Research Topic

Emergentist Approaches to Language

About this Research Topic

This Research Topic calls for papers examining how language emerges. Emergentist theories of language view linguistic representations as reflecting patterns of language usage and embodied interaction that accumulate through processes operating across different timeframes. These time-process frames include ...

This Research Topic calls for papers examining how language emerges. Emergentist theories of language view linguistic representations as reflecting patterns of language usage and embodied interaction that accumulate through processes operating across different timeframes. These time-process frames include child language learning, second language learning, online language processing, language change, and language evolution. Emergentist theories aim to integrate insights from various fields including developmental and cognitive psychology, corpus analysis, computational modeling, machine learning, and neuroscience. When applied to language, emergentist theories often rely on mechanisms from linguistic functionalism, cognitive linguistics, connectionism, embodied cognition, usage-based linguistics, neuroemergentism, and competition model theories. The papers in this special issue will examine proposals regarding emergentist mechanisms and the ways in which these models are evaluated through a coordinated use of corpora, controlled experiments, and computer simulations.

The evaluation of emergentist proposals requires methods that integrate data types to understand competing constraints and motivations. For example, the articulation of neuroemergentist models requires the investigation of developmental changes in the structure of the brain and the body in individuals with both normal and atypical developmental trajectories. To take another example, the articulation of emergentist accounts for second language learning requires close attention to positive and negative transfer, how transfer can be distinguished from L2 learning, and how age of acquisition interacts with L2 proficiency in impacting the outcome of L2 learning. Similarly, emergentist approaches to language change need to consider the dynamics of language processing, constraints from the body and the brain, varieties of conversational interactions, and patterns of social diffusion.

For this article collection, we invite papers that examine any of these issues, particularly including those that propose specific mechanisms of emergence and the ways in which these mechanisms interact with competing constraints derived from features of the input and the nature of the brain and body.


Keywords: language learning, competition, usage-based theory, emergentism, neuroemergentism, language change, language evolution, language processing, second language acquisition, L2 acquisition, embodied cognition, connectionism, computational modeling, corpus analysis


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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