The common cause principle in historical linguistics

Philosophy of Science 65 (3):425-447 (1998)
Despite the platitude that analytic philosophy is deeply concerned with language, philosophers of science have paid little attention to methodological issues that arise within historical linguistics. I broach this topic by arguing that many inferences in historical linguistics conform to Reichenbach's common cause principle (CCP). Although the scope of CCP is narrower than many have thought, inferences about the genealogies of languages are particularly apt for reconstruction using CCP. Quantitative approaches to language comparison are readily understood as methods for detecting the correlations that serve as premises for common cause inferences, and potential sources of error in historical linguistics correspond to well-known limitations of CCP
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DOI 10.1086/392655
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