Piotr Gasiorowski wrote:
08-08-03 00:31, H.M. Hubey wrote:

> Axioms of arithmetic were enunciated after experience with arithmetic.
> In other words, axioms (math), postulates (say, quantum physics) are
> enunciated to capture
> in a concise and precise way the empirical knowledge we possess about
> the topic.

In other words, they are _hypotheses_ so solidly supported by the facts
that one would rather change the rest of the edifice, not the
foundation. But your Axioms 0, 1 and 2 are hardly solid enough:

We are not doing quantum physics. This field is mostly dense fog so far. You can think of
these as approximations.

#0 says: "_Most_ changes are co-articulation effects of various kinds."
As I said, this is probably true, but you put it so informally that it's
of little use in practice. What does "most" mean? Something like 50.1%
or 90%? And what about the rest? Why does a remainder exist, in the
first place? The really interesting part here is the details (the way
coarticulation works or the reason it is prevented in some cases).

Logic cannot handle most; only "all" and "some"
Fuzzy logic might.
Statistics looks at it in terms of how many sdts (std deviations)
Numerical analysis looks for order of error.
These are about approximations.

#1 says: "The changes go from less sonorant to more sonorant." As it
stands, it's demonstrably false. Sonorisation is common enough to be
expected only in some contexts (e.g. in intervocalical consonants, where
it can be regarded as a kind of assimilation and so falls under #0,
making #1 redundant!); it's reverse is common enough to be regarded as
natural in other contexts (e.g. various forms of initial or
stress-conditioned fortition, as in Romance, Hindi [not to mention
English], word-final devoicing in hundreds of languages, etc.).
Likewise, deletion is more common than epenthesis, but both _may_
happen, as Richard has pointed out.
Ok. deletion is a problem. Liquids/nasals especially tend to disappear. but the general rules
still work out. There are more basic principles at work (inertia of articulators, grammatical
rules etc). I was referring only to purely phonetic changes.

#2 says: "The specific mechanism is (to the simplest approximation)
nearest neighbor shift." Again, there are counterexamples to that (for
example, the use of a glottal stop for /t/ in some dialects of English
and of uvular [R] replacing apical [r] in some languages are examples
articulatorily _abrupt_ changes. Like #0 and #1, #2 it's a useful rule
of thumb at best, not a solid "law", let alone "axiom".

That is again a no-no. These are probably not abrupt or they are examples of incorrectly
created reconstructions. These ideas need a distance metric. In fact these ideas are already
in use but not discussed in terms of the words I used. For example, sharing some distinctive
features is usually a must, but that is just one way to create some kind of a distance metric.

At one point you suggested that #1 and #2 _are_ solid laws and anything
that appears to contradict them counts as "special" and is to be
attributed to extralinguistic forces (contact effects etc.). But I see
no empirical evidence for such a claim. It looks merely like an attempt
to immunise the "fundamental principles" against verification rather
than leave them open to revision and elaboration.

Most of what you have produced are "reconstructions". That would only continue the ignoble "fog on fog"
basis of historical linguistics.

I am suggesting using universals, and a more rigorous attempt to nail down some ideas instead of
leaving things the way they are.


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Mark Hubey