Cladistic Parsimony, Historical Linguistics and Cultural Phylogenetics

Mind and Language 32 (1):65-100 (2017)
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Abstract

Here, I consider the recent application of phylogenetic methods in historical linguistics. After a preliminary survey of one such method, i.e. cladistic parsimony, I respond to two common criticisms of cultural phylogenies: that cultural artifacts cannot be modeled as tree-like because of borrowing across lineages, and that the mechanism of cultural change differs radically from that of biological evolution. I argue that while perhaps remains true for certain cultural artifacts, the nature of language may be such as to side-step this objection. Moreover, I explore the possibility that cladistic parsimony can be justified even if is true by appealing to the inference pattern known among philosophers as ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’.

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Frank Cabrera
University of Wisconsin, Madison (PhD)

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References found in this work

The Logic of Scientific Discovery.Karl Popper - 1959 - Studia Logica 9:262-265.
The Inference to the Best Explanation.Gilbert H. Harman - 1965 - Philosophical Review 74 (1):88-95.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2):421-423.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.David L. Hull - 1997 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (3):435-438.

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