Keeping Contact in the Family: Approaches to Language Classification and Contact-induced Change



One of the cornerstones of nineteenth-century historical-comparative linguistics is the regularity hypothesis (see Morpurgo Davies, 1998). This idea that regular correspondences, of the kind observed by Grimm, Bopp and their contemporaries, reflect regular, exceptionless sound changes, underlies much of the progress made by the Neogrammarians and in the subsequent development of historical linguistics. Furthermore, it is a very good example of a kind of thinking that has been vital to linguistics more generally — that is, the notion that we can make progress by adopting strong methodological hypotheses. These may subsequently require modification; but adopting them in the first place can have unforeseen positive consequences in helping us to understand the way language works.


Language Classification Philological Society Perfect Phylogeny Basic Vocabulary Regularity Hypothesis 
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© April McMahon and Robert McMahon 2006

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