This question from over four years ago never got a definitive answer, perhaps because no 'rankings' of sound change rates existed at that time. I would like to revive it (in particular for sound change, this being the easiest to quantify). I've implemented a series of ordered rules in R which derives Present-Day English phonological strings from the Old English; someone may well have done the same more thoroughly, and for multiple languages. We could then compare the number of rules between languages.

  • 1
    Look up "Glottochronology". But as far as I know, only word replacement rates are used in glottochronology and not sound change rates. Perhaps, because it is easier to track word replacement historically than sound change, historical phonology is difficult even for well-documented ancient languages. Jun 28 '20 at 10:37
  • 1
    There is at least a program somewhere that transforms Latin into Spanish via known historical sound changes. It's not that hard to do if you don't try to account for everything. But comparison of rules is nothing like quantification; phonological change rules are just descriptive habits that linguists get into, and not discrete events that can be counted.
    – jlawler
    Jun 28 '20 at 18:38
  • 1
    @user6726: that is the question I linked to in my question.
    – legatrix
    Jun 29 '20 at 10:09
  • @jk-ReinstateMonica I am familiar with glottochronology and its controversies. I agree that it would be difficult for most ancient languages, but for all the standard Romance languages, for example, there are more or less definitive summaries available. The question is whether anyone has formalized them in a manner allowing direct comparison.
    – legatrix
    Jun 29 '20 at 10:12
  • @jlawler good to know that there is such a program. I disagree that a suitable comparison of rules would not count as quantification, and potentially useful quantification at that. I agree that rules are not events, of course.
    – legatrix
    Jun 29 '20 at 10:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.