Selfish Sounds and Linguistic Evolution: A Darwinian Approach to Language Change

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9780521826716: Selfish Sounds and Linguistic Evolution: A Darwinian Approach to Language Change

This new perspective on language change looks at a number of developments in the history of sounds and words and explains them in terms of Darwin's evolutionary theory. Nikolaus Ritt demonstrates how the constituents of language can be regarded as mental patterns, or "memes", which copy themselves from one brain to another when communication and language acquisition occur. Challenging established models of linguistic competence, Ritt's controversial approach will stimulate debate among evolutionary biologists, cognitive scientists and linguists.

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This book takes an exciting new perspective on language change, by explaining it in terms of Darwin's evolutionary theory. Looking at a number of developments in the history of sounds and words, Nikolaus Ritt shows how the constituents of language can be regarded as mental patterns, or 'memes', which copy themselves from one brain to another when communication and language acquisition take place. Challenging established models of linguistic competence, Ritt's controversial approach will stimulate debate among evolutionary biologists, cognitive scientists and linguists alike.

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Nikolaus Ritt is Professor and Head of the English Department at Vienna University.

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Ritt, Nikolaus
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Book Description Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2004. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition. This book takes an exciting new perspective on language change, by explaining it in terms of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Looking at a number of developments in the history of sounds and words, Nikolaus Ritt shows how the constituents of language can be regarded as mental patterns, or ‘memes’, which copy themselves from one brain to another when communication and language acquisition take place. Memes are both stable in that they transmit faithfully from brain to brain, and active in that their success at replicating depends upon their own properties. Ritt uses this controversial approach to challenge established models of linguistic competence, in which speakers acquire, use, and shape language. In Darwinian terms, language evolution is something that happens to, rather than through, speakers, and the interests of linguistic constituents matter more than those of their human ‘hosts’. This book will stimulate debate among evolutionary biologists, cognitive scientists and linguists alike. • Provides a new and controversial perspective on language change, which is likely to stimulate academic argument and further research • Demonstrates how the emerging new paradigm of memetics might be operationalised and put to the test • Combines insights from evolutionary biology, cognitive science and historical linguistics, and is therefore truly interdisciplinary Contents 1. Introduction; 2. The historical perspective; 3. Approaching ‘language change’; 4. The Darwinian approach; 5. Generalising Darwinism; 6. Towards an evolutionary theory of language; 7. What does all this imply for the study of language change?; 8. How to live with feet, if one happens to be a morph-meme; 9. The prosodic evolution of English word forms or the great trochaic conspiracy; 10. Conclusion. Printed Pages: 342 with 31 figures. Size: 228 x 152 Mm. Bookseller Inventory # 012800

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Book Description Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2004. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition. This book takes an exciting new perspective on language change, by explaining it in terms of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Looking at a number of developments in the history of sounds and words, Nikolaus Ritt shows how the constituents of language can be regarded as mental patterns, or ‘memes? which copy themselves from one brain to another when communication and language acquisition take place. Memes are both stable in that they transmit faithfully from brain to brain, and active in that their success at replicating depends upon their own properties. Ritt uses this controversial approach to challenge established models of linguistic competence, in which speakers acquire, use, and shape language. In Darwinian terms, language evolution is something that happens to, rather than through, speakers, and the interests of linguistic constituents matter more than those of their human ‘hosts? This book will stimulate debate among evolutionary biologists, cognitive scientists and linguists alike. ?Provides a new and controversial perspective on language change, which is likely to stimulate academic argument and further research ?Demonstrates how the emerging new paradigm of memetics might be operationalised and put to the test ?Combines insights from evolutionary biology, cognitive science and historical linguistics, and is therefore truly interdisciplinary Contents 1. Introduction; 2. The historical perspective; 3. Approaching ‘language change? 4. The Darwinian approach; 5. Generalising Darwinism; 6. Towards an evolutionary theory of language; 7. What does all this imply for the study of language change?; 8. How to live with feet, if one happens to be a morph-meme; 9. The prosodic evolution of English word forms or the great trochaic conspiracy; 10. Conclusion. Printed Pages: 342 with 31 figures. Size: 228 x 152 Mm. Bookseller Inventory # 012800

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