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Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of
language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages # to reconstruct the pre-history of languages and to determine their relatedness, grouping them into
language families A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...

language families
(
comparative linguistics Comparative linguistics, or comparative-historical linguistics (formerly comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change ov ...
) # to develop general theories about how and why language changes # to describe the history of
speech communities Arnold Lakhovsky, ''The Conversation'' (circa 1935) A speech community is a group of people who share a set of linguistic norms and expectations regarding the use of language. It is a concept mostly associated with sociolinguistics Sociolingui ...

speech communities
# to study the history of words, i.e.
etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English ''The'' () is a grammatical article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identif ...
Historical linguistics is founded on the
Uniformitarian Principle
Uniformitarian Principle
, which is defined by linguist
Donald Ringe :''For the political media consultant of the same name, see Don Ringe''. Donald "Don" Ringe () is an American linguistics, linguist and Indo-European studies, Indo-Europeanist. Ringe graduated from University of Kentucky and then received a Mast ...
as:


History and development

Western modern historical
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

linguistics
dates from the late-18th century. It grew out of the earlier discipline of
philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed o ...
, the study of ancient texts and documents dating back to antiquity. At first, historical linguistics served as the cornerstone of
comparative linguistics Comparative linguistics, or comparative-historical linguistics (formerly comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change ov ...
, primarily as a tool for
linguistic reconstruction Linguistic reconstruction is the practice of establishing the features of an unattested ancestor language of one or more given languages. There are two kinds of reconstruction: * Internal reconstruction uses irregularities in a single language t ...
."Editors' Introduction: Foundations of the new historical linguistics." In
''The Routledge Handbook of Historical Linguistics''
Routledge, 2015, p. 25.
Scholars were concerned chiefly with establishing language families and reconstructing unrecorded
proto-languages In the tree model of historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account ...
, using the
comparative method In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
and
internal reconstruction Internal reconstruction is a method of reconstructing an earlier state in a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an ap ...
. The focus was initially on the well-known
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), Signed language, sign, or o ...
, many of which had long written histories; scholars also studied the
Uralic languages The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken langua ...

Uralic languages
, another Eurasian language-family for which less early written material exists. Since then, there has been significant comparative linguistic work expanding outside of European languages as well, such as on the
Austronesian languages The Austronesian languages (, , , ) are a , widely spoken throughout , , the islands of the and (by ). There are also a number of speakers in . They are spoken by about 386 million people (4.9% of the ). This makes it the fifth-largest languag ...
and on various families of
Native American languages Over a thousand are spoken by the . These languages cannot all be demonstrated to be related to each other and are classified into a hundred or so (including a large number of s), as well as a number of extinct languages that are due to a lac ...
, among many others. Comparative linguistics became only a part of a more broadly-conceived discipline of historical linguistics. For the Indo-European languages, comparative study is now a highly specialized field. Most research is being carried out on the subsequent development of these languages, in particular, the development of the modern standard varieties. Some scholars have undertaken studies attempting to establish super-families, linking, for example, Indo-European, Uralic, and other families into
Nostratic Nostratic is a hypothetical macrofamily In historical linguistics, a macrofamily, also called a superfamily or phylum, is a proposed genetic relationship grouping together language families (also isolates) in a larger scale classification. Campb ...
. These attempts have not met with wide acceptance. The information necessary to establish relatedness becomes less available as the time depth increases. The time-depth of linguistic methods is limited due to chance word resemblances and variations between language groups, but a limit of around 10,000 years is often assumed. The dating of the various proto-languages is also difficult; several methods are available for dating, but only approximate results can be obtained.


Diachronic and synchronic analysis

In linguistics, a synchronic analysis is one that views linguistic phenomena only at a given time, usually the present, but a synchronic analysis of a historical language form is also possible. It may be distinguished from diachronic, which regards a phenomenon in terms of developments through time. Diachronic analysis is the main concern of historical linguistics; however, most other branches of linguistics are concerned with some form of synchronic analysis. The study of language change offers a valuable insight into the state of linguistic representation, and because all synchronic forms are the result of historically-evolving diachronic changes, the ability to explain linguistic constructions necessitates a focus on diachronic processes. Initially, all of modern linguistics was historical in orientation. Even the study of modern dialects involved looking at their origins.
Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure (; ; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_typ ...

Ferdinand de Saussure
's distinction between
synchronic Synchronic may refer to: * ''Synchronic'' (film), a 2019 American science fiction film starring Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie * Synchronic analysis, the analysis of a language at a specific point of time * Synchronicity, the experience of two or ...
and diachronic linguistics is fundamental to the present day organization of the discipline. Primacy is accorded to synchronic linguistics, and diachronic linguistics is defined as the study of successive synchronic stages. Saussure's clear demarcation, however, has had both defenders and critics. In practice, a purely-synchronic linguistics is not possible for any period before the invention of the
gramophone A phonograph, in its later forms also called a gramophone (as a trademark since 1887, as a generic name in the UK since 1910) or since the 1940s called a record player, is a device for the mechanical Sound recording and reproduction, recording ...

gramophone
, as written records always lag behind speech in reflecting linguistic developments. Written records are difficult to date accurately before the development of the modern
title page The title page of a book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature of its ...

title page
. Often, dating must rely on contextual historical evidence such as inscriptions, or modern technology, such as
carbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for Chronological dating, determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of carbon-14, radiocarbon, a radioactive Isotopes ...
, can be used to ascertain dates of varying accuracy. Also, the work of
sociolinguists Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural Norm (sociology), norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and society's effect on language. It differs from socio ...
on linguistic variation has shown synchronic states are not uniform: the speech habits of older and younger speakers differ in ways that point to language change. Synchronic variation is linguistic change in progress. Synchronic and diachronic approaches can reach quite different conclusions. For example, a
Germanic strong verb In the Germanic languages, a strong verb is a verb that marks its past tense by means of changes to the stem vowel (Indo-European ablaut, ablaut). The majority of the remaining verbs form the past tense by means of a dental consonant, dental suffix ...
like English ''sing – sang – sung'' is
irregular Something that is irregular does not follow the expected pattern; not even or balanced in shape or arrangement; abnormal. The term is used in many different fields, with various meanings. Accounting * Accounting irregularity Astronomy * Irreg ...
when it is viewed synchronically: the them as learned forms, but the derived forms of regular verbs are processed quite differently, by the application of productive rules (for example, adding ''-ed'' to the basic form of a verb as in ''walk – walked''). That is an insight of
psycholinguistics Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of the interrelation between linguistic factors and psychological aspects. The discipline is mainly concerned with the mechanisms by which language is processed and represented in the mind ...
, which is relevant also for language didactics, both of which are synchronic disciplines. However, a diachronic analysis shows that the strong verb is the remnant of a fully regular system of internal vowel changes, in this case the
Indo-European ablaut The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
; historical linguistics seldom uses the category "
irregular verb A regular verb is any verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''bec ...
". The principal tools of research in diachronic linguistics are the
comparative method In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
and the method of
internal reconstruction Internal reconstruction is a method of reconstructing an earlier state in a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an ap ...
. Less-standard techniques, such as
mass lexical comparisonMass comparison is a method developed by Joseph Greenberg to determine the level of genetic relatedness between languages. It is now usually called multilateral comparison. The method is rejected by most linguists , though not all. Some of the top ...
, are used by some linguists to overcome the limitations of the comparative method, but most linguists regard them as unreliable. The findings of historical linguistics are often used as a basis for hypotheses about the groupings and movements of peoples, particularly in the prehistoric period. In practice, however, it is often unclear how to integrate the linguistic evidence with the
archaeological Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis Analysis is the process of breaking a complexity, complex topic or Substance theory, substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better underst ...

archaeological
or evidence. For example, there are numerous theories concerning the homeland and early movements of the
Proto-Indo-Europeans The Proto-Indo-Europeans are a hypothetical prehistory, prehistoric population of Eurasia who spoke Proto-Indo-European language, Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the ancestor of the Indo-European languages according to linguistic reconstruction. ...
, each with its own interpretation of the archaeological record.


Sub-fields of study


Comparative linguistics

Comparative linguistics Comparative linguistics, or comparative-historical linguistics (formerly comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change ov ...
(originally comparative
philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed o ...
) is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages in order to establish their historical relatedness. Languages may be related by
convergence Convergence may refer to: Arts and media Literature *Convergence (book series), ''Convergence'' (book series), edited by Ruth Nanda Anshen *Convergence (comics), "Convergence" (comics), two separate story lines published by DC Comics: **A four-par ...
through borrowing or by genetic descent, thus languages can change and are also able to cross-relate. Genetic relatedness implies a common origin or
proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and accoun ...
. Comparative linguistics has the goal of constructing
language families A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...
, reconstructing proto-languages, and specifying the changes that have resulted in the documented languages. To maintain a clear distinction between
attested language In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
and reconstructed forms, comparative linguists prefix an asterisk to any form that is not found in surviving texts.


Etymology

Etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English ''The'' () is a grammatical article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identif ...
is the study of the
history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...

history
of
word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also co ...

word
s: when they entered a language, from what source, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. A word may enter a language as a
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (lin ...
(as a word from one language adopted by speakers of another language), through
derivational morphology Morphological derivation, in linguistics, is the process of forming a new word from an existing word, often by adding a prefix or suffix, such as For example, ''unhappy'' and ''happiness'' derive from the root word ''happy.'' It is differentiate ...
by combining pre-existing elements in the language, by a hybrid of these two processes called
phono-semantic matching Phono-semantic matching (PSM) is the incorporation of a word into one language from another, often creating a neologism, where the word's non-native quality is hidden by replacing it with Phonetics, phonetically and semantically similar words or r ...
, or in several other minor ways. In languages with a long and detailed history, etymology makes use of
philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed o ...
, the study of how words change from culture to culture over time. Etymologists also apply the methods of
comparative linguistics Comparative linguistics, or comparative-historical linguistics (formerly comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change ov ...
to reconstruct information about languages that are too old for any direct information (such as writing) to be known. By analyzing related languages with a technique known as the
comparative method In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
, linguists can make inferences, about their shared parent language and its vocabulary. In that way, word roots that can be traced all the way back to the origin of, for instance, the
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau. Some European languages of ...
language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), Signed language, sign, or often Written language, writing. The structure of languag ...
have been found. Although originating in the philological tradition, much current etymological research is done in
language families A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...
for which little or no early documentation is available, such as
Uralic The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family of 38 languages spoken by approximately 25million people, predominantly in Northern Eurasia. The Uralic languages with the most native speakers are Hungarian lang ...

Uralic
and
Austronesian Austronesian may refer to: *The Austronesian languages *The historical Austronesian peoples who carried Austronesian languages on their migrations {{disambiguation ...
.


Dialectology

DialectologyDialectology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...
is the scientific study of linguistic
dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of phenomena: * One usage refers to a of a that is a characteristic of a particular group of ...
, the varieties of a language that are characteristic of particular groups, based primarily on geographic distribution and their associated features. This is in contrast to variations based on social factors, which are studied in
sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, ...
, or variations based on time, which are studied in historical linguistics. Dialectology treats such topics as divergence of two local dialects from a common ancestor and synchronic variation. Dialectologists are concerned with grammatical features that correspond to regional areas. Thus, they are usually dealing with populations living in specific locales for generations without moving, but also with immigrant groups bringing their languages to new settlements.


Phonology

Phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

Phonology
is a sub-field of linguistics which studies the
sound In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid. In human physiology and psychology, sound is the ''reception'' of such waves and their ''perception'' by the b ...

sound
system of a specific language or set of languages. Whereas
phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lang ...

phonetics
is about the physical production and
perception Perception (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...

perception
of the sounds of speech, phonology describes the way sounds function within a given language or across languages. An important part of phonology is studying which sounds are distinctive units within a language. For example, the "p" in "pin" is aspirated, but the "p" in "spin" is not. In English these two sounds are used in
complementary distribution In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
and are not used to differentiate words so they are considered
allophones In phonology, an allophone (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek , ''állos'', "other" and , ''phōnē'', "voice, sound") is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or ''phone (phonetics), phones'', or signs used to pronounce a single phonem ...
of the same
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
. In some other languages like
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
and
Quechua Quechua may refer to: *Quechua people, several indigenous ethnic groups in South America, especially in Peru *Quechuan languages, a Native South American language family spoken primarily in the Andes, derived from a common ancestral language **Sou ...
, the same difference of aspiration or non-aspiration differentiates words and so the two sounds (or
phones A telephone is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently the human voice, into electronic ...
) are therefore considered two distinct phonemes. In addition to the minimal meaningful sounds (the phonemes), phonology studies how sounds alternate, such as the /p/ in English, and topics such as
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...

syllable
structure, stress,
accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent (phonetics), prominence given to a particular syllable in a word, or a word in a phrase ** Pitch accen ...
, and intonation. The principles of phonological theory have also been applied to the analysis of
sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulations in combination with non-manual elements. Sign languages are full-fled ...

sign language
s, but the phonological units do not consist of sounds. The principles of phonological analysis can be applied independently of
modality Modality may refer to: Humanities * Modality (theology), the organization and structure of the church, as distinct from sodality or parachurch organizations * Modality (music), in music, the subject concerning certain diatonic scales * Modalities ...
because they are designed to serve as general analytical tools, not language-specific ones.


Morphology

Morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as nebulae, galaxies ...
is the study of the formal means of expression in a language; in the context of historical linguistics, how the formal means of expression change over time; for instance, languages with complex inflectional systems tend to be subject to a simplification process. This field studies the internal structure of words as a formal means of expression. Words as units in the lexicon are the subject matter of
lexicology Lexicology is the branch of linguistics that analyzes the lexicon of a specific language. A word is the smallest meaningful unit of a language that can stand on its own, and is made up of small components called Morpheme, morphemes and even smalle ...
. While words are generally accepted as being (with
clitic In morphology and syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word ...
s) the smallest units of
syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

syntax
, it is clear that, in most (if not all) languages, words can be related to other words by rules. The rules understood by the speaker reflect specific patterns (or regularities) in the way words are formed from smaller units and how those smaller units interact in speech. In this way, morphology is the branch of linguistics that studies patterns of word-formation within and across languages, and attempts to formulate rules that model the knowledge of the speakers of those languages, in the context of historical linguistics, how the means of expression change over time. See
grammaticalisation In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication ...
.


Syntax

Syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

Syntax
is the study of the principles and rules for constructing
sentences ''The Four Books of Sentences'' (''Libri Quattuor Sententiarum'') is a book of theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), aca ...
in
natural language In neuropsychology Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology. It is concerned with how a person's cognition and behavior are related to the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Professionals in this branch of psychology often focus on ...
s. The term ''syntax'' is used to refer directly to the rules and principles that govern the sentence structure of any individual language, as in "the syntax of Modern Irish". Modern researchers in syntax attempt to describe languages in terms of such rules. Many professionals in this discipline attempt to find general rules that apply to all natural languages in the context of historical linguistics, how characteristics of sentence structure in related languages changed over time. See
grammaticalisation In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication ...
.


Rates of change and varieties of adaptation

Studies in historical linguistics often use the terms "
conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aest ...
" or "innovative" to characterize the extent of change occurring in a particular language or dialect as compared with related varieties. In particular, a ''conservative'' variety changes relatively less than an ''innovative'' variety. The variations in plasticity are often related to the socio-economic situation of the language speakers. An example of an innovative dialect would be
American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English is the m ...
because of the vast number of speakers and the open interaction its speakers have with other language groups; the changes can be seen in the terms developed for business and marketing, among other fields such as technology. The converse of an innovative language is a conservative language, which is generally defined by its static nature and imperviousness to outside influences. Most but not all conservative languages are spoken in secluded areas that lack any other primary language speaking population. Neither descriptive terms carries any value judgment in linguistic studies or determines any form of worthiness a language has, compared to any other language. A particularly-conservative variety that preserves features that have long since vanished elsewhere is sometimes said to be "
archaic Archaic is a period of time preceding a designated classical period, or something from an older period of time that is also not found or used currently: *List of archaeological periods **Archaic Sumerian language, spoken between 31st - 26th centu ...
". There are few examples of archaic language in modern society, but some have survived in
set phrase A phraseme, also called a set phrase, idiomatic phrase, Multiword expression, multi-word expression (in computational linguistics), or idiom, is a multi-word or multi-morphemic utterance where at least one of whose components is selectionally const ...
s or in nursery rhymes.


Evolutionary context

In terms of evolutionary theory, historical linguistics (as opposed to research into the
origin of language The origin of language (spoken and signed, as well as language-related technological systems such as writing), its relationship with human evolution, and its consequences have been subjects of study for centuries. Scholars wishing to study the ...
) studies acquired characteristics of languages.


See also

*
Comparative method In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
* Swadesh list of languages *
Etymological dictionary An etymological dictionary discusses the etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) – p. 633 "Etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/ the study of the class in words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time". ...
* Genetic linguistics *
GlottochronologyGlottochronology (from Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athens, Athens. Often called classical Greek, it was the prestige ( ...
*
Grammaticalisation In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication ...
*
Historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not only with the latterday meanings of words but also the historical development of their forms and meanings. It may also describe the vocabulary of an earli ...
*
Language families A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European ...

Language families
*
Lexicostatistics Lexicostatistics is a method of comparative linguistics Comparative linguistics, or comparative-historical linguistics (formerly comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages to establish ...
*
List of languages by first written accounts This is a list of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs ...
*
Mass lexical comparisonMass comparison is a method developed by Joseph Greenberg to determine the level of genetic relatedness between languages. It is now usually called multilateral comparison. The method is rejected by most linguists , though not all. Some of the top ...
*
Paleolinguistics Paleolinguistics is a term used by some linguists for the study of the distant human past by linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods ...
*
Proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and accou ...
* Real-time sociolinguistics *
Wave model In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account for observed changes ...


References


Sources

* Bernd Kortmann: ''English Linguistics: Essentials'', Anglistik-Amerikanistik, Cornlesen, pp. 37–49 * *


Further reading

* Raimo Anttila, ''Historical and Comparative Linguistics'' (2nd ed.) (John Benjamins, 1989) *
Karl Brugmann Karl Brugmann (16 March 1849 – 29 June 1919) was a Germany, German linguist. He is noted for his work in Indo-European linguistics. Biography He was educated at the universities of University of Halle, Halle and University of Leipzig, Leipzig. H ...

Karl Brugmann
,
Berthold DelbrückBerthold Gustav Gottlieb Delbrück (; 26 July 1842 – 3 January 1922) was a German linguist who devoted himself to the study of the comparative syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the stru ...
, ''
Grundriß der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen ''Grundriß der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen'' ( German for ''"Outline of the comparative grammar of the Indo-Germanic languages"'') is a major work of historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachr ...
'' (1886–1916). * Theodora Bynon, ''Historical Linguistics'' (Cambridge University Press, 1977) * Henry M. Hoenigswald, ''Language change and linguistic reconstruction'' (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press 1960). * Richard D. Janda and Brian D. Joseph (Eds), ''The Handbook of Historical Linguistics'' (Blackwell, 2004) * Roger Lass, ''Historical linguistics and language change''. (Cambridge University Press, 1997) * Winfred P. Lehmann, ''Historical Linguistics: An Introduction (Second Edition)'' (Holt, 1973) * April McMahon, ''Understanding Language Change'' (Cambridge University Press, 1994) * James Milroy, ''Linguistic Variation and Change'' (Blackwell, 1992) * A. C. Partridge, ''Tudor to Augustan English: a Study in Syntax and Style, from Caxton to Johnson'', in series, ''The Language Library'', London: A. Deutsch, 1969; 242 p. SBN 233-96092-9 * M.L. Samuels, ''Linguistic Evolution'' (Cambridge University Press, 1972) * R. L. Trask (ed.), ''Dictionary of Historical and Comparative Linguistics '' (Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001) *
August Schleicher August Schleicher (; 19 February 1821 – 6 December 1868) was a German linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), ...

August Schleicher
: ''Compendium der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen.'' (Kurzer Abriss der indogermanischen Ursprache, des Altindischen, Altiranischen, Altgriechischen, Altitalischen, Altkeltischen, Altslawischen, Litauischen und Altdeutschen.) (2 vols.) Weimar, H. Boehlau (1861/62); reprinted by Minerva GmbH, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, * {{DEFAULTSORT:Historical Linguistics