The Rise and Fall of Languages

The Rise and Fall of Languages

This book puts forward a new approach to language change, the punctuated equilibrium model. This is based on the premise that during most of the 100,000 or more years that humans have had language, states of equilibrum have existed during which linguistic features diffused across the languages in a given area so that they gradually converged on a common prototype. From time to time, the state of equilibrium would be punctuated, with the expansion and split of peoples and of languages. Most recently, as a result of European colonization and globalization of communication, many languages face imminent extinction.


"This book is required reading for anyone seriously interested in what we can honestly recover from the past history of languages." James A. Matisoff, University of California, Berkeley

"This book will be seminal in bringing about a paradigm shift in historical linguistics." Randy J. LaPolla, Academia Sinica Taiwan and City University of Hong Kong

'Certainly the most refreshing and stimulating work in the field of historical linguistics I have had the pleasure of reading.' Colin Renfrew, Cambridge Archaeology

'Ground-breaking work in the true sense of the term.' Robert Orr, Diachronica