Chapter 3. Demystifying drift

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The notion of drift in language change has often been given a somewhat mystical interpretation, as a sort of linguistic “invisible hand”. However, it can be given substance through the recognition of proto-language variability. That is, if variable elements of a proto-language are inherited into individual languages as variation, and if that variability is sociolinguistically submerged, waiting to bubble up to the surface under different sociolinguistic conditions, then it stands to reason that related languages could show parallel developments that make an overt appearance late in their respective traditions. It is argued here that there is nothing mystical about drift and that the phenomenon can be rationalized from a sociolinguistic standpoint.


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