Function, Selection, and Innateness: The Emergence of Language Universals (Oxford linguistics)

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One weakness of this model is that starting from non-random initial conditions, where all agents in the first generation have the same language, no changes to the linguistic system take place and diversity does not emerge. However, by adding a small amount of noise to the model it is seen that diversity does emerge and the results are soon indistinguishable from those of random starting conditions. Other computational models, investigating language change in spatially homogenous populations, have shown similar results.

In Steels and Kaplan random variation, caused by stochastic errors introduced into language games between pairs of agents, is able to create competition between linguistic forms in the agent languages, resulting in change over time. Stoness and Dircks present a similar model, one which does not rely on random noise to maintain competition between forms. The assertion that some social function is necessary for linguistic diversity and language change to occur is not supported by these models.

Function, Selection, and Innateness: The Emergence of Language Universals.

Change and diversity is caused simply by the imperfect replication of language over many interactions between individuals. We have argued that no functional or adaptive benefits are required to create linguistic diversity, and that diversity should arise naturally from the imperfect transmission of language from users to learners. This represents a neutral theory of linguistic evolution. We have reviewed some of the objections to a neutral theory, and shown them to be inconclusive. Accordingly, social or linguistic functions are seen to be unnecessary for the emergence of diversity.

What then is the role of social and personal motivation in language change? To say that adaptive benefits are not required for the evolution of diversity is not to say that such benefits do not exist, or that they do not influence the evolution of languages. Accepting that language changes are influenced by social pressures on language users, we can question why language users adapt their language according to such pressures. Is there something remarkable in the human ability to determine significant social information simply from accent and dialect, without regard to the content of the speech?

Martin Haspelmath’s publications

Rather than claim that it is the usefulness of such abilities that led to the evolution of linguistic diversity, we argue that the reverse is more likely — that the existing linguistic diversity may have led to the development of such abilities. Humans have had many millennia to adapt to living in societies with linguistic diversity present. That people are able to modify language according to situation means that linguistic change is unlikely to be truly neutral, as social pressures influence which changes will succeed in a population.

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This does not negate the neutral evolution of language, it adds to it. We conclude that the neutral evolution of languages is unavoidable and remains a factor in language change, but is not the only cause of change.


Yet neither social nor linguistic function are required to create linguistic diversity — geographical spread and imperfect transmission alone are sufficient to account for this. Emergence of sound systems through self-organisation. The Evolutionary Emergence of Language. Knight, M. Studdert-Kennedy and J. Hurford, Eds. Cavalli-Sforza, L.

The Emergence of Linguistic Structure: An Overview of the Iterated Learning Model | SpringerLink

Feldman Towards a Theory of Cultural Evolution. Interdisciplinary Review 3: Dunbar, R. Kirby, S. Function, Selection, and Innateness: The emergence of language universals. Oxford University Press. Kroch, A. Reflexes of grammar in patterns of language change. Journal of Language Variation and Change 1: Labov, W. Sociolinguistic Patterns.

Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press. Lass, R. Historical Linguistics and Language Change. Cambridge University Press.

  1. Martin Haspelmath’s publications.
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Lindblom, B. Systemic constraints and adaptive change in the formation of sound structure. Approaches to the Evolution of Language. Hurford, M. Studdert-Kennedy and C. Knight, Eds. Livingstone, D. Fyfe Modelling Language-Physiology Coevolution. Dialect in Learned Communication. Milroy, J. Milroy Mechanisms of change in urban dialects: the role of class, social network and gender. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 3 1. Nettle, D. Dunbar Social Markers and the Evolution of Reciprocal Exchange.

Current Anthropology 38 1 : Function, Selection, and Innateness is important for its argument, its methodology, and its conclusions. It is a powerful demonstration of the value of looking at language as an adaptive system and goes to the heart of current debates on the evolution and nature of language.

Toon meer Toon minder. Recensie s In this important and highly original work Simon Kirby proposes a new method for addressing a major issue in the explanation of language universals. If many universals are to be explained by processing efficiency, then how do the preferences of performance actually become the fixed, and variant, conventions of grammars that we observe in current language samples?

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  • Kirby's computer simulations model the 'adaptive mechanism', and his discussion of the relationship between function, selection and innateness is both clarifying and timely. Reviews Schrijf een review. Bindwijze: Hardcover. Verkoop door bol. In winkelwagen Op verlanglijstje. Gratis verzending 30 dagen bedenktijd en gratis retourneren Kies zelf het bezorgmoment Dag en nacht klantenservice.

    Anderen bekeken ook. Morten H. Christiansen Language Universals 89, Dieter Hillert The Nature of Language , Robert C. Berwick Why Only Us 14, Angela D.

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