Re: On oral traditions and muddied waters

Peter D. Junger (junger@PDJ2-RA.F-REMOTE.CWRU.EDU)
Sun, 19 May 1996 07:03:28 -0400

Gary Goodman writes:

: MS>Let me make this argument-- language is as apt to be conserved by oral
: MS>tradition as is history (probably more so, in fact). As a rule of thumb,
: MS>half of a people's language can be expected to change in some fashion in
: MS>a 2500 year period. Assume the great Mediterranean flood was 35,000 eyar
: s
: MS>ago. How much of the original language of the observers would survive to
: MS>the present day? One part in 2 to the 14th, or 16192. Given typical
: MS>use vocabularies of 10,000 words, that's ONE WORD. I don't think it
: MS>likely that much language from 35000 years ago has survived to our day--
: MS>and history is much less likely.
: Interesting rule of thumb. How has it been verified? How does that
: explain the theorists work on ice-age (that's the period we are
: discussing) languages?

Two quibbles: i.) 2 to the fourteenth is 16384 and ii.) the rate of
change for the language _may_ bear little relation to the rate of
change of the ``use vocabulary''.

Peter D. Junger--Case Western Reserve University Law School--Cleveland, OH