A Caltech Library Service

The Common Cause Principle in Historical Linguistics

Hitchcock, Christopher (1998) The Common Cause Principle in Historical Linguistics. Philosophy of Science, 65 (3). pp. 425-447. ISSN 0031-8248.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Despite the platitude that analytic philosophy is deeply concerned with language, philosophers of science have paid little attention to methodological issues that arise within historical linguistics. I broach this topic by arguing that many inferences in historical linguistics conform to Reichenbach's common cause principle (CCP). Although the scope of CCP is narrower than many have thought, inferences about the genealogies of languages are particularly apt for reconstruction using CCP. Quantitative approaches to language comparison are readily understood as methods for detecting the correlations that serve as premises for common cause inferences, and potential sources of error in historical linguistics correspond to well-known limitations of CCP.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle
Additional Information:© 1998 by the Philosophy of Science Association. Received July 1997, revised December 1997. I would like to thank audience members at the Society for Exact Philosophy annual meeting in Montréal, where an earlier version of this paper was presented. For comments upon earlier drafts, I would like to thank David Hull, Merrilee Salmon, Wes Salmon, Elliott Sober, and especially Alexis Manaster Ramer
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140408-110817773
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:The Common Cause Principle in Historical Linguistics Christopher Hitchcock Philosophy of Science, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 425-447 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Philosophy of Science Association Article Stable URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:44763
Deposited By: Susan Vite
Deposited On:08 Apr 2014 18:36
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 06:22

Repository Staff Only: item control page