The Comparative Method is commonly hailed as a solid methodology for comparing genetically related languages, and for reconstructing the history of their linguistic systems. Equally common is the assumption that the results of its analyses are best displayed in the form of a tree, or Stammbaum: starting from a common protolanguage, its linguistic descendants should form neatly separated branches and subgroups, each of which should be defined by a set of exclusively shared innovations. The expectation â€“ or at least the hope â€“ is that the historical innovations reflected in modern members of a family should be distributed in nested patterns, so as to fit a cladistic representation of that family. This belief is reflected in the vast popularity of the tree model in works of historical linguistics up to this day. The present paper aims at separating these two lines of thought, by showing that the strength of the Comparative Method does not necessarily entail the validity of the tree model which has been so often associated with it since the Neogrammarians.
|Journal||faits de Langues|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|