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Language Learning ISSN 0023-8333 Language Is a Complex Adaptive System: Position Paper The “Five Graces Group”

By Clay Beckner, Richard Blythe, Joan Bybee, Morten H. Christiansen, William Croft, Nick C. Ellis, John Holland, Jinyun Ke, Diane Larsen-freeman and Tom Schoenemann


Language has a fundamentally social function. Processes of human interaction along with domain-general cognitive processes shape the structure and knowledge of language. Recent research in the cognitive sciences has demonstrated that patterns of use strongly affect how language is acquired, is used, and changes. These processes are not independent of one another but are facets of the same complex adaptive system (CAS). Language as a CAS involves the following key features: The system consists of multiple agents (the speakers in the speech community) interacting with one another. This paper, our agreed position statement, was circulated to invited participants before a conference celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Language Learning, held at the University of Michigan, on the theme Language is a Complex Adaptive System. Presenters were asked to focus on the issues presented here when considering their particular areas of language in the conference and in their articles in this special issue of Language Learning. The evolution of this piece was made possible by the Sante Fe Institute (SFI) though its sponsorship of the “Continued Study of Languag

Year: 2013
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