The Panda's Thumb: The words of the world:
A study in Science has returned biological methods to linguistic evolution in a reversal of history, and concluded that one can, within limits, reconstruct the history of language.
Charles Darwin was not the first person to suppose that historical evolution could be recognised by homologies and represented by tree diagrams. That honour goes to Sir William Jones in 1797, although the tree idea was later.
Jones argued that one could compare cognate terms and infer a historical relationship between languages and this has become the foundation of modern philology. For example, words that are based on the idea of “knowing” (including, as it happens, “idea”) generate a tree of Indo-European languages. [And like biological evolution, there are “creationists” who think that all language was created in Sanskrit.]
Now, a study in Science has returned biological methods to linguistic evolution in a reversal of history, and come up with some interesting conclusions.
Evolution gives insight into linguistics.