Linguistic Diversity by Daniel NettleLinguistic Diversity by Daniel Nettle

Linguistic Diversity

byDaniel Nettle

Paperback | March 1, 1999

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There are some 6,500 different languages in the world, belonging to around 250 distinct families and conforming to numerous grammatical types. This book explains why. Given that the biological mechanisms underlying language are the same in all normal human beings, would we not be a moresuccessful species if we spoke one language? Daniel Nettle considers how this extraordinary and rich diversity arose, how it relates to the nature of language, cognition, and culture, and how it is linked with the main patterns of human geography and history. Human languages and language families are not distributed evenly: there are relatively few in Eurasia compared to the profusion found in Australasia, the Pacific, and the Americas. There is also a marked correlation between biodiversity and linguistic diversity. The author explains the processesby which this distribution evolved and changes still. To do so he returns to the earliest origins of language, reconstructing the processes of linguistic variation and diffusion that occurred when humans first filled the continents and, thousands of years later, turned to agriculture. He ends byexamining the causes of linguistic mortality, and why the number of the world's languages may halve before 2100. Linguistic Diversity draws on work in anthropology, linguistics, geography, archaeology, and evolutionary science to provide a comprehensive account of the patterns of linguistic diversity. It is written in a clear, lively and accessible style, and will appeal broadly across the natural and humansciences, as well as to the informed general reader.
Daniel Nettle is at Merton College, Oxford, and a member of the Human Biodiversity Project at the University of Cambridge.
Title:Linguistic DiversityFormat:PaperbackPublished:March 1, 1999Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198238576

ISBN - 13:9780198238577

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction1.1. Preamble1.2. The Family Tree Model1.3. The Linguistic Item and Linguistic Pool1.4. Levels and Diversity in the Linguistic Pool1.5. Justification, Disguised as Apology1.6. The Need for an Interdisciplinary Approach2. Language Evolution: Basic Mechanisms2.1. Introduction2.2. The Neutral Model2.3. Problems with the Neutral Model2.4. Additional Amplifiers2.5. Summary and Conclusions3. Language Evolution: Computer Simulations3.1. Introduction3.2. The Use of Computer Simulations3.3. Methods3.4. Basic Results3.5. More Realistic Social Structures3.6. Social Selection3.7. Functional Selection3.8. Discrete Traits3.9. Discussion3.10. Adaptive Significance of Social Selection4. Language Diversity: Patterns in Space4.1. Introduction4.2. Quantifying Language Diversity4.3. Vectors of Language Spread4.4. Case Studies4.5. Ecological Risk as a Universal Constraint4.6. Testing the Theory: Methods4.7. Testing the Theory: Results4.8. Hunter-gatherers4.9. Conclusions5. Language Diversity: Changes in Time5.1. Introduction5.2. The Palaeolithic Equilibrium5.3. The Neolithic Punctuation5.4. The Neolithic Aftershock5.5. The Industrial Punctuation5.6. Prospect6. Phylogenetic Diversity6.1. Introduction6.2. Lineages and Stocks6.3. The Distribution of Stocks6.4. Stocks and Time: Nichol's Model6.5. Stocks and Time: An Alternative Model6.6. Validating the Model6.7. Conclusions7. Structural Diversity7.1. Introduction7.2. Causes of Structural Diversity7.3. Geographical Distribution of Structural Diversity7.4. Case Study: Phonological Inventory and the Lexicon7.5. ConclusionsEpilogueAppendix - Global Language Diversity Data

Editorial Reviews

`His conclusions, while by no means earth-shaking in their implications, are eminently reasonable and manage to tie together a number of strands of thought in an original and creative way ... a valuable contribution to our understanding of how and why languages have changed over time.'F Newmeyer, Journal of Linguistics