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New from Oxford University Press!


Language Planning as a Sociolinguistic Experiment

By: Ernst Jahr

Provides richly detailed insight into the uniqueness of the Norwegian language development. Marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian nation following centuries of Danish rule

New from Cambridge University Press!


Acquiring Phonology: A Cross-Generational Case-Study

By Neil Smith

The study also highlights the constructs of current linguistic theory, arguing for distinctive features and the notion 'onset' and against some of the claims of Optimality Theory and Usage-based accounts.

New from Brill!


Language Production and Interpretation: Linguistics meets Cognition

By Henk Zeevat

The importance of Henk Zeevat's new monograph cannot be overstated. [...] I recommend it to anyone who combines interests in language, logic, and computation [...]. David Beaver, University of Texas at Austin

Book Information


Title: Language Evolution
Subtitle: Contact, Competition and Change
Written By: SalikokoSMufwene

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.
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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