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Title: Cultural Evolutionary Modeling of Patterns in Language Change
Subtitle: Exercises in evolutionary linguistics
Written By: Frank Landsbergen
Series Title: LOT Dissertation Series
Description:

Human language can be considered an evolutionary system. Speakers transmit
linguistic utterances in communication with others and these utterances can
be subject to both mutation and selection. As such, a person’s linguistic
knowledge, based on the set of linguistic utterances he or she has
encountered, might gradually change over time. This is the evolutionary
linguistic approach presented by Croft (2000).

This thesis describes the use of this approach in the study of language
change in a series of case studies. The purpose of this exercise is not
only to get a better insight in the mechanisms that have played a role in
the respective cases of change, but also to show that the evolutionary
approach is a useful way to obtain these insights. For example, the
quantitative nature of the approach makes it possible to use computer
models to simulate and study specific cases of change. This thesis presents
examples of such models.

The presented case studies focus on patterns in change, such as the tendency
for words to change from lexical to functional meaning instead of vice
versa and the one form-one meaning tendency. Another investigated pattern
is the development of the Dutch verb krijgen, which shows a commonly found
change from agentive to non-agentive meaning. The results of the computer
simulations suggest that these patterns can be explained by rather basic
mechanisms such as differences in the frequency of use of the different
variants in the case of unidirectionality, or by the competition between
forms for a particular meaning in the case of isomorphism. Finally, a case
study is presented in which the historic development of the verb krijgen is
reconstructed on the basis of synchronic variation in the use of the verb,
using phylogenetic reconstruction methods.

Publication Year: 2009
Publisher: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke (LOT)
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Computational Linguistics
Sociolinguistics
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Versions:
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9789078328971