Antoine Meillet and the Comparative Method: On Shared Aberrancies as Evidence of Genetic Relatedness

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

Abstract

Any method for establishing genetic relatedness by identifying similar
constructions in different languages must provide a means of measuring similarity.
As long as the identification of regular sound correspondences is our measure of
similarity in linguistic form, there can be no avoiding appeal to sound
correspondences in genetic arguments. This is true even for the type of evidence
termed shared aberrancy. If early comparative historical linguists thought
otherwise, as is often suggested, then by modern standards their proofs are invalid.
I argue that many such claims regarding early 19th century comparativist practice
involve a distorted and selective view of the history of linguistics. I also argue that
claims regarding Meillet's supposed privileging of shared aberrancy over sound
correspondence in the early 20th century follow from a misinterpretation of his
notion fait particulier 'singular fact'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages9-62
VolumeIII
Specialist publicationRomano Bohemica
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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Antoine Meillet
Comparative Method
History of Linguistics
Sound Correspondences
Regular
Historical Linguists
Linguistic Form
Misinterpretation
Language

Cite this

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title = "Antoine Meillet and the Comparative Method: On Shared Aberrancies as Evidence of Genetic Relatedness",
abstract = "Any method for establishing genetic relatedness by identifying similarconstructions in different languages must provide a means of measuring similarity.As long as the identification of regular sound correspondences is our measure ofsimilarity in linguistic form, there can be no avoiding appeal to soundcorrespondences in genetic arguments. This is true even for the type of evidencetermed shared aberrancy. If early comparative historical linguists thoughtotherwise, as is often suggested, then by modern standards their proofs are invalid.I argue that many such claims regarding early 19th century comparativist practiceinvolve a distorted and selective view of the history of linguistics. I also argue thatclaims regarding Meillet's supposed privileging of shared aberrancy over soundcorrespondence in the early 20th century follow from a misinterpretation of hisnotion fait particulier 'singular fact'.",
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year = "2014",
language = "English",
volume = "III",
pages = "9--62",
journal = "Romano Bohemica",
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Antoine Meillet and the Comparative Method: On Shared Aberrancies as Evidence of Genetic Relatedness. / Harrison, Sheldon.

In: Romano Bohemica, Vol. III, 2014, p. 9-62.

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

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AB - Any method for establishing genetic relatedness by identifying similarconstructions in different languages must provide a means of measuring similarity.As long as the identification of regular sound correspondences is our measure ofsimilarity in linguistic form, there can be no avoiding appeal to soundcorrespondences in genetic arguments. This is true even for the type of evidencetermed shared aberrancy. If early comparative historical linguists thoughtotherwise, as is often suggested, then by modern standards their proofs are invalid.I argue that many such claims regarding early 19th century comparativist practiceinvolve a distorted and selective view of the history of linguistics. I also argue thatclaims regarding Meillet's supposed privileging of shared aberrancy over soundcorrespondence in the early 20th century follow from a misinterpretation of hisnotion fait particulier 'singular fact'.

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