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Evolutionary Syntax

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Academic Paper

Title: Modeling Language Change: An evaluation of Trudgill's theory of the emergence of New Zealand English
Author: Gareth J. Baxter
Institution: Aveiro University
Author: Richard A. Blythe
Institution: University of Edinburgh
Author: William Croft
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of New Mexico
Author: Alan J. McKane
Institution: University of Manchester
Linguistic Field: Linguistic Theories; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Trudgill (2004) proposed that the emergence of New Zealand English, and of isolated new dialects generally, is purely deterministic. It can be explained solely in terms of the frequency of occurrence of particular variants and the frequency of interactions between different speakers in the society. Trudgill's theory is closely related to usage-based models of language, in which frequency plays a role in the representation of linguistic knowledge and in language change. Trudgill's theory also corresponds to a neutral evolution model of language change. We use a mathematical model based on Croft's usage-based evolutionary framework for language change (Baxter, Blythe, Croft, & McKane, 2006), and investigate whether Trudgill's theory is a plausible model of the emergence of new dialects. The results of our modeling indicate that determinism cannot be a sufficient mechanism for the emergence of a new dialect. Our approach illustrates the utility of mathematical modeling of theories and of empirical data for the study of language change.


This article appears IN Language Variation and Change Vol. 21, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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