The idiolect, chaos, and Language Custom far from equilibrium
Kuhl, Joseph William
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This dissertation is a theoretical investigation into the concept of the idiolect and Language Custom and begins with an appraisal of the work of the German linguist Hermann Paul who is generally regarded as having developed these concepts in his work The Principles of the History of Language (1888). His concept of the idiolect was rediscovered by Weinreich, Labov, and Herzog (1968) and served as a central point of departure in their monograph Empirical Foundations for a Theory of Language Change. Weinreich et al. used Paul’s ideas as a counterfoil to lend validity to their ideas which would soon after form the basis of sociolinguistics. They were highly critical of Paul’s ideas as there was no place for the linguistic individual in their paradigm which posited social forces as the causal agent for language change and variation. Paul, on the other hand, believed that individuals changed their idiolects spontaneously and through contact with other idiolects. With these recovered ideas, the work then examines the idiolect as an open system according to the principles of Natural Systems Theory. Defined as an open system, the idiolect is able to innovate and adapt to new linguistic input in an effort to establish Language Custom, which is itself an open and variable system with no fixed parameters or constraints. Having dispensed with the structuralist and generative approaches to language as a closed system, the idiolect and Language Custom are developed using the principles and ideas from Complexity and Chaos Theory. The driving force behind establishing Language Custom is called The Principle of Concord: the fundamental goal of all communication being the mutual understanding of speakers in discourse. Following the work of Ilya Prigogine, language contact between idiolects is said to occur in either near-to-equilibrium situations or far-from-equilibrium settings. Near to equilibrium is generally one’s native linguistic habitat and the setting in which we are able to derive grammars and define specific codes and languages. The fieldwork portion of this research was undertaken in a far-from-equilibrium setting: Morocco.