The Emergence of Complexity in Language: An Evolutionary Perspective

Like an increasing number of linguists and other scholars especially interested in the evolution and/or the ontogenetic development of language, the author claims that languages are complex adaptive systems (CAS). These have been characterized as reflecting complex dynamics of interactive agents, experiencing constant instability, and in search for equilibrium in response to changes in the ecologies of their usage. Putatively, thanks to self-organization, transitional moments of apparent stability obtain during which patterns and systems emerge, and evolutions obtain from the alternations of periods of instability and stability in seemingly unpredictable ways. The author addresses the issues of the many interpretations of ‘complexity’ applying to language(s), of the description of the interactive agents that produce the above characteristics, of the emergence of complexity in language(s) from the point of view of language evolution, of the kind(s) of evidence that support(s) the various interpretations of ‘complexity’ that are conceivable, of the way in which complexity in language compares with complexity in other non-linguistic phenomena, and of the causes of the “chaos” which prompts languages to reorganize themselves into new systems.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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