Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Language coverage goes off the rails ... Darwin and language

I start thinking 'well, language coverage can't get much worse' and then I read "Word Court" tonight: "Darwin's ideas at work with language too". Turns out to be about a now-old piece on verb regularization in Nature (discussed here), but this take on it is just howlingly off-target. One simple example:

English is "essentially the child of Norman French and Anglo-Saxon". Children, if I have a vague clue about the genetics, get roughly half of their genetic material from each parent. English gets a fraction of its vocabulary — how much depends on just what you're measuring — from Norman French and virtually no core structure. This isn't so much in the DNA of English: Crudely speaking, it's much more nuture than nature. Is there no level at which stuff like this gets checked by people who know something about the facts?

You should also read this … no time to comment now, but the American Enterprise Institute is publishing work on linguistics … .

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