About this Research Topic
The goal of this Research Topic is to shed light on the non-linguistic causes of language diversity, and particularly, to explore the possibility that some aspects of the structure of languages may result from an adaptation to the natural and/or human-made environment. Traditionally, language diversity has been claimed to result from random, internally-motivated changes in language structure. Ongoing research suggests instead that different factors that are external to language can promote language change and ultimately account for aspects of language diversity. Accordingly, linguistic complexity has been found to correlate with features of the social environment, such as the absence of cross-cultural exchanges or the number of native speakers. Likewise, language structure could be influenced by the physical environment, as the effect of dry climates on tone seemingly shows. Finally, core properties of human languages, like duality of patterning, have been argued to result from iterative learning and cultural evolution, as research in village sign languages illustrates. On the whole this means that some aspects of languages could be an adaptation to ecological, social, or even technological niches. Eventually, certain gene alleles, provided that they bias language acquisition or processing, may affect language change through iterated cultural transmission, and ultimately, to language structure.
This Research Topic focuses on macrovariation across languages from a typological perspective. Specific research questions to be addressed include (but are not limited to) patterns of global linguistic diversity, ecological factors accounting for language diversity, socio-cultural factors accounting for language diversity, the adaptive value of language diversity, niche construction regarding language change and diversity, gene-culture co-evolution and language diversity, and the emergent properties of languages. Because of the complex nature of the task, researchers from different fields with an interest in language, cognition, and culture, are welcome to contribute to this Research Topic, including linguists, psychologists, ethologists, biologists, sociologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and more.
Keywords: language diversity, biological diversity, ecolinguistics, adaptive value of languages, language change, language evolution, cultural evolution
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.