Family tree theory
The family tree theory in linguistics was developed by August Schleicher in the mid-19th century. He assumed that languages develop analogously to the evolution of biological species from original languages (proto- language ). According to this, the relationships and relationships between languages behave exactly like the relationships between species in biology, which can be represented in the form of phylogenetic family trees .
Family tree models are hierarchical models in which daughter languages develop “genetically” from parent languages. The Romance languages are daughter languages of Latin , Latin is a daughter language of Italian, and Italian is a daughter language of Indo-European . Family tree models are used today to represent the relationships between languages and to group them.
The comparative linguistics can discover relationships and reconstruct parents Languages in part. So the Indo-European original language was partly reconstructed. The family tree model, if thought through to the end, leads to a common original language for all languages. This is indicated by certain phenomena of recent genetic research. The existence of a common original language is, however, controversial, since each further developed older level of the language tree contains greater uncertainties.
Aftermath of the family tree theory
Johannes Schmidt argued that the individual Indo-European languages cannot be easily divided into a family tree. He assumed mutual linguistic influences that occurred when language groups came into contact with one another. There are striking similarities between Greek and Italian and between Italian and Celtic . There are similar relationships between Italian and Celtic (on the one hand) and Germanic (on the other hand). Germanic, in turn, has special similarities with Slavic and Baltic . All of these relationships cannot be put into a family tree.
The linguistic geography is not working for decades more with the tree model because this theory does not take into account the constant mixing and self-influencing languages.
Despite the criticism of the family tree theory, some linguists still clung to this theory around the turn of the century (1900).
Family tree-like representations
One must, however, distinguish between family tree representations (in the sense of Schleicher's theory) and hierarchical tree-like structures that have nothing to do with Schleicher's theory. For example, the major German dialects are often divided into Low German and High German , the latter in turn into Middle German and Upper German, without the creators of this “tree” having Schleicher's family tree in mind. These tree structures are not about descent and language division, but about the presence or absence of certain dialect features, such as the presence of traces of the second sound shift .
- Genetic Relationship (Linguistics)
- Genetic unit
- Historical linguistics
- Language family
- Language families of the world
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