Innovation (Language Change and Variation)
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Human language is a dynamic system constantly evolving at a pace that vastly outstrips biological evolution. Significant changes in the system can occur within one or two generations, such that over mere hundreds of years, diverging linguistic variants that may no longer be mutually intelligible can arise across different geographical, cultural, or historical populations. This process is not subject to either conscious individual or collective institutional control and regulation – though humans have nonetheless persisted throughout recorded history in attempting unsuccessfully to control and regulate it. Humans make evaluative assessments of a given language variant based on the political, socioeconomic, or cultural prestige of the group that uses it. The existence of acoustically divergent “dialects” has been claimed for primate, cetacean, and avian species, and there is evidence that such differences can affect mating behaviors in a way that favors innovation over conservatism.
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