Historical reconstruction of languages relies on the comparative method, which itself depends on the notion of the regularity of change. The regularity of sound change is the famous Neogrammarian Hypothesis: "sound change takes place according to laws that admit no exception." The comparative method, however, is not restricted to the consideration of sound change, and neither is the assumption of regularity. Syntactic, morphological, and semantic change are all amenable in varying degrees, to comparative reconstruction, and each type of change is constrained in ways that enable the researcher to distinguish between regular and more irregular changes.
This volume draws together studies by scholars engaged in historical reconstruction, all focussing on the subject of regularity and irregularity in the comparative method. A wide range of languages are represented, including Chinese, Germanic, and Austronesian.
This wonderfully stimulating book... takes an honorable place in modern scholarship on reconstruction and language relatedness. Drawing on 'difficult' data from largely non-Indo-European languages... it highlights what the standard linguistics textbooks do not - the 'rough edges', the problems with the received wisdom. * Orin D. Gensler, Linguistics, Vol.35, 1999 * Its stength lies in its concentration on relaticely unfamiliar material, presented by scholars whose expertise is palpable at every turn. There is no doub that the effort that is requires to penetrate and , where necessary, to restate the authors' theoretical methodological premises and conclusions - the very conclusions likely to net the book some eager readers - will be well repaid. It is badly needed.