Linguistic typology and the reconstruction of proto-languages : a study in methodology

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1992

Authors

Schwink, Frederick W.

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This dissertation began because of two problems I had encountered in the literature on Indo-European over the last several years. First: the argument on the so-called Glottalic Theory was very convincingly and definitively defended and demented by different groups of scholars. It hardly seemed that both sides could be correct, yet each seemed eminently plausible. Second: in reference to the Glottalic Theory, the reconstrution of IE syntax, the reconstruction of IE vocalism, and in a myriad of other problems, the term "typology" was bandied about almost like a magic wand, yet the concepts intended by different scholars often seemed diametrically opposed to each other. In hopes of clarifying these discrepancies in my own knowledge of IE and linguistics, I decided to undertake a study of typology and reconstruction which would allow me either to reject one side or the other, or, alternatively, would allow me to reconcile both viewpoints. In the following pages I attempt to achieve this latter goal. In my first three chapters I describe and define the process of linguistic reconstruction, language typology, and the reconciliation of the two. In the following chapters I have taken the insights gained on these ways of viewing language and applied them to a number of problems in the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European phonology and morphology. Proto-Indo-European was chosen for a number of reasons. It is a language family which has a rich history of reconstruction so that the problem areas are well defined and researched. In contrast to more tenuously related groups of languages, the Indo-European languages are closely enough related to each other that there is some hope in achieving a reliable reconstruction. At least the comparanda are well defined. In contrast to, e.g., Germanic or other subgroups of Indo-European, there is enough uncertainty, on the other hand, about the precise details of the reconstruction that typology can play a significant role in deciding between competing reconstructions. A final and more personal note applies here as well. My own studies have been almost exclusively in the field of Indo-European languages and linguistics so that I am less likely to have misused data and analyses of others by remaining within this language family. Any insights into the reconstruction of Indo-European which may have been arrived at in this study should be just as applicable to the reconstruction of other proto-languages.

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