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Re: THEORY: Anglic languages (was: Difthongization...)

From:Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>
Date:Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 13:37
On 20/02/08 22:49:27, John Vertical wrote, in reply to my comparison of
English to Vulgar Latin:

> I assume English is even bigger a mess than Vulgar Latin was, tho. It > also > demonstrates nicely that language change doesn't work strictly > phylogenetically. > > Which brings me to another topic: what do you suppose future > linguistics > will come to consider the "primary branches" of the Anglic languages? > Will > the basic geographical divisions be maintained? How about beyond > them, > can > those be bunched into larger groups (according to when each group > split off > from Britain?) or will we just have to do with Proto-Anglic > half a > dozen > different subfamilies? Which isoglosses will be considered > family-defining, > which areal influence / parallel developments - rhotacity, > cot-caught, > pin-pen, th-stopping?
My theory? It depends on two things: How quickly the languages become isolated, and how big the isolations are. By the first, I basically mean does our civilisation basically remain along its current lines, maybe with superpower status transferred or shared with Europe and/or China, and so linguistic diffusion is slow, or will sometime in the next century or so there be some sort of a major disagreement causing cultural interaction between some English-speaking countries to die down, and another language to take up the mantel of international language (e.g. perhaps our Chinese-speaking Prime Minister will get us cozy with China and China & America or Europe will become opposed and we'll side with China, against some other English-speaking countries --- and on this regard, he already seems to have made a defence decision being more careful not to offend the Chinese than Americans). As for how big the isolations are: Is it going to be simply: geographical separation = major isolation, political seperation = relatively insignificant, or will America's various divisions be enough to cause parts of America to be more isolated from one another than for instance Australia from Canada? I gather some of the divisions can be pretty marked, in spite of the fact that Americans seem to move around America than Australians around Australia (or maybe that's just because I'm an outside observer and the windows in give a biased picture). Anyway, if it's fairly sudden, and on a geographical basis, then I think the current boundaries will become obscured, at least from an obvious point of view. The current tree structure is already hard to see if you look too closely between national varieties (e.g. Australian English shares some properties with British English: non-rhoticism, some bath-trap split, but others with American English: t-flapping, some non-bath-trap splitting[*]). If there's a fairly sudden break then all of this could easily be horribly obscured and future English scholars will probably focus more on the new layers of grammatical & lexical difference. Of course, it'll be obvious that some features have come from Britain and some are later innovations, because the ones that came from Britain will exist in Britain! [*] Of course, both of these features happen in Britain too, but unless they were the only contributions, it's less obvious that they contributed to AusE, whereas America's made other contributions, so we can ignore these British dialects. If, on the other hand, the split is slow and gradual and there's more continued interaction between so there's more mutual influence, then working to unravel the mysteries will make it more and more clear that some things are inherited or have at least been there for a long time, and others haven't. Of course, we have the advantage of much literature on the subject, which Romance scholars don't have as much of, and what they do have is generally much less direct and scientific and explicit than what we have. -- Tristan.