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A Glossary of Historical Linguistics


Historical Linguistics – the study of language change – is a major field in linguistics. With its long history and numerous subfields of its own, Historical Linguistics provides challenges to both beginning students and scholars not specialized in this field. This Glossary meets these challenges by providing accessible and widely representative definitions, discussion, and examples of key terms and concepts used in the field. It is written by two well-known authorities in this field. The book is extremely valuable to anyone wishing to understand historical linguistic terminology and concepts.

Key Features

A handy, easily understandable pocket guide, and a valuable companion for courses in Historical Linguistics, history of individual languages, history of linguistics, and for anyone curious about how and why languages change

Numerous cross-references to related terms

Covers new as well as traditional terminology

Not only defines, but provides examples and relevant discussion

Lyle Campbell is Presidential Professor of Linguistics and director of the Center for American Indian Languages at the University of Utah. He has published sixteen books, 170 articles, and is on thirteen editorial boards. He is the author of the well-known textbook Historical Linguistics (2004, 2nd edition, Edinburgh University Press and MIT Press).

Mauricio J. Mixco is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Utah. He is a specialist in Historical Linguistics, Native American Linguistics and Romance Linguistics, and publishes on the Yuman languages, on Mandan (Siouan), and on Shoshoni (Uto-Aztecan).

Cover design: River Design, Edinburgh

Edinburgh University Press

22 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LF

ISBN 978 0 7486 2379 2



MIXCO & CAMPBELL Linguistics Historical of Glossary A


A Glossary of Historical Linguistics





Peter Trudgill

A Glossary of Sociolinguistics

0 7486 1623 3

Jean Aitchison

A Glossary of Language and Mind

0 7486 1824 4

Laurie Bauer

A Glossary of Morphology

0 7486 1853 8

Alan Davies

A Glossary of Applied Linguistics

0 7486 1854 6

Geoffrey Leech

A Glossary of English Grammar

0 7486 1729 9

Paul Baker, Andrew Hardie and Tony McEnery

A Glossary of Corpus Linguistics

0 7486 2018 4

Alan Cruse

A Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics

0 7486 2111 3

Philip Carr

A Glossary of Phonology

0 7486 2234 9

Vyvyan Evans

A Glossary of Cognitive Linguistics

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A Glossary of

Historical Linguistics

Lyle Campbell and

Mauricio J. Mixco

Edinburgh University Press

© Lyle Campbell and Mauricio J. Mixco, 2007

Edinburgh University Press Ltd

22 George Square, Edinburgh

Typeset in Sabon

by Norman Tilley Graphics Ltd, Northampton, and printed and bound in Great Britain

by Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading

A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 0 7486 2378 5 (hardback)

ISBN 978 0 7486 2379 2 (paperback)

The right of Lyle Campbell and Mauricio J. Mixco to be identified as authors of this work

has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


Note to the Reader


A Glossary of Historical Linguistics




Note to the Reader

Throughout the book italics are used for emphasis, to highlight words and phrases that are important, but that are not themselves key words found in entries in this glossary. Most such terms are straightforward and the notions they represent are covered elsewhere in the volume under more direct or conventional terms.


abductive change Language change due to abduction.

abduction From American philosopher Charles S. Peirce, a reasoned guess about how an observed fact may have come about; reasoning from an effect to its cause; a kind of reasoning aimed at coming up with good hypotheses to explain observed cases; reasoning where, from a specific instance, a general conclusion is drawn, thought to be relevant to other similar cases, though this may not in fact be the case; thus, when applied to language, it can lead to language change. Introduced into linguistics by Henning Andersen (1973) and Raimo Anttila (1972).

aberrancy see shared aberrancy

Abkhaz-Adyge More commonly called Northwest


ablaut (also sometimes called apophony, vowel gradation and vowel grades) An alternation of vowels in the same root (or etymologically related words) that correlates with meaning differences. Ablaut is a characteristic particularly of Indo-European languages, especially the older ones such as Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Germanic, though the term is also used for vowel alternations in


grammatically related forms in other languages. The irregular (‘strong’) verbs of English illustrate ablaut alternations, for example sing/sang/sung, bring/brought/ brought, seek/sought/sought, break/broke/broken, drive/ drove/driven. In Indo-European linguistics it is common to speak of e-grade (with /e/) and o-grade (with /o/) ablaut. The distinction between /e/ and /o/, and between /e¯/ and /o¯ /, is labeled qualitative ablaut, while the distinction between /e/, /e¯/, and Ø (‘zero’) and between /o/, /o¯ /, and Ø is called quantitative ablaut. With /e/ or /o/, the root is said to be in full grade; when the vowel is gone (Ø), it is in zero grade. Qualitative ablaut is exemplified in Classical Greek pét-o-mai ‘fly’ (e-grade), pot- ‘flight’ (o-grade), e-pt-ome¯n ‘flew’ (zero-grade). Quantitative ablaut is illustrated in the second vowel of Classical Greek patér-es ‘fathers’ (nominative plural) (full grade), patr ‘father’ (nominative singular), patr-ós ‘father’s’ (genitive singular) (zero grade).

The ablaut alternations are thought to have been conditioned by the position of the stress in Proto-Indo- European; however, later linguistic changes in most Indo-European languages have obscured the probable earlier phonological conditioning, so that the ablaut alternations become part of the morphology of the languages. Similar vowel alternations in non-Indo- European languages are also sometimes called ablaut as are consonantal alternations in morphologically related words (as in Yuman, Siouan and other North American Indian language families).

absolute chronology The assignment of linguistic events to a specific date in the past. Absolute chronology for linguistic events usually depends on correlations of linguistic facts with information about dating from outside of linguistics. For example, when linguistic



forms are found in written material, conclusions that the linguistic form must predate the time of the writing are safe. See also chronology, relative chronology.

accent see dialect

accommodation The process by which speakers of different languages or varieties of a single language alter their speech to be more similar to the pronunciation and structure of the language of people with whom the speak, thereby accommodating to their form of language.

accommodation (of loanwords) see naturalization

accretion zone (formerly also called a residual zone) An area where genetic and structural diversity of languages are high and increase over time through immigration. Examples are the Caucasus, the Himalayas, the Ethiopian highlands and the northern Rift Valley, California, the Pacific Northwest of North America, Amazonia, northern Australia and New Guinea (Nichols 1997: 369).

acculturation see linguistic acculturation, language contact

acronym A word derived from the initial letters of each of the successive parts of a compound term or successive words, for example UNESCO [yunéskow] from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; emcee from ‘master of ceremonies’; radar from ‘radio direction and ranging’; scuba (diving) from ‘self contained underwater breathing apparatus’; and

Gestapo from German Geheime Staatspolizei ‘secret state’s police’. Acronym also refers to abbreviations where the letters are spelled out: ASAP ‘as soon as poss-