History and Historical Linguistics: Two Types of Cognitive Reconstruction?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


This article compares principles and practice in history and (structural) historical linguistics. I argue that the disciplines can be both connected and distinguished by the recognition that they engage in acts of cognitive reconstruction. I show that such reconstruction is fundamental to both disciplines, but that they do it differently: historical linguistics reconstructs unconscious entities, while history reconstructs at the conscious level. For these arguments to go through, certain commitments are required from the disciplines’ philosophies: mentalism of the type associated with Chomsky’s linguistics, and idealism of the type associated with Collingwood’s history. Although cognitive reconstruction is important to both areas of study, it is not all they do: to provide the context for my arguments, I also consider a number of other connections and distinctions between the disciplines, in terms of the questions that they can ask, the evidence available to them, and their relationships to synchrony and diachrony.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage and History, Linguistics and Historiography
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Approaches
EditorsNils Langer, Steffan Davies, Wim Vandenbussche
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing Group
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)978-3-0343-0761-1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameStudies in Historical Linguistics
PublisherPeter Lang


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