The basic reproductive ratio as a link between acquisition and change in phonotactics
Language acquisition and change are thought to be causally connected. We demonstrate a method for quantifying the strength of this connection in terms of the ‘basic reproductive ratio’ of linguistic constituents. It represents a standardized measure of reproductive success, which can be derived both from diachronic and from acquisition data. By analyzing English data, we show that the results of both types of derivation correlate, so that phonotactic acquisition indeed predicts phonotactic change, and vice versa. After drawing that general conclusion, we discuss the role of utterance frequency and show that the latter only exhibits destabilizing effects on late acquired items, which belong to phonotactic periphery. We conclude that – at least in the evolution of English phonotactics – acquisition serves conservation, while innovation is more likely to occur in adult speech and affects items that are less entrenched but comparably frequent.
This work is licensed under a
CC BY-SA 4.0 - Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
CC BY-SA 4.0 International