LINGUIST List 12.589

Fri Mar 2 2001

Books: Language Change

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <>

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  1. Bill Croft, Language Change: Explaining Language Change by W. Croft

Message 1: Language Change: Explaining Language Change by W. Croft

Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2001 16:57:52 +0000
From: Bill Croft <>
Subject: Language Change: Explaining Language Change by W. Croft

Please note: This book is now available in North America, and can be 
 ordered via the Internet or booksellers, as linguistics 
 publications are no longer available through Longman.
"Explaining Language Change"
William Croft, University of Manchester
ISBN 0-582-35677-6 (paperback), Longman.
Pp. xvi, 287. US$22, UK 19.99 sterling

Ever since the origins of both linguistics and evolutionary biology in
the 19th century, scholars have noted the similarity between
biological evolution and language change. Yet until recently neither
linguists nor biologists have developed a model of evolution general
enough to apply across the two fields. Even in linguistics, the field
is split between the historical linguists who study change in language
structure, and the sociolinguists who study social variation in the
speech community.

"Explaining language change" represents the first thoroughly worked
out framework for language evolution, building on the pioneering ideas
of Richard Dawkins and David Hull in biology and philosophy of
science. Its central thesis is that the locus of language change is
the utterance in social intercourse. Linguistic innovations emerge
from the remarkable complexity of communication in social
interaction. Once innovations occur, they are propagated through the
equally complex social structures of the speech communities we
participate in.

"Explaining language change" provides a framework for assessing
current theories of language change, and advances new ideas about
grammatical reanalysis, conventional and nonconventional use of
language, the structure of speech communities, language mixing, and
the notion of "progress" in language change. "Explaining language
change" reintegrates sociolinguistics and historical linguistics,
weaving together research on grammatical change, pragmatics, social
variation, language contact and genetic linguistics.

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Friday, February 16, 2001