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Evidence for Britain and Ireland as a linguistic area


Dedio, Stefan; Ranacher, Peter; Widmer, Paul (2019). Evidence for Britain and Ireland as a linguistic area. Language. Journal of the Linguistic Society of America, 95(3):498-522.

Abstract

Approaches to linguistic areas have largely focused either on purely qualitative investigation of area formation processes, on quantitative and qualitative exploration of synchronic distributions of linguistic features without considering time, or on theoretical issues related to the definition of the notion "linguistic area". What is still missing are approaches that supplement qualitative research on area formation processes with quantitative methods. Taking a bottom-up approach, we bypass notional issues and propose to quantify area formation processes by a) measuring the change in linguistic similarity given a geographical space, a socio-cultural setting, a time span, a language sample, and a set of linguistic data, and b) testing the tendency and magnitude of the process using Bayesian inference. Applying this approach to the expression of reflexivity in a dense sample of languages in northwestern Europe from the early Middle Ages to the present, we show that the method yields robust quantitative evidence for a substantial gain in linguistic similarity that sets the languages of Britain and Ireland apart from languages spoken outside Britain and Ireland and cross-cuts lines of linguistic ancestry.

Abstract

Approaches to linguistic areas have largely focused either on purely qualitative investigation of area formation processes, on quantitative and qualitative exploration of synchronic distributions of linguistic features without considering time, or on theoretical issues related to the definition of the notion "linguistic area". What is still missing are approaches that supplement qualitative research on area formation processes with quantitative methods. Taking a bottom-up approach, we bypass notional issues and propose to quantify area formation processes by a) measuring the change in linguistic similarity given a geographical space, a socio-cultural setting, a time span, a language sample, and a set of linguistic data, and b) testing the tendency and magnitude of the process using Bayesian inference. Applying this approach to the expression of reflexivity in a dense sample of languages in northwestern Europe from the early Middle Ages to the present, we show that the method yields robust quantitative evidence for a substantial gain in linguistic similarity that sets the languages of Britain and Ireland apart from languages spoken outside Britain and Ireland and cross-cuts lines of linguistic ancestry.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Linguistics
07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Language and Linguistics
Social Sciences & Humanities > Linguistics and Language
Uncontrolled Keywords:Linguistics and Language, Language and Linguistics
Language:English
Date:1 January 2019
Deposited On:17 Dec 2019 11:12
Last Modified:28 Aug 2020 07:36
Publisher:Linguistic Society of America
ISSN:0097-8507
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2019.0054
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDCRSII1_160739
  • : Project TitleLinguistic morphology in time and space (LiMiTS)

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