Empirical foundations for an integrated study of language evolution
Gareth Roberts, Betsy Sneller
October 2019
 

Half a century ago, Uriel Weinreich, William Labov, and Marvin Herzog laid out a programmatic vision for the study of language change. This included establishing five fundamental problems for the field and a radical shift from a focus on idiolects to a focus on population-level change (grounded in their concept of orderly heterogeneity). They also expressed an explicit desire to see an integrated evolutionary study of language change. In spite of this, the newer fields of language evolution and cultural evolution make little contact with the field of sociolinguistics that emerged out of their work. Here we lay out a program, grounded in their five problems, for a more integrated future. We situate each problem in modern sociolinguistics and identify promising points for theoretical exchange, making comparisons with Tinbergen’s four questions, which play a similar role in the evolutionary sciences. Finally, we propose cultural-evolutionary experiments for making empirical progress.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004923
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Language Dynamics and Change
keywords: sociolinguistics, language evolution, language change, cultural evolution, experiments, syntax, phonology, semantics, morphology
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