memetic speciation? [was what's in a meme]

Dr I Price (
Thu, 19 Jun 1997 12:09:57 -0400

Date: Thu, 19 Jun 1997 12:09:57 -0400
From: Dr I Price <>
Subject: memetic speciation? [was what's in a meme]
To: "" <>

Bill Benson - talking to John Wilkins

>In any event I think you need to be careful about what you take to be
examples of cultural species. And that's a problem in culture because I
don't think that we have, on the face of it, any reasonable idea of what
cultural species are. So, in biology one species are sufficiently
recognizeable that one can say, as you report, that 47% of flowering plan=
have reticulate lineages. I don't know how we'd make such statements i=
the cultural realm. Language is the most intensively studied case, and
there the nature of comparative methodology emphasizes differentiation an=
minimizes borrowing and hybridization, which makes that taxonomy suspect.=

I do know that there is a running controversy, for example, over whether =
not English is a creole or not.<

Yet at a more general level the correlation of linguistic and genetic
speciation in homo sapiens does seem to exist. My limited source is Gould=
Essay 'Grimm's greatest tale' in the Bully for Brontosauraus Collection
[1991] and the work described by Jared Diamond in 'The Third Chimpanzee'.=

My inclinination is to grant language a larger role in cultural

Where Bill you point out

> e.g. at the time of the French
Revolution, over half of the citizens of the new nation didn't speak Fren=
-- so what kind of a coherent culture is that?)>

I could say that the subsequent history of major European wars was about
which linguistic nation owned which bilingual territory [Alsace Lorraine
being the example drummed in when I did history]. Interesting that the
multilingual Swiss stayed out of those wars?. Concepts of master race not=

withstanding language [including dialect and accent] has surely had more=

influence than genes in determining, and even granting legitamcy to
nationalist movements.

I look forward to more information from those more familiar with
lingusitics than me and apologise for not yet having had time to study yo=
papers in more detail..

If Price

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