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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Book Information


Title: Language Evolution
Subtitle: Contact, Competition and Change
Written By: Salikoko S Mufwene
URL: http://www.continuumbooks.com

Languages are constantly changing. New words are added to the English
language every year, either borrowed or coined, and there is often railing
against the ‘decline’ of the language by public figures. Some languages,
such as French and Finnish, have academies to protect them against foreign
imports. Yet languages are species-like constructs, which evolve naturally
over time. Migration, imperialism, and globalization have blurred
boundaries between many of them, producing new ones (such as creoles) and
driving some to extinction.

This book examines the processes by which languages change, from the
macroecological perspective of competition and natural selection. In a
series of chapters, Salikoko Mufwene examines such themes as:

*natural selection in language
*the actuation question and the invisible hand that drives evolution
*multilingualism and language contact
*language birth and language death
*the emergence of Creoles and Pidgins
*the varying impacts of colonization and globalization on language vitality

This comprehensive examination of the organic evolution of language will be
essential reading for graduate and senior undergraduate students, and for
researchers on the social dynamics of language variation and change,
language vitality and death, and even the origins of linguistic diversity.

“Inspired by evolutionary biology, Salikoko Mufwene's spectacularly
comprehensive and thought-provoking new book goes for the big picture and
illuminates fundamental principles of language evolution and language
contact. Showcasing the peculiar (or not so peculiar, after all)
evolutionary conditions of creoles, Mufwene reaches novel and unorthodox
insights which build upon concepts such as the importance of ecology,
competition and selection, imperfect replication, and family resemblance.
He questions and retunes some fundamental notions in linguistics like
"system", "transmission" or "acquisition", thus coming considerably closer
to an understanding of how language has evolved than earlier linguistic

Ingenious imagery like the highway traffic analogy show how patterns have
emerged through "invisible hand" evolution, the convergence of communal
behavior, and how imperfection, far from being imperfect, generates
real-life structures. Principles like the ubiquity of contact and
hybridism, the understanding of languages as species and complex adaptive
systems, the relationship between mutual accommodation between individuals
and emergent communal behavior, or the link between globalization and
indigenization invoke a new down-to-earth linguistics in which the
interactions of real-life individuals are at the core of far-reaching
developments. A must-read for theorists of language change and language
contact, and for anybody interested in how language really works.”
- Professor Edgar W. Schneider, Chair of English Linguistics, University
of Regensburg, Germany

Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
Review: Read the review
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue: All announcements sent out by The LINGUIST List are emailed to our subscribers and archived with the Library of Congress.
Click here to see the original emailed issue.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0826493696
ISBN-13: 9780826493699
Pages: 360
Prices: U.K. £ 75.00

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 082649370X
ISBN-13: 9780826493705
Pages: 360
Prices: U.K. £ 24.99