Language Isolates and Their History, or, What's Weird, Anyway?


  • Lyle Campbell



In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt:

How many language isolates are there in the world? (How many language families are there?) Most linguistics do not know, and opinions vary greatly. The answers to these questions are complicated because they depend on different views about fundamental issues in historical linguistics. The goal of this paper is to attempt to answer the questions: How many language isolates are there? How can we advance knowledge of the history of language isolates? What methodological lessons does the study of specific isolates offer to understand better the history of language isolates in general and that of other specific isolates? What are the prospects for finding relatives for some language isolates, that is, for showing that they belong to larger genetic groupings than those known at present?