Do people (monks and/or scholars) have a sense of how old (or relatively old) each sutta is in the Pali canon: i.e. which suttas are considered "earlier" or "later"?
If not for individual suttas, how about for whole Nikayas: are some Nikayas viewed as being probably earlier and/or later?
If the answer is "yes", is there a reference on this subject suitable for a non-expert ("suitable" meaning "readable" and "not controversial, generally accepted by other experts" and preferably "identifies the evidence on which it bases its conclusions" ... and preferably also translated into English)?
How does this (notion of some progressive history of earlier and of later suttas) fit with the Buddhist councils? Were different suttas adopted at different councils? The Wikipedia article about the councils gives me the (perhaps wrong) impression that all suttas were recorded in the first council. Do differences arise from when the suttas were transcribed as translated rather than from when they were accepted into the remembered/oral canon?
Piya Tan's analysis of DN 30 includes text like the following:
Historically, the Buddha has none of these superhuman marks, but his authenticity and spirituality are in no way diminished or affected. They are at best mythical marks of the fruits of his past good karma, as detailed in the Lakkhaa Sutta (D 30).12 We will now examine how and why these marks arose.
The earliest sources of a full list of the thirty-two marks are the following suttas: ...
Earliest allusions: ...
Should I take that as implying that he has a reference that tells him which are the "earliest" suttas? Or is he saying there that all suttas are the earliest source?
Taking this paper as an example, should I infer that the current state-of-the-art is that some scholars try to decide what's early and late by comparing different versions (e.g. Pali and Chinese) of a sutta: but that though with a lot of work they try that for one sutta, such hasn't been done for most suttas and there's no reference of dates (of specific suttas) nor even generalization (e.g. about Nikayas).
I think I've read various people mention other examples too, of topics evolving: for example that earliest suttas talks about fewer than five lay precepts.