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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice "prompts thinking about linguistic disadvantage as a form of structural disadvantage that needs to be recognized and taken seriously."


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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

By Rudolf Botha

Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"


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Academic Paper


Title: The evolution of auditory dispersion in bidirectional constraint grammars
Author: Paul Boersma
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Amsterdam
Author: Silke Hamann
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.fon.hum.uva.nl/silke/
Institution: University of Amsterdam
Linguistic Field: Phonetics
Abstract: This paper reconciles the standpoint that language users do not aim at improving their sound systems with the observation that languages seem to improve their sound systems. If learners optimise their perception by gradually ranking their cue constraints, and reuse the resulting ranking in production, they automatically introduce a prototype effect, which can be counteracted by an articulatory effect. If the two effects are of unequal size, the learner will end up with a sound system auditorily different from that of her language environment. Computer simulations of sibilant inventories show that, independently of the initial auditory sound system, a stable equilibrium is reached within a small number of generations. In this stable state, the dispersion of the sibilants of the language strikes an optimal balance between articulatory ease and auditory contrast. Crucially, these results are derived within a model without any goal-oriented elements such as dispersion constraints.

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This article appears IN Phonology Vol. 25, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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