Gradualist Approaches to Language Evolution

  • Ljiljana ProgovacEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Linguistics book series (SBIL)


Many researchers have advocated a gradualist view of language evolution, and syntax in particular, although not necessarily natural selection, including, but certainly not limited to: Givón (e.g. 1979, 2002a, b, 2009), Pinker and Bloom (1990) (see Sect.  1.3); Newmeyer (1991, 1998, 2005), Gil (2005), Jackendoff (1999, 2002), Culicover and Jackendoff (2005), Tallerman(2014, 2016), Heine and Kuteva (2007), Hurford (2007, 2012), Jӓger (2007), Progovac (2008, 2009, 2015a, 2016) [the reader is also referred to the introductory chapter of Heine and Kuteva (2007) for a good characterization and classification of a variety of earlier approaches to language evolution; see also Tallerman and Gibson (2012)]. In this chapter I consider in some detail a selection of such gradualist approaches to language evolution, looking for points of contact, and for potential for synergy, among these approaches. For each approach, I consider how it addresses the Five Problems established in Chap.  1.


Cultural evolution Internal reconstruction Proto-syntax Proto-vocabulary Syntactic “fossils” 


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© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Linguistics DepartmentWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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