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Title: Evolutionary Frameworks for Language Change: The Price Equation Approach
Author(s): Brady Clark
Journal Title: Language and Linguistics Compass
Volume: 4
Issue: 6
Page Range: 363-376
Publication Date: Jun-2010
Abstract: Models and concepts from biology have informed the study of language change for several centuries. In this article, I take a comparative look across the disciplines of historical linguistics and evolutionary biology and ask if an evolutionary perspective on language change drawing on Darwin's theory of adaptation through natural selection can contribute in a substantive way to theorizing within the study of language change. This article discusses a framework for language change that borrows concepts from evolutionary theory, the framework presented in Mufwene (2008). Building on Jäger (2008), I suggest that George Price's “General Theory of Selection” provides a useful and precise framework in which to mathematically represent evolutionary frameworks for language change such as Mufwene's. In the final part of the paper, I propose that the Price equation approach to the levels of selection debate in biology can provide insight into the ways in which different levels of linguistic information interact during language change.

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