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Where are the trees?

Where are the trees?

Paper, presented at the workshop "Theories of Evolution in the Science of Man -- Applying a network approach to the interdisciplinary transfer of ideas" (Ulm, University Ulm).

Johann-Mattis List

July 02, 2010
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  1. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Where are the Trees?
    The Treatment of Conflicting Signals in the History of
    Language Classification
    Johann-Mattis List
    Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
    2010/07/03
    1 / 30

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  2. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Structure of the Talk
    Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    Catastrophism
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Regularity of Language Change
    Sound Laws as Litmus Test for Vertical Relations
    Language Evolution as a Tree-like Process
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Conclusion
    2 / 30

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  3. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Vertical and Horizontal Language Relations
    L
    1
    L
    2
    L
    0
    evolves into
    evolves into
    influences
    influences
    3 / 30

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  4. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Inference Problems
    Kopf
    “head”
    German
    cup
    “cup”
    English
    *kuppa-
    “cup”
    Germanic
    cūpa
    “cup”
    Latin
    ?
    1
    Figure: History of Germ. Kopf “head” and Engl. cup “cup”
    4 / 30

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  5. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Traditional Conception of Kinship
    5 / 30

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  6. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Traditional Conception of Kinship
    inheritance sporadic: Children inherit certain traits from their
    parents, yet the process of inheritence seems to
    follow random patterns.
    change discrete: Children are different from their parents,
    the difference being non-gradual but discrete.
    origin based on production: Children are “produced” by
    their parents, the parent and the children
    generation can exist at the same time.
    6 / 30

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  7. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Catastrophism
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    Catastrophism
    Derivative View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    7 / 30

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  8. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Catastrophism
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    Catastrophism
    The biblical myth of the Confusion of Tongues is the
    prevalent paradigm of language divergence.
    Hebrew or the mysterious Adamic language is assumed to
    be the ancestor of all other languages.
    This leads to a general assumption of monophyly and a
    catastrophic view on language change.
    8 / 30

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  9. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Catastrophism
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    Catastrophism
    Hebrew German Meaning
    ʔēm Am “mother”
    māḥār Morn “morning”
    Table: Catastrophic etymologies by Sebastian Münster
    [...] some Hebrew words have remained in our
    German language. (Münster 1523: 27f, my translation)
    9 / 30

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  10. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Catastrophism
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    Reasons for the prominence of horizontal relations:
    Horizontal relations are rather transparent.
    Borrowing is a process which is easy to observe.
    Borrowing occurs often and in nearly all languages.
    10 / 30

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  11. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Catastrophism
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    Plato on Barbarian words in Greek:
    I know that many Greeks, especially those who
    are subject to the barbarians, have adopted many
    foreign words. (Cratylus: 409, translation by
    Fowler 1921)
    Quintilian on Latin and Greek:
    [...] it is from [the Greek language] that the Roman
    language is, in a very great degree, derived [...]..
    (Institutio Oratoria: I.5.55-58, translation by
    Watson 2006)
    11 / 30

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  12. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Catastrophism
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    inheritance sporadic: No systematic patterns are expected to
    be found in different languages, while on the other
    hand all languages are assumed to be genetically
    related.
    change chaotic: It is neither assumed that language
    change happens regularly nor necessarily.
    origin ad-hoc: All languages were created at once when
    the Confusion of Tongues occurred.
    12 / 30

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  13. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Catastrophism
    Derivational View on Language Relations
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    “Catastrophic” Kinship Conception
    13 / 30

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  14. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Regularity of Language Change
    Sound Laws as Litmus Test for Vertical Relations
    Language Evolution as a Tree-like Process
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Regularity of Language Change
    Sound Laws as Litmus Test for Vertical Relations
    Language Evolution as a Tree-Like Process
    14 / 30

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  15. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Regularity of Language Change
    Sound Laws as Litmus Test for Vertical Relations
    Language Evolution as a Tree-like Process
    Regularity of Language Change
    Language change is a gradual process. (cf. Schleicher
    1848: 25)
    Language change is a natural process which occurs in all
    languages. (cf. Schleicher 1848: 25)
    Language change is a law-like process. (cf. Schleicher
    1848: 25)
    Language change is a universal process which occurs in all
    times. (cf. Schleicher 1863[1873]: 10f)
    15 / 30

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  16. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Regularity of Language Change
    Sound Laws as Litmus Test for Vertical Relations
    Language Evolution as a Tree-like Process
    Sound Laws as Litmus Test for Vertical Relations
    Vertical and horizontal language relations can be
    distinguished clearly: While the former are reflected in
    regular sound correspondences between different
    languages, the latter show up as spurious surface
    resemblences which do not follow a general pattern. (cf.
    Schleicher 1848: 67)
    16 / 30

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  17. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Regularity of Language Change
    Sound Laws as Litmus Test for Vertical Relations
    Language Evolution as a Tree-like Process
    Language Evolution as a Tree-like Process
    inheritance systematic: Genetically related languages show a
    large body of traits inherited from their ancestor
    language.
    change regular: Language change is a regular process
    which occurs according to certain laws.
    origin abrupt: New languages originate in a split-process
    by which a language splits into two languages due
    to the parting of its speakers.
    17 / 30

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  18. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Regularity of Language Change
    Sound Laws as Litmus Test for Vertical Relations
    Language Evolution as a Tree-like Process
    Language Evolution as a Tree-like Process
    18 / 30

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  19. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    19 / 30

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  20. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Conflicting Data
    Johannes Schmidt on conflicting data:
    Die europäischen, deutschen und arischen
    charakterzüge durchdringen einander so
    vollständig, dass eine ganze reihe von
    erscheinungen nur durch ir organisches
    zusammenwirken hervorgerufen ist, und dass es
    worte gibt, deren form weder ganz europäisch
    noch ganz arisch ist und nur als ergebniss diser
    beiden einander durchkreuzenden strömungen
    begreiflich wird. (Schmidt 1872: 16)
    20 / 30

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  21. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Conflicting Data
    G. Bonfante on the problem of isoglosses:
    Very rarely are we sure of isoglosses that we
    construct, [...] there always remains the possibility
    that the remaining languages have lost the sound,
    the form, or the word one is dealing with.
    (Bonfante 1931: 75f, my translation)
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  22. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The distinction of horizontal and vertical traits is not
    clearcut, the data can easily betray the linguist.
    Languages do not simply split and then evolve
    independently, but diverge gradually.
    Language change is not a process which necessarily
    applies to a whole community of speakers of a certain
    language, but originates at some point and then spreads in
    wave-like manners over the area.
    22 / 30

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  23. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Chain “Generally, one depicts the Indo-European
    languages in the form of a chain, every ring of
    which is connected with only two other rings, one
    to the right and one to the left.” (Bonfante 1931:
    174f, my translation)
    Wave “Ich möchte an seine stelle das bild der welle
    setzen, welche sich in concentrischen mit der
    entfernung vom mittelpunkte immer schwächer
    werdenden ringen ausbreitet.” (Schmidt 1872: 27)
    23 / 30

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  24. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Network “Wir verbinden die Äste und Zweige des
    Stammbaums durch zahllose horizontale Linien,
    und er hört auf ein Stammbaum zu sein.”
    (Schuchard 1870[1900]: 11f)
    Animated Pictures “Dieses Weiss verdunkle sich, nehme
    verschiedene matte Töne an, welche stärker und
    immer stärker hervortreten, bis endlich die Farben
    des Regenbogens unmerklich ineinander
    überfliessend vor unsern Augen stehen.”
    (Schuchard 1870[1900]: 26)
    24 / 30

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  25. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Baltic
    Germanic
    Celtic
    Italic
    Illyrian
    Greek
    Thracian
    Phrygian
    Armenian
    Albanese
    Slavic
    Indo-Iranian
    Figure: The Wave Model as overlapping circles (Hirt 1905) 25 / 30

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  26. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Celtic
    Italic
    Germanic
    Greek
    Balto-Slavic
    Indo-Iranian
    Armenian
    Albanese
    1
    Figure: Waves of isoglosses (Bloomfield 1933)
    26 / 30

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  27. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Conflicting Data
    Language Evolution as a Non-Tree-Like Process
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    The Quest for New Metaphors
    Germanic Baltic Slavic Tocharian
    Celtic Venetic
    Thracian
    Phrygian
    Illyrian
    Albanian
    Iranian Indian
    Italic Greek Armenian
    Arian
    Figure: Network of the Indo-European Languages (Bonfante 1931) 27 / 30

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  28. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    The Tree Metaphor as a Tiresome Lover
    Horizontal relations are the most ordinary view on language
    relations throughout the history of linguistics.
    Only for a short duration of time, the family tree was the
    leading model to describe language evolution.
    Soon after the tree model was introduced into linguistics,
    linguists would criticize the concept, proposing various
    other ways to model language evolution, yet none of these
    attempts has gained general acceptance.
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  29. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    Networks as a Possibility to Depict Vertical and
    Horizontal Processes
    In our research project funded by the Federal Ministry of
    Education (BMBF) we work together with biologists on new
    models of language phylogenies which depict vertical as well as
    horizontal aspects of language evolution in networks.
    29 / 30

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  30. Introduction
    Pre-19th Century View on Language Relationship
    August Schleicher and the Discovery of Treeness
    Back to Dendrophobia: Waves and Networks
    Conclusion
    The End
    Thanks for Your Attention!
    30 / 30

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