7/16 Lyle Campbell (Collitz Professor): “Contributions from Endangered Language Documentation to Outstanding Issues in Historical Linguistics”


Lyle Campbell, University of Hawai’i, Manoa
2013 Linguistic Institute Hermann and Klara H. Collitz Professor
Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 7:00 pm
Askwith Auditorium, Lorch Hall
Reception to follow

Read Abstract

The goal of this talk is to explore the relationship between Endangered Languages and Language Change (historical linguistics).

(1) I survey the number of known extinct languages and what that implies for historical linguistic research in general — 22% of all known extinct languages become extinct in the last 50 years. Of the c.420 independent language families and isolates, exactly 100 are extinct – nearly 25% of the linguistic diversity of the world has been lost forever. (2) I review the relationship between fieldwork documentation and the working out of aspects of the history of language families, including instances in the history of Indo-European. (3) I investigate the kinds of changes encountered in endangered languages and attempt to evaluate claims about what this means for language change in general and for language typology – for example, I address the claim that sound change in endangered language contexts need not be regular. (4) I look at a specific language documentation project involving several languages of the Chaco region of South America, noting discoveries there that go against general thinking about what is possible in contact induced change, and presenting other cases that provide insights into other aspects of language change.

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