Curiously the same: swapping tools between linguistics and evolutionary biology

Date

2017

Authors

Bromham, Lindell

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Kluwer Academic Publishers

Abstract

One of the major benefits of interdisciplinary research is the chance to swap tools between fields, to save having to reinvent the wheel. The fields of language evolution and evolutionary biology have been swapping tools for centuries to the enrichment of both. Here I will discuss three categories of tool swapping: (1) conceptual tools, where analogies are drawn between hypotheses, patterns or processes, so that one field can take advantage of the path cut through the intellectual jungle by the other; (2) theoretical tools, where the machinery developed to process the data in one field is adapted to be applied to the data of the other; and (3) analytical tools, where common problems encountered in both fields can be solved using useful tricks developed by one or the other. I will argue that conceptual tools borrowed from linguistics contributed to the Darwinian revolution in biology; that theoretical tools of evolutionary change can in some cases be applied to both genetic and linguistic data without having to assume the underlying evolutionary processes are exactly the same; and that there are practical problems that have long been recognised in historical linguistics that may be solved by borrowing some useful analytical tools from evolutionary biology.

Description

Keywords

Language evolution, Historical linguistics, Biological evolution, Darwinism, Galton’s problem, Phylogenetic non-independence, Spatial autocorrelation, Interdisciplinary

Citation

Source

Biology and Philosophy

Type

Journal article

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights

DOI

10.1007/s10539-017-9594-y

Restricted until

2099-12-31