Article published in:Phonetics of the Origins and Evolution of Speech
Edited by Didier Demolin and Jean-Marie Hombert
[Evolution of Communication 3:1] 1999
► pp. 21–48
The role of self-organisation in the emergence of phonological systems
The origin of phonological systems is examined from the paradigm of self-organization. We claim that phonological systems could have emerged as the product of self-organizing processes. Self-organization may have facilitated the evolution of structures within the sounds that humans were able to produce. One of the main points of the paper concerns the identification of the processes which could account for the self-organized behavior of sound systems used in languages spoken by humans. In this paradigm, phonological systems or sound patterns of human languages are emergent properties of these systems rather than properties imposed by some external influence. Regulations are defined as the constraints that adjust the rate of production of the elements of a system to the state of the system and of relevant environmental variables. The main operators of these adjustments are feedback loops. Two types of processes can be distinguished in regulatory networks, homeostatic and epigenetic. Since the origin of sound patterns, of human languages, is in the vocal tract constraints, we make the hypothesis that sound change does not reflect any adaptive character but rather is the phonetic modality of differentiation understood as epigenetic regulation.
Keywords: Phonology, Self-organization, Emergence, Differentiation, Feedback Loops
Published online: 30 March 2001
Cited by 1 other publications
Redford, Melissa A.
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