Linguistic Reconstruction

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Reconstruction, Linguistic


the hypothetical recreation of extinct linguistic forms and systems on the basis of their later reflexes, taking into account the possible paths of linguistic development. The method was first used by A. Schleicher in the mid-19th century to reconstruct the Indo-European parent language (protolanguage).

External reconstruction uses the data of a number of related languages; for example, the regular correspondence of Slavic b, Germanic ß, Latin f Greek Φ, Sanskrit bh, and Hittite ρ in historically identical roots permits the reconstruction of Indo-European *bh, which developed differently in the various languages. Internal reconstruction uses the data of one language, as in the reconstruction of the old present tense marker of the Russian verb *-j-, which was transformed after a consonant in such words as brozhu (“I roam”), tashchu (“I pull”), and liubliu (“I love”); zh developed from *dj, shch from *skj, and bl from

Although a protolinguistic reconstruction is always hypothetical, there are certain criteria that must be met and various means of verifying accuracy. A reconstruction should account for the maximum number of facts about the daughter languages. It should be internally (typologically) consistent and should be able to stand comparison with reconstructions of more distantly related language groups. The analysis of ancient borrowings may also be helpful in linguistic reconstruction.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Of course, there were more linguistic symposia, an onomastic one, "Personal Name Systems in Finnic and Beyond", an etymological one, "Linguistic Reconstruction in Uralic: Problems and Prospects", two on computational methods, "Computational Uralistics", and "Language Technology through Citizen Science", one on second language acquisition, "Finno-Ugric Languages as Target Languages", and finally one on "The Development of Volgaic and Permic Literary Languages".
International Journal of Diachronic Linguistics and Linguistic Reconstruction 10: 97-135.
Basque and proto-Basque; language-internal and typological approaches to linguistic reconstruction.
They have also argued that, given the current state of knowledge, linguistic reconstruction cannot be used to establish the dates or number of migrations to the Americas.
Linguistic Reconstruction. An Introduction to Theory and Method.
Rather than evaluate the cognate sets or etymologies I have proposed (see references above), he questions the entire enterprise: `The methodological validity of linguistic reconstruction with such time depth and lacking any means of verification is extremely dubious ...'.
1995 Linguistic reconstruction: An introduction to theory and method.
(1982) The Archaeological and linguistic reconstruction of African history.
The essence of this extremely useful piece is cautionary: one must distinguish the product of linguistic reconstruction using the Comparative Method from the actual mother language of a group.
1995, Linguistic Reconstruction. An Introduction to the Theory and Method, Oxford.
Volume 85 of Studies in the History of the English Language VI presents thirteen distinct historical linguistic reconstructions that demonstrate a range of methodological approaches over a wide variety of linguistics subjects, from Old English to contemporary English, phonology, syntax, and lexis, among others.
Calvin Rensch basically applies a "bottom-up" approach to his linguistic reconstructions. His work is meticulous and systematic, and he should be commended for tackling the history of a phonological[y particularly complicated Austronesian subgroup.