Department of Linguistics
University of Michigan
Cognition and language emergence: A focus on Creole genesis
Creole languages typically emerge in multilingual settings involving dramatic power differentials between the populations in contact, as in the case of enslavement, indentured or migrant labor. They result from the multiple, complex social factors and linguistic processes that participate in language emergence, development and change.
If one assumes a biological model of language evolution where linguistic features compete in a feature pool, several questions arise: how do some features get selected to participate in a Creole grammar and why do some of the features get selected over others? What are some of the cognitive processes involved in that selection?
This presentation explores these research questions by examining cognitive processes such as substratal transfer, restructuring, feature recombination and convergence. I focus on the role of congruent forms in the building of Creole grammars and report on two collaborative psycholinguistic experiments aiming to reveal how congruence may operate in language acquisition and emergence.
Finally, I discuss current collaborative work showing how agent-based models can help support some theories of Creole genesis over others.
A reception will follow the seminar.