Linguistic Diversity And Diversity

942 Words4 Pages
Languages vary widely but not without limit. The central goal of linguistics is to describe the diversity of human languages and explain the constraints on that diversity. Generative linguists following Chomsky have claimed that linguistic diversity must be constrained by innate parameters that are set as a child learns a language. In contrast, other linguists following Greenberg have claimed that there are statistical tendencies for co-occurrence of traits reflecting universal systems biases, rather than absolute constraints or parametric variation. Here we use computational phylogenetic methods to address the nature of constrains on linguistic diversity in an evolutionary framework. First, contrary to the generative account of parameter setting,…show more content…
There are about 7,000 extant languages, some with complex patterns of word formation, others with simple words only, some with the verb at the beginning of the sentence, some in the middle, and some at the end. Understanding this diversity and the systemic constraints on it is the central goal of linguistics. The generative approach to linguistic variation has held that linguistic diversity linguistic diversity can be explained by changes in parameter settings. Each of these parameters controls a number of specific linguistic traits. For example, the setting 'heads first ' will cause a language both to place verbs before objects ("kick the ball") and prepositions before nouns ("into the goal"). According to this account, language change occurs when child learners simplify or regularise by choosing parameter settings other than those of the parental generation. Across a few generations such changes might work through a population, effecting language change across all the associated traits. Language change should therefore be relatively fast, and the traits set by one parameter mush…show more content…
However, efforts to obtain a statistically independent sample of languages confront several practical problems. First, our knowledge of language relationships is incomplete: specialists disagree about high level grouping of languages and many languages are only tentatively assigned to language families. Second, a few large language families contain the bulk of global linguistic variations, making sampling purely from unrelated languages impractical. Some balance of related, unrelated and already distributed languages has usually been aimed for in

More about Linguistic Diversity And Diversity

Open Document