• The Dating Game: One Last Look at Glottochronology: The Case of Some Arabic Dialects

      Schulte, Martha; Seckinger, Beverly (University of Arizona, Department of Anthropology, 1985)
      In a series of seminal articles, Swadesh (1951, 1955) and Lees (1953) developed the theories of lexicostatistics and glottochronology, and detailed the methods for their application. There followed a spate of enthusiastic studies to test and refine those methods, discussed by Hymes (1960) in his lengthy evaluation of the progress of lexicostatistical theory. At that time, Hymes deemed the glottochronological method a potentially useful tool for the dating of language splits, and called for its further refinement. Yet, since Bergsland and Vogt's (1962) scathing and cogent critique of the method, glottochronology has been neglected. Neither defended nor disproven definitively, glottochronology seems to have died a silent death. Our purpose in this paper is to resurrect it once again, to test the method with data from nine modern dialects of Arabic, to examine the problems involved in its application, and to scrutinize the assumptions which underlie the theory.