Complexity and language contact: A socio-cognitive framework

In Salikoko Mufwene, F. Pellegrino & C. Coupé (eds.), Complexity in language. Developmental and evolutionary perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 218-243 (2017)
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Throughout most of the 20th century, analytical and reductionist approaches have dominated in biological, social, and humanistic sciences, including linguistics and communication. We generally believed we could account for fundamental phenomena in invoking basic elemental units. Although the amount of knowledge generated was certainly impressive, we have also seen limitations of this approach. Discovering the sound formants of human languages, for example, has allowed us to know vital aspects of the ‘material’ plane of verbal codes, but it tells us little about significant aspects of their social functions. I firmly believe, therefore, that alongside a linguistics that looks ‘inward’ there should also be a linguistics that looks ‘outward’, or one even that is constructed ‘from the outside’, a linguistics that I refer to elsewhere as ‘holistic’ though it could be identified by a different name. My current vision is to promote simultaneously the perspective that goes from the part to the whole and that which goes from the whole to the parts, i.e., both from the top down and from the bottom up. This goal is shared with other disciplines which recognize that many phenomena related to life are interwoven, self-organising, emergent and processual. Thus, we need to re-examine how we have conceived of reality, both the way we have looked at it and the images we have used to talk about it. Several approaches now grouped under the label of complexity have been elaborated towards this objective of finding new concepts and ways of thinking that better fit the complex organisation of facts and events.

Author's Profile

Albert Bastardas-Boada
Universitat de Barcelona


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