14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999


What can a Database of Proto-Languages Tell us about the Last 10,000 Years of Sound Changes?

Egidio Marsico

Dynamique du Langage, Université Lumière Lyon 2, France

This paper describes the construction of a database on reconstructed phonological system and some of the preliminary interpretations. The statistical study of the content of over a hundred proto-phonological systems, does not reveal a significant evolution towards either complexification nor simplification, during the last 10,000 years. This means first that language reached a sufficient level of complexity long ago, and second that sound changes must not be viewed as teological processes, thus placing their motivations and explanations elsewhere. We also offer insights on some theoretical points raised by this study.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Marsico, Egidio (1999): "What can a database of proto-languages tell us about the last 10,000 years of sound changes?", In ICPhS-14, 353-356.