Marianne Bakró-Nagy:
Data in historical linguistics: On utterances, sources, and reliability

This paper aims to systematically overview the stages to be necessarily passed in order to gain data for the historical and diachronic analysis of language, and to discuss how the linguistic material is obtained which then produces the data through various procedures and processes. It aims to provide an overview of the notions of ‘utterance’, ‘source’, ‘authenticity’, ‘reproducibility’, ‘reliability’ and ‘reconstruction’ from the point of view of historical linguistics and diachrony and through a systematic comparison with synchrony. The conclusions are as the following: the limited nature of the evidence status of historical linguistic and diachronic data does not stem from the data themselves. It is the limited knowability of the past that limits the formulation of evidences: to a degree differing greatly in the various languages, varieties and periods the linguistic phenomena are limited in number, irreproducible, fragmented, and are of incidental content, that is, of selected type. As a consequence, they either do not allow the entire linguistic system to become knowable or, if they do, the truth value of statements made about it varies.

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