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  • 1 University of Chicago, Department of Linguistics 1010 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637 USA
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The primary thesis of this paper is that selection plays a role in language evolution. Underlying this position is the assumption that a language is a Lamarckian species, a construct extrapolated from idiolects spoken by individuals who acknowledge using the same verbal code to communicate with each other. There is no perfect replication in any case of language “acquisition”, which is actually a recreation process in which the learner makes a system out of features selected from utterances of different individuals with whom he/she has interacted. In a way similar to gene recombination in biology, each learner gradually and selectively reintegrates into new system features which are often modified in the process. At the population level, the congruence of some divergent idiolectal selections is often strong enough for a language to evolve into a new communal system. A fundamental question for my hypothesis is: What principles regulate selection? I also assume hybridism in language “transmission”, which is polyploidic, as features of every idiolect originate not only in various competing idiolects, but possibly also in different dialects or languages in contact. The question about feature selection remains the same.

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