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Linguistic Universals and Language Change$
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Jeff Good

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199298495

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199298495.001.0001

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On the Explanation of Typologically Unusual Structures

On the Explanation of Typologically Unusual Structures

(p.54) 3 On the Explanation of Typologically Unusual Structures
Linguistic Universals and Language Change

Alice C. Harris

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that languages are ‘bundles of historical accidents’. It further argues that unusual or rare features are unusual or rare because they are the accidental result of many different circumstances or conditions that have been lined up in just the right way. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 3.2 discusses the structure of the argument and compares the explanation with other general approaches. Sections 3.3 and 3.4 describe a very rare structure in Georgian and in Udi, respectively, and show that each may be explained by the approach adopted here. Section 3.5 discusses the Uniformitarian Principle in this context, and Section 3.6 presents some conclusions.

Keywords:   languages, historical accidents, argument, Georgian, Udi, uniformitarian hypothesis

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