predict aspects of language acquisition predict what can change in the diachronic dimension. “A particular language L is an instantiation of the initial state of the cognitive system of the language faculty with options specified” (Chomsky (1995:219)). Things that can vary inside a simple nominal expression (a DP): is number marked? (English: YES; Japanese: NO) is there a system of articles? (English: YES; Japanese: NO) is there a system of classifiers? (English: NO; Japanese: YES) The expression of possession: Type A: Possessor > Possessee John’s sister John-no imooto-ga Type B: Possessee > Possessor la soeur de Jean (French) chwaer Siôn (Welsh) Method Parameters limited to the extended nominal phrase (DP) 27 languages from 4 families (IE, Semitic, Uralic and Niger-Kordofanian) 57 binary parameters TABLE A Optimisation by Kitch Optimisation by UPGMA57 An approach to measuring relatedness which relies on parametric syntax has certain advantages over an approach based on lexical similarities: o discreteness: the values of a parameter do not form a continuum or cline of any kind o binarity: a maximally simple range of possibilities o finiteness: the number of parameters is finite, and in fact rather small, usually thought to be more than 20 but less than 100 o no uncertainty of comparanda: we are in principle always sure when we are comparing like with like (Guardiano & Longobardi (2003:4)) A possible synthesis treat parameter values as characters, thereby adding syntax to the cladistic comparison. The parametric grid can be taken to indicate the syntactic characters. Backmutation (or homeoplasy) "either improbable or vanishly rare" (70), i.e. "we simply do not find cases in which the contrast between two elements A and B in a structured system is eliminated from the language, then .. reintroduced in precisely the same distribution that it originally exhibited" (ibid). Clearly true of phonemic split/merger, loss/gain of inflection, changes in wordmeaning, etc. But is it true of parameters? The case of French and the null-subject parameter. Homoplasy-free evolution When a character changes state, it changes to a new state not in the tree In other words, there is no homoplasy (character reversal or parallel evolution) First inferred for weird innovations in phonological characters and morphological characters in the 19th century. 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 Two issues Parallel development (analogy rather than homology): such cases must simply be set aside. Alternatively one can take sets of changes rather than individual changes as evidence for clades. In any case, it seems doubtful that syntactic change poses any problems not already encountered in the area of phonology. much less is known about the syntax of a number of older IE languages compared to their phonology, lexicon and morphology (see above). Conclusion Syntax has played a relatively minor role in establishing relations among languages, but this can change. Parametric comparison can quantify grammatical differences and thus play a major role in developing our theories of typology, acquisition and change. Cladistic methods combined with parametric comparison may shed light on major questions in historical linguistics. THANK YOU!!