Foundational concepts in the scientific study of sound change

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This paper sets out to survey, from the perspective of a working historical linguist, some issues which arise when one tries to conceptualize in some rational way the relationship between the two most crucial developments in the study of sound change in the past 150 years: the Neogrammarian hypothesis regarding the regularity of sound change and the ‘phoneticist’ hypothesis, which grounds sound change in the facts of human speech perception and production. In asserting that these are the most significant developments in this area I am of course expressing a firm belief that there is something fundamentally correct about these approaches. If they are both accurate in some deep sense, then it is important that we understand in just which ways they can or cannot be combined into one coherent picture of the world. This paper represents some preliminary consideration of this issue.


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