Chapter in:Variation Rolls the Dice: A worldwide collage in honour of Salikoko S. Mufwene
Edited by Enoch O. Aboh and Cécile B. Vigouroux
[Contact Language Library 59] 2021
► pp. 191–210
Reflections on Darwin’s natural selection
A lens on variation, competition and change
In this chapter, I adopt Mufwene's (2001, 2008) concepts of feature pool and feature selection and competition and compare it to Darwin's theory of natural selection (Darwin 1859). Such a comparison brings to light both the descriptive and explanatory adequacy of Mufwene’s theoretical framework, showing how his work has undoubtedly furthered our understanding of language emergence and development. I will examine more specifically how, given Mufwene's biological model of language evolution, variation and diversity can be seen as key factors driving feature competition and selection, ultimately leading to language change. I propose that the ways in which linguistic features emerge, coexist, compete and get selected can find parallels in processes of natural selection in nature.
Keywords: feature pool, natural selection, competition, language variation, language diversity
Aboh, E. O. & DeGraff, M.
Bates, E. & MacWhinney, B.
Clark, R. & Roberts, I.
Costa, A., Colomé, A., Gomez, O. & Sebastián Gallés, N.
Kroll, J. M. & de Groot, A. M. B.
Santos, M. E. M., Torrão, M. M. F. & Soares, M. J.