Stephen Carlson (
Tue, 31 Jan 1995 17:45:06 GMT

In article <3ge9p5$> (David A. Johns) writes:
>In article <> (William Tyler) writes:
># Now try answering the question. I'll repeat it. What do you call
># the property or group of properties that allow you to, more often
># than not, correctly distinguish between a Nigerian and a Swede?
>There are obviously genetic traits that have limited geographic
>distribution. We know that there are some common in Sweden that don't
>extend to Nigeria and some common in Nigeria that don't extend to
>But this fact does not validate the concept of races, unless you're
>willing to accept 5 billion of them.

It seems that there is a similar problem in linguistics, but the
linguists don't get all bent out of shape about it.

You can start off in Spain walking from one village to the next near
the coast of the Mediterranean, go through Catalonia, France, and into
Italy, and have every village dialect be so close to its neighbors
that they are mutually intelligible. With this dialect continuum,
linguists still find it useful to discuss, compare and contrast Spanish,
Catalan, French, and Italian as separate languages.

Same thing for a trail of villages from Bavaria to Belgium.

If the concept of race is fundamentally flawed because there are
5 billion of them, then the concept of language must be similarly
flawed because there are 5 billion idiolects. Why are the linguists
still in business? Are they deluded?

Stephen Carlson

Stephen Carlson : Poetry speaks of aspirations, : ICL, Inc. : and songs chant the words. : 11490 Commerce Park Dr.
(703) 648-3330 : Shujing 2:35 : Reston, VA 22091 USA