This collection of papers is the outcome of the first Conceptual Structure, Discourse and Language conference (CSDL) held at the University of Califronia, San Diego in October 1995. CSDL was organized with the intention of bringing together researchers from both "cognitive" and "functional" approaches to linguistics. The papers in this volume span a variety of topics, but there is a common thread running through them: the claim that semantics and discourse properties are fundamental to our understanding of language.
Joan Bybee and her colleagues present a new theory of the evolution of grammar that links structure and meaning in a way that directly challenges most contemporary versions of generative grammar. This study focuses on the use and meaning of grammatical markers of tense, aspect, and modality and identifies a universal set of grammatical categories. The authors demonstrate that the semantic content of these categories evolves gradually and that this process of evolution is strikingly similar across unrelated languages.
Through a survey of seventy-six languages in twenty-five different phyla, the authors show that the same paths of change occur universally and that movement along these paths is in one direction only. This analysis reveals that lexical substance evolves into grammatical substance through various mechanisms of change, such as metaphorical extension and the conventionalization of implicature. Grammaticization is always accompanied by an increase in frequency of the grammatical marker, providing clear evidence that language use is a major factor in the evolution of synchronic language states.
The Evolution of Grammar has important implications for the development of language and for the study of cognitive processes in general.
This book discusses words used in the Southeast and how they have changed
during the 20th century. It also describes how the lexicon varies according
to the speaker's age, race, education, sex, and place of residence
(urban versus rural; coastal versus piedmont versus mountain). Data collected
in the 1930s as part of the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic
States project were compared with data collected in 1990 from similar speakers
in the same communities.
The results show that region was the most important
factor in differentiating dialects in the 1930s but that it is the least
important element in the 1990s, with age, education, race, and age all
showing about the same influence on the use of vocabulary. An appendix
contains a tally of the responses given by 78 speakers to 150 questions
about vocabulary items, along with speakers' commentary. Results
from the 1930s may be compared to those from 1990, making this a treasure
trove for anyone interested in regional terms or in how our speech is changing
as the South moves from an agricultural economy through industrialization
and into the information age.
This selection of Peter Trudgill's major works since 1988, appearing here in updated and revised form, reveals major recurring themes in his work on linguistic diversity. This book evinces his deep concern that the world's linguistic diversity is diminishing at an alarming rate. The linguistic future is likely to be very different from the past, because increased language contact among peoples will result in the creation of fewer new languages to balance the language deaths. The essays here manifest Trudgill's conviction that linguists must make every effort to study minority languages and dialects before they vanish. The book also demonstrates his sense of the obligation that linguists have to educate the public about why linguistic diversity is valuable.
The book deals with a number of specific but related topics. One area is the role of English in the world, and the nature of Standard English or Englishes. Another is language as a human issue, reflecting the author's concern that the results of sociolinguistic research should be made available to assist, wherever possible, with the solution of educational and other real-world problems. A third focus is on the problematic and interconnected relationships among nation and language and dialect, but, unlike the work of most other writers in this field, this book looks closely at the linguistic characteristics of the varieties concerned. The final major emphasis is on sociohistorical linguistics: in particular, the relationship between colonial and motherland varieties of English; dialect contact and language contact; and the sociolinguistically informed dialectology of linguistic theory, linguistic description, and the applications of linguistics. The major overall unifying theme of the book is linguistic variation and, as the diachronic outcome of linguistic variation, linguistic change.