• Johann-Mattis List deposited Pragmatics of Language Evolution in the group Group logo of Digital Humanities East AsiaDigital Humanities East Asia on Humanities Commons 1 year, 3 months ago

    The fact that “all languages evolve, as long as they exist” (Schleicher 1863: 18f) has been long known to linguists and does not surprise us anymore. The reasons why all language change constantly, however, is still not fully understood. What we know, however, is that language usage must be at the core of language evolution. It is the dynamics among speakers, who want to be understood and understand what others say, while at the same time trying to be efficient, convincing, or poetic when communicating with others. If the dynamics of language use are indeed one of the driving forces of language evolution, it is evident that the phenomena of language change need to be studied from the perspective of pragmatics. In times of constantly increasing amounts of digital language data, in various forms, ranging from wordlists via results of laboratory experiments to large historical corpora, it is clear that every attempt to understand the specific dynamics of language evolution must be carried out in an empirical framework. In the course, I will try to give a rather broad (but nevertheless eclectic) introduction into topics in historical linguistics in which pragmatics play a crucial role for the study of language change and its driving forces. In this context, we will look into empirical aspects of research on language evolution, empirical studies on sound change, and the pragmatics of language contact. In addition, we will also learn how language change can be modeled, and how we can study pragmatic phenomena themselves from an evolutionary perspective by investigating how speech acts and poetic traditions evolve.