Historical linguistics

Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time.[1] Principal concerns of historical linguistics include:[2][3]

  1. to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages
  2. to reconstruct the pre-history of languages and to determine their relatedness, grouping them into language families (comparative linguistics)
  3. to develop general theories about how and why language changes
  4. to describe the history of speech communities
  5. to study the history of words, i.e. etymology
  6. to explore the impact of cultural and social factors on language evolution.

Historical linguistics is founded on the Uniformitarian Principle, which is defined by linguist Donald Ringe as:[4]

Unless we can demonstrate significant changes in the conditions of language acquisition and use between some time in the unobservable past and the present, we must assume that the same types and distributions of structures, variation, changes, etc. existed at that time in the past as in the present.

  1. ^ Bynon (1977), p. 1.
  2. ^ Radford 1999, pp. 17–18
  3. ^ Busser, Rik De (2015). "The influence of social, cultural, and natural factors on language structure: An overview". Academia.edu. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  4. ^ Ringe, Donald (2009). "The Linguistic Diversity of Aboriginal Europe". Language Log. Retrieved 2020-03-22.

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