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p. 454. Language familieslocked

  • P. H. Matthews

Abstract

‘Language families’ discusses why linguists are certain that, for all the Indo-European languages, a single ancestor must once have existed, and how they demonstrate this. The ‘comparative’ method involves a step-by-step comparison of different languages, seeking detailed correspondences that have no reasonable alternative explanation. These correspondences may involve the ‘reconstruction’, as an entity that hypothetically existed in prehistory, not just of a phonetic unit, but also of a grammatical ending. For any similarity or set of similarities, linguists must discount alternative explanations: that they are accidental, that they reflect a prehistoric contact among people whose languages were not immediately related, or a combination of these.

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