Open to a page of any historical linguistics text and you will see the results of entire communities shifting from "cat" to "cash."Lucus Eques wrote:Darwinism applied to language, which you have paraphrased, is equally fraught with error. To assume, if you say a word, e.g. "cat," that I will say something quite different, like "cash," is ridiculous, of course. Why then should the word change between two people? It probably would not. Among a hundred? Unlikely. Thousands?
For unclear reasons, the entire community might just decide to go along. This is the very engine of language change. Unfamiliarity has little to do with it. Further, at no time ever is any language a single, unitary thing. Even small language communities have variations, perhaps not even noticeable to the native speakers, which may get selected or emphasized over time.The obvious question arises: would not someone be unfamiliar with the word? get it wrong? repete to others wrong? He might. But within an isolated community, the word's variations would flatten out, and a democratic pronunciation would dominate, shared by all, and by all the children and their children's children.
Eh? This seems a highly platonic view of words.But if a word is changed, it is because a person has changed, not because the word changed itself.
Ah. Thanks to missionary and athropological work, we know this is completely false. Languages isolated from preserving technologies change most rapidly, regardless of the lifestyle of speakers. We have plenty of aboriginal languages recorded at different times over the last few hundred years, so we can chart their change. Three generations may bring as much change as English has gone through in the last half millennium.Take certain islander tribes that have preserved a nearly unchanged way of life for thousands of years, their tongues equally unmoved by the passage of the stars. This is the essential null hypothesis and starting point from which our evolutionary theories may grow.
I highly recommend John McWhorter's The Power of Babel: a Natural History of Language which is a layman's introduction to the many ways languages change.
Here we have the preservative influence of, well, Cicero, I suppose. Normal language change rules don't apply.So let us again address Gonzalo's question: would Latin not change in the mouths of Neolatinists over time?