Penser l'espace, penser l'espèce: Modélisation des affinités linguistiques

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This article aims at giving an outline of the recurrent debates carried on not only within Indo-European but also within Finno-Ugrian comparative linguistics whose arguments are either in favor of the family tree model or the wave theory model. From the very early doubts surrounding its foundations at the end of the 19th century until the present day, comparative grammar has been dominated by these two rival (but also complementary) ways of patterning language affinities. However, linguistic modelization does not take place in a void, but is influenced by a complex network of interdisciplinary transactions which reflect the concepts of ‘space’ and ‘species’. While establishing relationships between languages, one may observe that their modelization tries to be a faithful translation of the often opaque historical reality. Despite the alleged objective criteria, a linguist may turn out to be a dupe of his own convictions and conceptions, in which case the best model seems only a matter of choice. Even if one should admit that facts are always theory-laden, models and theories sanctioned by the history of linguistics might be considered to have been made according to natural measures.


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