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An interesting idea, but this still doesn't take into account the
development that might happen if a group was _completely_ isolated
from the rest of the world--such as native Australian languages.  As
the group invents new technologies, they still might change their
language somewhat.  However, this is still interesting.

Warning: here be gmail.  Arrr!

On 10/18/05, Peter Bleackley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I know that some people on the list are professional linguists, so I
> thought that they might be interested in the proposed methodology for
> studying the evolution of languages in real time. The idea is that language
> evolves due to the errors that speakers make during language acquisition.
> People normally spend quite a long time on language acquisition, in
> constant contact with fluent speakers, and so are able to correct most of
> these errors. If people have to learn a language in a limited time, with
> limited access to fluent speakers, the rate of change will be
> correspondingly higher.
>
> At the start of the experiment, a group of volunteers (Generation 0) is
> given information about a conlang, consisting of a core vocabulary (common
> to all volunteers), an extended vocabulary (50% of the remaining lexicon,
> selected at random, different for each volunteer), a basic grammar, and a
> set of example sentences based on the core vocabulary. Each volunteer is
> told that he is a field linguist, visiting the native speakers of the
> language, which at the end of two years he must document. The native
> speakers are monolingual.
> The volunteers meet in a room around 3 time a week for two hours at a time
> and try to communicate in the language. There are various props in the room
> that they can use to try to illustrate what they are saying.
>
> At the end of the first year, Generation 1 joins the experiment. They are
> also told that they are field linguists, and that their task is to learn
> the language from its native speakers and produce a report at the end of
> two years. They, however, are given no initial information about the
> language - they only have Generation 0 to learn it from, and both
> generations are under strict instructions to use no English and maintain
> the fiction that the native speakers are monolingual. At the end of each
> year N, a new Generation N of volunteers joins the experiment.
>
>  From the end of year 2 onwards, Generation N-2 leaves the experiment and
> writes their field reports. This has the effect of removing the most fluent
> speakers from the pool, and thus ensuring that a number of the errors that
> the younger speakers have made become permanently incorporated into the
> language. The field reports are studied to see how the language has changed
> - what sound changes are occurring, what new grammatical features are
> emerging, what changes the lexicon is undergoing.
>
> Pete
>