New book: Natural causes of language by N. J. Enfield

Natural causes of language

Our series Conceptual Foundations of Language Science has published its first book. Listen to the author’s video below to know what it’s all about, or check out the series’ own blog at

What causes a language to be the way it is? Some features are universal, some are inherited, others are borrowed, and yet others are internally innovated. But no matter where a bit of language is from, it will only exist if it has been diffused and kept in circulation through social interaction in the history of a community. This book makes the case that a proper understanding of the ontology of language systems has to be grounded in the causal mechanisms by which linguistic items are socially transmitted, in communicative contexts. A biased transmission model provides a basis for understanding why certain things and not others are likely to develop, spread, and stick in languages.

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