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Encyclopedia > Evolutionary linguistics

Evolutionary linguistics is the scientific study of the origins and development of language. The main problem in this research is the lack of empirical data: spoken language leaves no traces behind. This led to an abandonment of the field for many decades. Recently, however, the field is reviving due to the development of new technologies. This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...



August Schleicher (1821-1868) and his ‘Stammbaumtheorie’ are often quoted as the starting point of evolutionary linguistics. Inspired by the natural sciences, especially biology, Schleicher was the first to compare languages to evolving species. He introduced the representation of language families as an evolutionary tree in articles published in 1853. August Schleicher August Schleicher (February 19, 1821 - December 6, 1868) was a German linguist. ...

The Stammbaumtheorie proved to be very productive for comparative linguistics, but didn’t solve the major problem of evolutionary linguistics: the lack of fossil records. The field was quickly abandoned; famously, the Societé Linguistique de Paris in 1866 refused to admit any further papers on the subject. But recent developments in technology have enabled researchers to implement and test evolutionary language models. Historical linguistics (also diachronic linguistics or comparative linguistics) is primarily the study of the ways in which languages change over time, by means of examining languages which are recognizably related through similarities such as vocabulary, word formation, and syntax, as well as the surviving records of ancient languages. ... The Societé Linguistique de Paris (established 1864) is the editing body of the BSL (Bulletin de la Societé Linguistique) journal on linguistics, containg the proceedings of the societys seven per year. ... 1866 (MDCCCLXVI) is a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ...

Study methods

One of these researchers is Professor Dr. Luc Steels, head of the research units of Sony CSL in Paris and the AI Lab at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). He and his team are investigating ways in which artificial agents self-organize languages with natural-like properties and how meaning can co-evolve with language. Their research is based on the hypothesis that language is a complex adaptive system that emerges through adaptive interactions between agents and continues to evolve in order to remain adapted to the needs and capabilities of the agents. This ongoing research has cumulated over the past ten years and has been implemented in Fluid Construction Grammar (FCG), a formalism for construction grammars that has been specially designed for the origins and evolution of language. Luc Steels is Director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and is heading the SONY Computer Science Laboratory in Paris. ... City flag City coat of arms Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur (Latin: Tossed by the waves, she does not sink) Location Coordinates Time Zone CET (GMT +1) Administration Country France Région ÃŽle-de-France Département Paris (75) Subdivisions 20 arrondissements Mayor Bertrand Delanoë  (PS) (since 2001) City Statistics Land... The seal of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is a Dutch-speaking university situated in Brussels, Belgium. ... The term construction grammar (CxG) covers a family of theories, or models, of grammar that are based on the idea that the primary unit of grammar is the grammatical construction rather than the atomic syntactic unit and the rule that combines atomic units, and that the grammar of a language...

Use in technology

The approach of computational modeling and the use of robotic agents grounded in real life is theory independent. It enables the researcher to find out exactly what cognitive capacities are needed for certain language phenomena to emerge. It also forces the researcher to formulate his hypotheses in a precise and exact manner, whereas theoretic models often stay very vague. The precision and theory independence of these kinds of experiments make them of great value for the scientific debate.

Using evidence in existing languages

Some linguists have taken the approach of using similarities in existing languages. This includes the universal existence of pronouns and demonstratives, and the similarities in each languages process of nominalization (The process of verbs becoming nouns) as well as the reverse, the process of turning nouns into verbs.[1] Some linguists, such as John McWhorter, have analyzed the evolution and construction of basic communication methods such as Pidginization and Creolization.[2] In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun phrase. ... // Demonstratives are deictic words (they depend on an external frame of reference) that indicate which entities a speaker refers to, and distinguishes those entities from others. ... // Definition A nominalization is a word that has been changed from a verb or an adjective into a noun. ... John H. McWhorter (1965- ), African American, was associate professor of linguistics at University of California, Berkeley until 2003, and is now a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute think tank. ... Creolization is a process through which a simplified contact language becomes a fully developed native language. ...

Evolution Factors

It seems that languages have different evolution rates in certain environments. Languages whose speakers are isolated, for example, seem to tend to have have slow evolution rates . Icelandic is an outstanding example of this. Norseman brought Icelandic to Iceland in the 9th century. Its speakers had little contact with the outside world, and, as a result, it has changed very little during its 1100 years of development. It has changed so little, in fact, that Icelandic written 800 years ago is mutually intelligible to one who speaks Icelandic in the 21st century. It is also highly inflectional.


  • Cangelosi, A. and Harnad, S. (2001) The adaptive advantage of symbolic theft over sensorimotor toil: Grounding language in perceptual categories Evolution of Communication 4(1):pp. 117-142.
  • Deacon, T. (1997) The symbolic species: the coevolution of language and the brain, Norton, New York.
  • Hauser, M.D. (1996) The evolution of communication, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Daniel Dor and Jablonka Eva (2001). How language changed the genes. In Tabant J. Ward. S. (editors). Mouton de Gruyer: Berlin, pp 149-175.
  • Dor D. and Jablonka E. (2001) From cultural selection to genetic selection: a framework for the evolution of language. Selection, 1-3, pp. 33-57.
  • Hauser, M.D. Hauser, N. Chomsky and W.T. Fitch (2002) The faculty of language: what is it, who has it, and how did it evolve?, Science 298: pp. 1569–1579.
  • Jackendoff, R. (2002) Foundations of language: brain, meaning, grammar, evolution Oxford University Press, New York
  • Lieberman, P. (2003) Motor control, speech, and the evolution of language. In: M. Christiansen and S. Kirby, Editors, Language evolution: states of the art, Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Nowak, M.A. and N.L. Komarova (2001) Towards an evolutionary theory of language, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 5 (7), pp. 288–295.
  • Pinker, S. (1994) The language instinct, HarperCollins, New York.
  • Pinker, S. and P. Bloom (1990) Natural language and natural selection Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13: pp. 707–784
  • Steels, L. (2001) Grounding Symbols through Evolutionary Language Games. In: Cangelosi A. and Parisi D. (Eds.) Simulating the Evolution of Language Springer.
  • Steklis, H.D. and Harnad, S (1976) From hand to mouth: Some critical stages in the evolution of language In: Harnad, S., Steklis, H. D. and Lancaster, J., (1976) (Eds) Origins and Evolution of Language and Speech. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 280: 1-914.
  • See also the UIUC Language Evolution and Computation Bibliography/Repository
  1. ^ (2005) Deutscher, Guy. The Unfolding of Language, Owl Books.
  2. ^ (2002) McWhorter, John. The Power of Babel: The Natural History of Language, Random House Group.
  • Encyclopedia Americana,Americana Corporation of Canada{1959}-Iceland-Language
  • www.answersingenesis.org-Language Evolution is nothing like biological Evolution

Terrence Deacon is an American anthropologist (Ph. ... Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a prominent American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer known for his spirited and wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. ...

External links

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