One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A theory of linguistic change first advanced by Johannes Schmidt (1843–1901), according to which linguistic innovation spreads in concentric circles from a central point of origin, like the ripples generated when a pebble is thrown into a body of water.
Late 19th century; earliest use found in American Journal of Philology. From German Wellentheorie from Wellen-, combining form of Welle wave + Theorie.
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