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Re: Umlaut, Vowel Harmony etc

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 14:17
From:    Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
> I think that the regularity of reconstructed protolangs is largely > an artefact of reconstruction.
Yeah, I agree.
> There might be something to the idea that complicated case systems > and the like tends to be found in isolated languages.
I doubt that. Latin and Greek had relatively complex case systems, but they were right there along some of the most frequented trade routes of antiquity. Georgian has an even more complicated case system (distributionally, at least), and has a long history of contact with the Great Powers of the past: Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Persia, Russia... the Mongols too, who sacked Tbilisi in 1236. That, and Georgian has changed less in the 1700 years of its recorded history than English has in 500.
> The analyticity > of a language like English is rather creole-like, which might make > sense for a language that's continuously in close contact with > other languages.
What? English clitics do all sorts of crazy things. 'Would you' is [wUdZ@], 'don't you' is [dountS@], 'wasn't' and 'isn't' are [w@dn=t] and [idn=t] (for my dialect), etc. The real answer is that no one knows precisely why some languages make the particular changes that they do; there are broadly understood generalizations about sound and morphosyntactic change, but when you get to particulars it becomes (or maybe: can become) much harder. ========================================================================= Thomas Wier "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally, Dept. of Linguistics because our secret police don't get it right University of Chicago half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of 1010 E. 59th Street Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter. Chicago, IL 60637