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Selfish Sounds and Linguistic Evolution

Selfish Sounds and Linguistic Evolution
A Darwinian Approach to Language Change


  • Date Published: July 2004
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521826716


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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • 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
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Ritt has written a truly scholarly book." GEOLINGUISTICS Vol. 30, Leonard R. N. Ashley

    "...thought-provoking. Whatever one thinks of the memetic approach to nonbiological change, it has powerful advocates (not only Dawkins but also Dennett) and is generating a considerable body of research. Anyone interested in the application of memetics or evolutionary theory to language will profit from this book, whether or not they are persuaded by Ritt's advocacy." - Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy, University of Canterbury

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2004
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521826716
    • length: 342 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.709kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of 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.

  • Author

    Nikolaus Ritt, Universität Wien, Austria

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