2016-10-25

Systemic evolution

In the very early days of my stay in Paris, my biological host at UPMC, Eric Bapteste, pointed me to the concept of "systemic evolution" in biology. By then, I could understand what it meant, more or less, but I had problems in finding to see its importance for language change. Now, due to recent collaboration with Nathan Hill on a dataset of Burmish languages, and also thanks to numerous talks with the biologists in the lab at UPMC, I realized that sound change is best handled as a linguistic example for systemic evolution, and the fact that some scholars (like Trask 2000) use the term "systematic correspondences" for "regular sound correspondences" further underlines this (so the idea is not new in linguistics but has been around for some time). I discuss this in more detail in a recent blog post I wrote for David Morrison's blog The Genealogical World of Phylogenetic Networks, which you can find here.