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Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time Hardcover – September 1, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0226580562 ISBN-10: 9780226580562 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 374 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780226580562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226580562
  • ASIN: 0226580563
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,354,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Charles E. Nydorf on January 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Johanna Nichols is a linguist of great originality whose interests span a wide range from descriptive studies of Caucasian languages to cross-linguistic surveys of head-marking and phono-symbolism. She is particularly interested in the very ancient history of language. This book is the closest thing to a synthetic introduction to her theoretical and methodological approach. It presents a global study of linguistic diversity. Suchy studies have a venerable history going back to the early 19th century but they are quite daunting to undertake. It is necessary to locate very good descriptive studies of languages from every corner of the world and to work through dismaying discrepancies in terminology. Nichols was inspired by the typological ideas of G. A. Klimov and the traits that she sampled are largely taken from his work. She characterizes her method as population typology. The world is divided into large areas and the languages found within an area are treated as a single population. The typological features of these large populations are then compared.

There is a special emphasis on identifying stable features, ones that persist in an area over many tens of thousands of years. Nichols makes astonishing claims about the antiquity of the geographical distributions that she has found. Most go back to long before the most recent glacial maximum! I actually find her claims that certain stable features have been maintained in the same areas for many tens of thousands of years as quite convincing.

Concentrating on features isolated by Klimov has had some very beneficial effects. For one thing, it avoids the arbitrary division of linguistic areas by continent.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mianfei on December 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Johanna Nichols' "Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time" has become one of the most acclaimed reference tools for the purpose of linguistics. It contains the most accurate and least genetically biased sample that continuing language extinction is ever going to permit us to obtain, and analyses it in an exceptionally effective manner.

Although the number of features analysed is extremely small compared to the vast World Atlas of Language Structures, thye are analysed with considerably more detail and more effort is developed to connect them. For example,

- head marking at the phrase level implies it at the clause level without exception
- the presence of grammatical gender relates to high complexity in terms of number of morphological markers per sentence
- verb-initial order correlates with the presence of abundant head marking on verbs
- stative/active alignment occurs only in head-marking languages

The book also offers a surprisingly detailed analysis of how languages spread and evolve. Nichols shows that in a small number of "spread zones", a single language family dominates, and that this lack of competitiveness causes (or can cause) highly marked features that would not survive in a linguistically more "competitive" environment to flourish. "Residual zones", mainly found on coasts with rich fisheries or in high mountain areas, have high linguistic diversity but tend to confirm to a standard profile of verb-final order and relatively high complexity. In "spread zones", by contrast, other profiles often occur, and the profile of a "spread zone" frequently changes whenever a new family moves through it.
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Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time
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