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ON DEVELOPMENTAL MECHANISMS IN PLURICENTRIC LANGUAGES SKYBINA V. I.
Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars, Zaporizhey State Medical University У статті проаналізовано період в історії англійської мови, який пов’язаний з її дисемінацією за межі Британських островів. Основна увага приділена проблемі трансформації сутності англійської мови з моноцентричної на поліцентричну. Обґрунтовано ключову роль варіативності та ядерно-периферійної структури мовної системи як факторів, що визначають динаміку еволюції англійської мови в ході цієї трансформації. З’ясовано, що “поліцентризація”, викликана адаптацією мовної спільноти до нового середовища, не порушує природного ходу еволюції мови як цілісної сутності.
Ключові слова:мовна еволюція, поліцентрична мова, адаптація, варіативність, дисемінація.
Статья посвящена тому периоду в истории английского языка, который связан с его диссеминацией за пределы Британских островов. Основное внимание уделяется проблеме трансформации сущности английского языка из моноцентричной в полицентричную. Обосновывается ключевая роль вариативности и ядерно-периферийной структуры языковой системы как факторов, определяющих динамику эволюции английского языка в ходе этой трансформации. Основной вывод исследования заключается в том, что “полицентризация”, вызванная адаптацией языкового сообщества к новой среде обитания, не нарушает естественного хода эволюции языка как целостной сущности.
Ключевые слова:языковая эволюция, полицентричный язык, адаптация, вариативность, диссеминация.
The paper deals with the history of English after dissemination beyond the territory of the British Isles. The focus is on the problem of the English language transformation from a monocentric into a pluricentric entity. It suggests that the key facilitators of the transformation determining the dynamics of the English language evolution at his stage are variability and core / periphery structure of the language system. The research concludes that the “pluricentrization”, caused by the language speaking community adaptation to the altered habitat, does not violate the natural course of language evolution as an integral entity.
Key words: language evolution, pluricentric language, adaptation, variation, complex adaptive system.
Extensive variation of English captivates linguists, heats our imagination, and leads to a great deal of research. Starting with the pioneering work of Alexandre Shveitser , a number of theories aimed at describing and explaining this variation have been developed [5; 13; 15–17; 23; 28; 30; 32; 33; 35–38; 46; 49–52]. However, there is still no consensus among the researchers as to the essence of this variation, typological characteristics of the variants and the dynamics of their evolution. This situation is reflected in the lack of consensus on the terminological apparatus of the field (see, for example, the discussion in [36, p. 8–10]). Thus, to represent English as a macro-system the following terms are used: nationally non-homogenous language , polyethnic language , pluricentric language [25, p. 66–67], international language, world language, global language . Besides, the varieties themselves get different names – native / national  / inner circle [23, p. 11–30] varieties, second / internalized / outer circle / post-colonial varieties, foreign / expanding circle varieties. Evidently, this issue needs further consideration so that the researchers of contemporary English shared the same language in their discussions. In this study, the term ‘pluricentric language’ is used to encompass native / national varieties as an aggregate.
The aim of the study is to investigate the dynamics of the English language evolution under the conditions of dissemination and identify the mechanisms of its transformation into a pluricentric language.
This work builds up on my previous research  in which non-divergent vector of the evolution of English after dissemination was reasoned. I argued that the dynamics of the English language evolution under the conditions of dissemination is manifested in the expansion of variation which was followed by the variation type transformation. I proved that dissemination did not violate the language integrality and identified two factors that contributed to that – variability and core / periphery structure of the language system – which are characterized by evolutionary duality revealed in their ability to sustain integrality and promote variation. It was demonstrated that variability, an immanent language property, not only paves the way for changes (this fact is unanimously recognized) but at the same time allows solving communicative tasks without resorting to actual changes. As for the structural aspect, it was established that the historical core is both a developmental catalyst and a stabilizing factor .
However, further observations and findings convinced me that both the dynamics of the evolution of English under dissemination and the mechanisms of its “pluricentrization” will gain deeper understanding if the context of consideration is expanded so as to include language users and the habitat. Literature analysis [11; 18; 20; 21; 26; 27; 29; 31; 40] demonstrated that it was the complex adaptive systems (CAS) paradigm that opens up prospects for such a research. This methodology, founded by Murray Gell-Mann, quarks theory Nobel laureate, and John Holland, the father of genetic algorithms theory (both from Santa Fe Institute), allows delving into multiple details while retaining the general picture, as well as to maintain dynamic perspective at all stages of the research.
The possibility of using CAS framework stems from the fact that language is a CAS both in terms of structure and function.
Thus, in CAS framework, a system should meet the following criteria:
consist of multiple agents (“An agent is defined to be an entity that has a particular internal state which determines its behavior in interaction with the environment” [41, p. 7]);
consist of sub-systems that might be complex adaptive systems;
be an open system;
have properties that are not deducible from the properties of its sub-systems;
be capable of adaptive activity;
be capable of maintaining its equilibrium.
Obviously, language, as a system, meets all those criteria: it consists of interrelated sub-systems (language layers) composed by corresponding agents; it is an open system (interacts with the environment); the properties of the language system cannot be reduced to the properties of the subsystems and their agents; the tendencies and the mechanisms of language evolution are rooted in the previous states and are largely determined by them; language co-evolves with the speaking community and the habitat; despite the instability of the internal balance and the balance between the language and its habitat, the equilibrium is maintained due to the activity of adaptive mechanisms.
These arguments form the basis for treating language as a CAS and for investigating its evolution with the methods applicable to such systems.
Currently, there are two main methods for CAS investigation:
Bottom-up method, developed in Santa Fe Institute, which helps to see that dynamics of the system, its internal state, the mode of interrelation and interaction with the similar systems, and the degree of adaptability depend on the interaction of its constituents (agents). The studies carried out in this paradigm suggest that “the structures of language emerge as interrelated patterns of experience, social interaction, and cognitive mechanisms” [11, p. 2].
Top bottom method – Method of System Potential (MSP), developed by Gregory Pushnoi (St. Petersburg, Russia), Gordon Bonser (California, U.S.A.) . This method is the mode of modeling CAS from the laws of the holistic system development to the laws of the dynamics of its agents.
In linguistic context, the term ‘holistic system’ refers to the formation in which habitat (viewed as discreet integrity), ethnos and language merge into a single entity while retaining properties of individual complex adaptive systems.
The name of the method reflects its main idea – to present evolution as a process of changing a certain system’s attribute which characterizes its ability to adequately respond to external stimuli, and accumulate valuable experience.
This research has been done primarily within MSP-platform. Within this platform, perception of language as a holistic system entails a number of assumption on the characteristics of its evolution.
First, as CAS, language cannot not evolve on its own but only co-evolve with at least two other complex adaptive systems – ethnic group and habitat – with which it forms a single complex adaptive (super)system.
Second, their co-evolution is a permanent process of mutual adaptation to the changing characteristics and parameters of each system.
Consequently, ‘language evolution’, a conventional term, is a metaphor pertaining to an evolutionary process in which language is not the agent but an agent. Accordingly, ‘language adaptation’ is another metaphor implying language transformations (happening in response to the internal and / or external challenges) conducive to the restoration of the punctuated equilibrium in the CAS ‘language / ethnic group / habitat’.
In view of that, language adaptation, as a form of language evolution, is a process of language adjustment to the altering conditions of the ambient and the system’s unsteady internal balance. It is a double vector process advancing simultaneously in the direction of transformations and in the direction of integrality preservation. Paradoxically, the same linguistic mechanisms are utilized for both transformation and integrality preservation: the extension of variation (that may or may not lead to internal changes and / or borrowing), intensive utilization of the internal resources, primarily historical core elements [5; 39], and innovations incorporation into the existing system. The final outcome (preservation or lost of homeostasis), presumably, depends on ambient transfiguration. Although permanent, adaptation has its ebbs (period of “perpetual renewal of configuration” [34, p. 27]) and flows (period of “catastrophic jumps” [34, p. 27]) which are in correlation with the intensity of the factors punctuating the language system’s relative equilibrium. As such, “the adaptation processes lead to the accumulation of adaptive potential and conditions of realization in the system. This process takes place through the adaptive activity at all levels of the CAS-structure, and in all of its subsystems. The useful experience (potential and conditions) of CAS is not concentrated at some particular place within the system, but is dispersed around all of its constituents” [34, p. 42].
“The nature of language follows from its role in social interaction” [11, p. 3], so does the manner of its evolution. Consequently, it is the ethnic group that is the pivot of language adaptation. Figure 1 represents (in a very schematic form) the behavior of the CAS in which language (a CAS itself) is one of the agents alongside with habitat and ethnic group. As my previous research suggested, the evolutionary behavior of language in the course of “pluricentrization” is determined mainly by the behavior of its lexis (and the underlying conceptual system) in context with the ethnic group cognitive activity. Accordingly, in this study, the entire process of adaptation that lead to “pluricentrization” is modeled as the process of the new habitat exploration and cognition the results of which are accumulated in lexis.
The model in Figure 1 provides an overview of the adaptation process triggered by the English speaking ethnic groups’ migration to the new habitat. The model is comprised by five elements denoting three co-evolving complex adaptive systems – habitat, ethnic group and language (lexis). The model specifies that conceptual domain is shared by the ethnic group and the language; it also implies the existence of a provisional sector (virtual denotatum zone) where the results of the ethnic group’s cognitive activity intermingle with language matter. (Introduction of the term virtual denotatum ensues from the analysis of the empirical data which substantiated the existence of a certain provisional intermediate stage between apperception and verbal symbolization of its results. The term virtual denotatum (VD) is used to depict a mental construct representing the result of the new entity apperception in the ethnos’ collective memory; in the course of verbalization VD forms the basis of the concept and simultaneously the foundation for the lexical item (s)). As every CAS is an open system the broken lines were used to demarcate their borders. Double sided arrows indicate that (1) the results of the ethnic group’s probing (perception / apperception) of the new habitat are delivered to the conceptual domain and, having been processed there, on the one hand, reflect upon further apperception of the habitat, and on the other hand, are forwarded to the sector of the conceptual and language matter interaction (VD zone); (2) the outcome of the conceptual and language matter ( native or foreign) amalgamation, on the one hand, enters the language realm and, on the other hand, affects further developments in the conceptual domain; (3) internalization of the language units (here – lexical items) in the existing system, on the one hand, leads to the restructuring of the system and, on the other hand, reflects upon the VD zone. Thus, every event in every CAS serves as an incentive for the developments in the neighboring CASes and, at the same time, provides a positive or a negative feedback.
Fig. 1. Interrelation of ethnic group with the habitat and language in the course of mutual adaptation
Within MSP-platform 4 regulating mechanisms of CAS evolution are recognized:
mechanism of sudden external impact;
mechanism of CAS adaptation to changing environment;
mechanism of CAS mutations;
mechanism of the activity of the entropy principle.
The activity of these mechanisms depends on the characteristics of the habitat and on the behavior of the other CASes participating in the adaptation (see also [12; 24]).
To understand the activity of these mechanisms, the process of the English language adaptation to the new habitat that resulted in its transformation into a pluricentric language was modeled. Three phases of adaptation were distinguished – initial (urgent) adaptation and two phases of further adaptation – gradual and perpetual.
In the initial phase of adaptation, four stages were identified: perception / apperception / internalization / categorization / verbalization / concept generation / propagation (See figure 2). Every stage implies the correlation with one of the regulating mechanisms of CAS evolution.
Perception / apperception stage correlates with the mechanism of sudden external impact; internalization / categorization stage – with the mechanism of adaptation to changing environment; verbalization / concept generation stage – with the mechanism of mutations; propagation stage – with the mechanism of the activity of the entropy principle.
Fig. 2. Stages and mechanisms of the initial phase of adaptation
At the first stage (in-depth analysis of this stage see in ) two factors determine the outcome – characteristics of the habitat and settlers’ attitude.
Fig. 3. Parameters of the perception / apperception stage of adaptation
(developed in collaboration with Natali Bytko)
At the second stage – internalization / categorization – cognitive processing of the data obtained at the stage of apperception is taking place. The processing comprises: initial (holistic) conceptualization, decomposition of its results into elementary constituents, parceling of the constituents into familiar / alien, hierarchy generation alongside with the categorization. These developments culminate in the elaboration of a VD which, however, does not dissolve in concept and lexeme but is preserved in a latent form for the purposes of continuing adaptation. To name the VD, the ethnic group resorts either to internal or external resources. In the process of the language matter merging with the VD a new concept emerges.
The results of the conceptualization / verbalization of the habitat’s constituents are internalized in language system in the course of propagation that consists in the incorporation of the developed lexical items into the extant semantic and structural networks. As a consequence, these networks undergo restructuring which affects the behavior of other complex adaptive systems participating in adaptation as the agents of the super-CAS – ethnic group and (indirectly) habitat. Thus, propagation sums up initial adaptation and, at the same time, facilitates further (gradual) adaptation (see figure 4).
As habitat and ethnic group are in the state of continuing transformation, a natural course of evolution leads to the third (perpetual) phase of adaptation (represented in figure 5), which consists in the habitat’s constituents continuous covert scrutiny and, actually, lasts as long as the constituent exists or is of relevance for the ethnic group.
In this process it is also possible to distinguish three stages: (1) alteration of the concept; (2) modification of the lexical item (s); (3) redefining of the concept and lexical item (s) structural relationships with other elements of the system (conceptual and lexical accordingly).
As habitat and ethnic group are undergoing perpetual changes both in substance and structure a natural course of evolution leads to the third phase of adaptation which consists in the habitat constituent (s) perpetual covert scrutiny and in fact lasts as long as the constituents exist and / or are of communicative relevance for the ethnic group.
Fig. 4. Modal of further (gradual) adaptation
Fig. 5. Modal of the perpetual phase of adaptation
It is evident that the models simplify the phenomena under discussion but at the same time make them observable and tangible.
To substantiate theoretical considerations outlined above I studied the process of the English language adaptation to the new habitat in U.S.A. Canada, Australia and New Zealand. At the first stage historical and ethnographic documents were studied, then dictionaries of American English, Canadian English, Australian English (AuE) and New Zealand English were analyzed and the transformations in the English lexis on the new territories were singled out, and at last the data obtained at the two stages were juxtaposed. (I admit that adaptation involves all levels of the language system, but in this situation the most urgent necessity was that of the alien world conceptualization and therefore of semantic system’s adaptation).
The fact that every variant, being structurally and functionally self-sufficient, is an integral component of a comprehensive system serves as a valid argument for the extrapolation of the main adaptation techniques observed in one variant on the other ones and on the mega-system of English as well. Accordingly, as I consider it most appropriate to discuss modus operandi of the English language adaptation in detail, it is done in this paper on the material of one variant – AuE, mainly historical documents [14; 19; 47], encyclopedias [44; 45] and dictionaries [9; 8; 22; 43]. It was the phenomenon of Australian bush that “has an iconic status in Australian life and features strongly in any debate about national identity” [42, p. 1] that was chosen for the analysis. The data consisted of the lexeme bush and 281 derivatives of this lexeme 94 of which belong to the domains of flora and fauna. The entire data underwent semantic analysis and, due to the lack of the information in the sources consulted, only 196 lexical items (49 of the – flora and fauna terms) underwent diachronic analysis.
All phases of the English language adaptation to the Australian reality are discussed below.
Initial phase of the English language adaptation in Australia (see figure 2).
Conceptualization / Internalization
Apperception of a new entity and its initial conceptualization.In Australia this process was an abrupt one as proper discernment and understanding of the new world was crucial for survival. The continent, the first settlers came into contact with, was characterized by the following main features: vast territories, endemic fauna and flora, arid lands, population belonging to a different race. All this, taken together, imposed insistent demands on the mode of life and economic activity.
It is important to remember that, although the first British settlement was made in Eastern Australia, rapid exploration of the continent began before the first settlement was founded. This process was so intensive that by 1829 (only 40 years after the arrival of the first fleets) the whole continent was a British dependency.
Decomposition of the conceptualization results into elementary constituents. The results of the decomposition can be presented by the set of the following constituents:
the land with no signs of being anybody’s property, that is with no fences or barriers;
in the East – areas of grasslands;
the rest of the territory – desert tracts of barren land, too hot and dry to support many people, covered by different types of vegetation;
the climate with the temperature getting hot during the day, then dropping considerably at night;
the exceedingly flat land which is also arid, getting very little rain;
variety of endemic flora and fauna species;
indigenous people belonging to a different race and religion, speaking different languages with various cultural beliefs, practices and traditions.
local people nomadic life with no land cultivation or cattle breeding, but hunting and gathering.
Subdivision of the constituents into familiar / alien. This is the stage at which the new world cognition takes the form of contraposition of the native and internalized cultures. Thus, the constituents are distributed along two vectors – familiar / alien. Here familiar means the existence of the appropriate notions (not obligatory the phenomenon or object) in the ethnic world picture.