chapter  5
35 Pages

Case studies

Linguistics for many years has been a battlefield between generalizers seeking all-embracing explanations and others who have pointed to singularities that do not fit general theories. It is in the nature of a book such as the present one to favour the former approach. One reason why I regard the notion of a linguistic ecosystem as theoretically fruitful is that it has generated a number of promising research questions which nonecological activity, which regards languages as self-contained entities, has not been able to ask. My work on the Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific Hemisphere (Wurm, Mühlhäusler and Tryon 1996) supports the view that there has been a very significant extent of interrelationship between the languages of the region. At the same time, a growing body of sociolinguistic and anthropological studies confirms the inter-relatedness between such communication networks and speakers’ cultural practices. It therefore seems reasonable to seek explanations in non-local causes and, in particular, in the massive change in interlinguistic relations over the last 200 years.