• Language Complexity in Historical Perspective: The Enduring Tropes of Natural Growth and Abnormal Contact

    Author(s):
    James McElvenny (see profile)
    Date:
    2021
    Group(s):
    History of Linguistics and Language Study, Linguistics, Science Studies and the History of Science
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/bhje-j132
    Abstract:
    Focusing on the work of John McWhorter and, to a lesser extent, Peter Trudgill, this paper critically examines some common themes in language complexity research from the perspective of intellectual history. The present-day conception that increase in language complexity is somehow a “natural” process which is disturbed under the “abnormal” circumstances of language contact is shown to be a recapitulation of essentially Romantic ideas that go back to the beginnings of disciplinary linguistics. A similar genealogy is demonstrated for the related notion that grammatical complexity is a kind of “ornament” on language, surplus to the needs of “basic communication.” The paper closes by examining the implications of these ideas for linguistic scholarship.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    1 year ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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