In theory, there are three possibilities to be considered. They could apply either to human language as a whole, or to any one language in particular. The first possibility is slow decay, as was frequently suggested in the nineteenth century. Many scholars were convinced that European languages were on the decline because they were gradually losing their old word-endings. For example, the popular German writer Max Müller asserted that, 'The history of all the Aryan languages is nothing but gradual process of decay.'
Alternatively, languages might be slowly evolving to more efficient state. We might be witnessing the survival of the fittest, with existing languages adapting to the needs of the times. The lack of complicated word-ending system in English might be sign of streamlining and sophistication, as argued by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen in 1922: 'In the evolution of languages the discarding of old flexions goes hand in hand with the development of simpler and more regular expedients that are rather less liable than the old ones to produce misunderstanding.'
A third possibility is that language remains in substantially similar state from the point of view of progress or decay. It may be marking time, or treading water, as it were, with its advance or decline held in check by opposing forces. This is the view of the Belgian linguist Joseph Vendryès, who claimed that 'Progress in the absolute sense is impossible, just as it is in morality or politics. It is simply that different states exist, succeeding each other, each dominated by certain general laws imposed by the equilibrium of the forces with which they are confronted. So it is with language.'
Aitchison は，明らかに第3の立場を採っている．先日，「#2531. 言語変化の "spaghetti junction"」 ([2016-04-01-1]) や「#2533. 言語変化の "spaghetti junction" (2)」 ([2016-04-03-1]) で Aitchison による言語変化における spaghetti_junction の考え方を紹介したように，Aitchison は言語変化にはある種の方向性や傾向があることは認めながらも，それは「堕落」とか「進歩」のような道徳的な価値観とは無関係であり，独自の原理により説明されるべきであるという立場に立っている．現在，多くの歴史言語学者が，Aitchison に多かれ少なかれ似通ったスタンスを採用している．
・ Aitchison, Jean. Language Change: Progress or Decay. 3rd ed. Cambridge: CUP, 2001.
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