Language Learning

Cover image for Vol. 67 Issue 1

General Editor: General Editor: Nick C. Ellis / Journal Editor: Pavel Trofimovich / Associate Journal Editor: Emma Marsden / Associate Journal Editor: Kara Morgan-Short / Associate Journal Editor: Scott Crossley / Monograph Series Editor: Marianne Gullberg / LL Cognitive Neuroscience Series Editor: Núria Sebastián-Gallés / Executive Director: Scott Jarvis / Associate Executive Director: Jeff Connor-Linton

Impact Factor: 1.869

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2015: 10/181 (Linguistics); 25/231 (Education & Educational Research)

Online ISSN: 1467-9922

60th Anniversary Podcasts

Language Learning Podcasts: “Language as a Complex Adaptive System”

In celebration of Language Learning’s 60th anniversary, the journal hosted a conference at the University of Michigan from November 7–9, 2008. The theme of the event was “Language as a Complex Adaptive System.” Leading researchers in linguistics, psychology, and complex systems discussed the path-breaking significance of this perspective for their work, demonstrating that an understanding of language learning can only come about from such interdisciplinary, integrated inquiry.

These podcasts record the main presentations from the conference and are free to download. Written papers on the theme of these presentations will also be published as a special issue of Language Learning (Vol. 59, Suppl. 1, December 2009).

A position paper, “Language is a Complex Adaptive System,” written beforehand by “The Five Graces Group,” served as a focus for these papers. It is available for download here.

“Language as a Complex Adaptive System—Introduction”

This introduction was recorded after the November 2008 conference to provide listeners with a useful overview of the main presentations. Nick Ellis, general editor of Language Learning, explains the concept of “language as a complex adaptive system” (CAS) and its implications for language research.

Author: Nick C. Ellis, University of Michigan

“Modeling Language Acquisition and Evolution Using Complex Adaptive Systems”

The processes for language acquisition, use, and change are not independent from one another but form aspects of the same complex adaptive system. John Holland outlines how agent-based computer modeling can be used to explore the conditions for language emergence.

Author: John Holland, Santa Fe Institute

“A Usage-Based Account of Constituency and Reanalysis”

Researchers often view the constituent structure of linguistic utterances as innate to grammar. Beckner and Bybee challenge the traditional understanding, showing that these structures derive from use and are subject to gradual changes over time.

Authors: Clay Beckner, University of New Mexico
Joan Bybee, University of New Mexico

“The Speech Community in Evolutionary Language Dynamics”

In this presentation, the authors describe the social cognitive linguistic basis for analyzing language as a complex adaptive system, and develop a mathematical model of language change based on collaborative research in linguistics and statistical physics.

Authors: Richard A. Blythe, University of Edinburgh
William Croft, University of New Mexico

“Items and Generalizations at Work”

Language at one and the same time allows users to generalize from minimal exposure to novel constructions and yet also retain knowledge that is detailed and item-specific. Goldberg and Boyd explore both sides of this impressive ability, drawing on recent research into the language use of children and adults.

Authors: Adele Goldberg, Princeton University
Jeremy Boyd, Princeton University

“Constructing a Second Language: Analyses and Simulations of the Emergence of Linguistic Constructions from Usage”

This presentation analyzes interactions in the use, structure, cognition, and acquisition of linguistic constructions. Focusing on studies of second-language acquisition, the authors show how learning a language involves determining structure from usage and they present connectionist simulations of component processes.

Authors: Nick C. Ellis, University of Michigan
Diane Larsen-Freeman, University of Michigan

“A Usage-Based Approach to Recursion”

Most current approaches to linguistic structure suggest that recursion is an innate property of grammar. This presentation outlines an alternative theory based on the CAS perspective that views recursion as instead an acquired skill.

Author: Morten H. Christiansen, Cornell University and Santa Fe Institute

“Evolution of Brain and Language”

The evolutions of language and of the brain are tightly interlinked. While it is important to ask which is the cause or consequence of the other, Schoenemann maintains that the process may best be viewed as a complex adaptive system in which cultural learning interacts with biology over time to produce language.

Author: P. Thomas Schoenemann,
James Madison University

“Complex Adaptive Systems and the Origins of Adaptive Structure: What Experiments Can Tell Us”

The concept of language as a complex adaptive system highlights the role that usage and interaction play in explaining the dynamics of language. In this presentation, Kirby argues that the CAS perspective also has important implications for the evolutionary emergence of language in the first place.

Author: Simon Kirby, University of Edinburgh

“Meaning in the Making: Meaning Potential Emerging from Acts of Meaning”

The central characteristic of language is that it is a resource for making meaning. In this presentation, Matthiessen outlines a reciprocal process in which the potential for meaning both emerges from, and is instantiated by, acts of meaning.

Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

“Individual Differences: Interplay of Learner Characteristics and Learning Environment”

The notion of language as a complex adaptive system emphasizes that individual differences emerge as a result of dynamic interactions between learner/speaker and environment. Yet relatively little research has been done on the exact nature of this relationship. In this presentation, Dörnyei examines the main theoretical and experimental sources for the difficulty.

Zoltán Dörnyei, University of Nottingham

“If Language Is a Complex Adaptive System, What Is Language Assessment?”

Language assessment specialists tend to rely on a theoretical framework that meshes poorly with the emerging view of language as a complex adaptive system. Mislevy and Yin propose a way of overcoming this divide by reconceiving familiar concepts and methods in terms of the CAS perspective.

Robert J. Mislevy, University of Maryland
Chengbin Yin, Center for Applied Linguistics