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THEORY: on the teleology of conlanging (was: RE:terminaldialect?)

From:Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 30, 1999, 9:36
Joshua Shinavier wrote:
> Did consonant mutations evolve in the individual > Celtic languages or did the original ancestral tongue already have them?
I'm pretty sure that they evolved independently, that's why I mentioned it as an example.
> I don't think an entirely regular language is neccessarily more stable, though; > often irregular forms crop up which are more convenient (e.g. the slang "gotta" > as in "he's gotta go" is quicker than "has to" or "must"), and evidently > convenience is what it's all about in language change...
Well, that's ONE factor in language change. But, overall, irregularities tend to be regularized faster than regular forms become irregular. Irregular forms tend to evolve rapidly, sometimes the result of sound-changes. The classic example is the radical-changing verbs of Spanish. In Old Spanish, there were seven vowels, /i/, /e/, /E/, /a/, /o/, /O/, and /u/. Later, when stressed, /E/ and /O/ became /je/ and /wo/ (later /we/), while remaining in unstressed position. Thus, a verb like /pO'der/ had the first-person singular present indicative form /' --> /' This was a complication, but still regular. /E/ became /je/, while /e/ remained /e/. They became irregular when /E/ and /e/ and /o/ and /O/ fused in unstressed position, thus /pO'der/ became /po'der/, identical stem to /po'dar/. It thus became impossible to predict whether the /o/ would change or not. Compare /po'dar/ --> /'podo/, but /po'der/ --> /' Then, irregular forms are slowly regularized. Another example is Old English. Pre-Old English had one plural form ending in -i, so that mu:s (mouse) became mu:si. This caused the <u> to front, making it my:si, later the -i was dropped, creating /mu:s/ vs. /my:s/, later /mi:s/. We still keep this, with the vowels changed by the Great Vowel Shift, as /maus/ and /majs/. However, some other -i changes have been regularized. We no longer say "kine" for "cows" (actually, "kine" itself was an earlier semi-regularization, the plural ending -(e)n was added to the plural form "ky", analogous to dialects that have "childrens (or /tSIlInz/) and "mens") -- "It's bad manners to talk about ropes in the house of a man whose father was hanged." - Irish proverb ICQ: 18656696 AIM Screen-name: NikTailor