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Communication, Mind and Language


Language in Flux

Dialogue Coordination, Language Variation, Change and Evolution

Robin Cooper and Ruth Kempson, editors

The papers in this collection present a view of language as an evolving
system within which flexibility is systemic and subject to progressive
change, driven by pressures of every-day coordinative action as in
conversational dialogue. As these papers demonstrate, these pressures
provide a force for variation, hence for adaptation, and change. Topics
covered include formal and game-theoretical models of evolution,
diachronic studies of change (semantic, syntactic, lexical) and the role
of dialogue factors in promoting such change, psycholinguistic
experimental methods probing the nature of coordination in both language
and non-language based interaction, formal modelling of dialogue, and
probabilistic studies of language variation. Authors include highly
influential researchers: Joan Bresnan, Devyani Sharma and Ashwini Deo;
Robin Cooper and Aarne Ranta; Ronnie Cann and Ruth Kempson; Miriam
Bouzouita; Jonathan Ginzburg and Zoran Macura; Patrick Healey; Gerhard
Jaeger; Simon Kirby, Hannah Cornish and Kenny Smith; Staffan Larson;
Elizabeth Traugott. Together these papers present a
cross-disciplinary synergy reflecting the view that human linguistic
behaviour is essentially coordinative, and, within this general
perspective, that language is a system of intrinsic flexibility, hence
perpetually in a state of flux.This view involves a radical shift in
assumptions away from the traditional view that language competence is a
static system relative to which the dynamics of language performance has
to be defined; and each paper, in its own way, explores what is involved
in modifying such a clear-cut division.

September 2008


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