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Journal of Historical Linguistics

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ISSN 2210-2116
E-ISSN 2210-2124

The <em>Journal of Historical Linguistics</em> aims to publish papers that make a significant contribution to the theory and/or methodology of historical linguistics. Papers dealing with any language or language family are welcome. Papers should have a diachronic orientation and should offer new perspectives, refine existing methodologies, or challenge received wisdom, on the basis of careful analysis of extant historical data. We are especially keen to publish work which links historical linguistics to corpus-based research, linguistic typology, language variation, language contact, or the study of language and cognition, all of which constitute a major source of methodological renewal for the discipline and shed light on aspects of language change. Contributions in areas such as diachronic corpus linguistics or diachronic typology are therefore particularly welcome.

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  • Toward a syntactic phylogeny of modern Indo-European languages
    • Authors: Giuseppe Longobardi, Cristina Guardiano, Giuseppina Silvestri, Alessio Boattini, and Andrea Ceolin
    • Source: Journal of Historical Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013, pages: 122 –152
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    • The Parametric Comparison Method (PCM, Guardiano &amp; Longobardi 2005, Longobardi &amp; Guardiano 2009) is grounded on the assumption that syntactic parameters are more appropriate than other traits for use as comparanda for historical reconstruction, because they are able to provide unambiguous correspondences and objective measurements, thus guaranteeing wide-range applicability and quantitative exactness. This article discusses a set of experiments explicitly designed to evaluate the impact of parametric syntax in representing historical relatedness, and performed on a selection of 26 contemporary Indo-European varieties. The results show that PCM is in fact able to correctly identify genealogical relations even from modern languages only, performing as accurately as lexical methods, and that its effectiveness is not limited by interference effects such as ‘horizontal’ transmission. PCM is thus validated as a powerful tool for the analysis of historical relationships not only on a long-range perspective (as suggested by Longobardi &amp; Guardiano 2009), but even on more focused, though independently well-known domains.
  • Quantifying the evolutionary dynamics of German verbs
    • Authors: Ryan Carroll, Ragnar Svare, and Joseph C. Salmons
    • Source: Journal of Historical Linguistics, Volume 2, Issue 2, 2012, pages: 153 –172
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    • Notions of constant rates of language change, whether relative or absolute, are widespread but controversial. Lieberman et al. (2007: 713) posit a frequency-based principle for verb regularization, tested against English historical data: “a verb that is 100 times less frequent regularizes 10 times as fast”. We present similar data from German, a closely related language. Until the Early Modern period, regularization was relatively uncommon, while the modern period shows a dramatic upswing in strong verbs becoming weak. As Lieberman et al. and others have found, frequency plays a clear role in regularization. We show that regularization also interacts with verb class membership (type frequency), and suggest that greater regularization in and since the Early Modern period correlates with socio-historical changes in language acquisition and use. While the notion of a general half-life for verb regularization proves challenging, more nuanced quantitative research on verb regularization can advance our understanding of language change, structurally and in its socio-historical context.
  • Valency changes in the history of English
    • Author: Elly van Gelderen
    • Source: Journal of Historical Linguistics, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2011, pages: 106 –143
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    • This article examines changes in the valency marking in the history of English. I start with a discussion of the typological literature on measuring basic valency and point out the problems with such an approach. A sample of 18 Old English verbs provides no basic valency pattern for Old English; this makes Old English different from the other Germanic languages. I then review the evidence, presented in, for instance, Visser (1963), that there is an increase in transitivity in the history of English and argue that this increase is partly due to verbs ceasing to mark Theme-preserving alternations, between anticausative and causative. I also examine Theme-changing alternations, between intransitive and transitive, and argue that, due to the changes in aspect marking, objects become licensed by a light verb, v. I conclude by suggesting a syntactic structure that accounts for the various stages of English and argue that the main changes are due to an increase in morphological intransparency.
  • Mechanisms of language change in a functional system: The recent semantic evolution of English future time expressions
    • Author: Nadja Nesselhauf
    • Source: Journal of Historical Linguistics, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2012, pages: 83 –132
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    • In this paper, the semantic developments of the major future time expressions in Late Modern English are traced in detail, with the aim of uncovering mechanisms of language change in a complex functional system. The results of the study reveal that to express a pure prediction, the major shift that has taken place in the Late Modern period is from a comparatively frequent use of shall to a comparatively frequent use of ’ll; that to express a prediction based on the intention of the subject, BE going to and the present progressive have replaced will and shall to a certain degree; and that to express a prediction based on a previous arrangement, earlier uses of the simple present have been replaced to a considerable degree by the progressive with future time reference. In addition, the construction WANT to is identified as what may be called an emerging future marker, which has started to be used for predictions based on the subject’s intention. Finally, the possible contribution of certain stylistic and socio-cultural changes to the many recent changes in the system of English future time expressions is also considered, such as the complexification of society, (pseudo-)democratization, and a tendency of many text types towards a more personal style.
  • Social ecology and language history in the northern Vanuatu linkage: A tale of divergence and convergence
    • Author: Alexandre François
    • Source: Journal of Historical Linguistics, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2011, pages: 175 –246
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    • This study describes and explains the paradox of related languages in contact that show signs of both linguistic divergence and convergence. Seventeen distinct languages are spoken in the northernmost islands of Vanuatu. These closely related Oceanic languages have evolved from an earlier dialect network, by progressive diversification. Innovations affecting word forms — mostly sound change and lexical replacement — have usually spread only short distances across the network; their accumulation over time has resulted in linguistic fragmentation, as each spatially-anchored community developed its own distinctive vocabulary. However, while languages follow a strong tendency to diverge in the form of their words, they also exhibit a high degree of isomorphism in their linguistic structures, and in the organization of their grammars and lexicons. This structural homogeneity, typically manifested by the perfect translatability of constructions across languages, reflects the traditions of mutual contact and multilingualism which these small communities have followed throughout their history. While word forms are perceived as emblematic of place and diffuse to smaller social circles, linguistic structures are left free to diffuse across much broader networks. Ultimately, the effects of divergence and convergence are the end result, over time, of these two distinct forms of horizontal diffusion.
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