LSA historical talk

Here are the slides for my historical talk at the LSA. Many thanks to everyone who gave me feedback. One point I’ll be particularly following up is Andrew‘s question on the extent to which the approach I was proposing overlaps with Wave Theory. There are a number of aspects in common, of course, but it still strikes me as somewhat different (although as we mentioned in the session, it’s sometimes hard to know how much to infer about sources like that). I mentioned one difference at the time, that Schmidt and other Wellentheorie-proponents don’t seem to distinguish between changes that go through a single language that those that cross language boundaries. That doesn’t seem to be the right way to proceed to me, for a whole bunch of linguistic and social reasons (e.g. speakers very clearly have a linguistic ideology, different types of changes get passed over language boundaries from those within speech communities, etc). Another difference, which I didn’t think of on the spot but it probably more important, is that Schmidt set up the wave model as a counter to models that rely on the regularity of sound change. What I do isn’t possible without that assumption, since I use regularity [and irregularity] to reconstruct areality.


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