Language Evolution: An NCT and Conlang Framework

Author Information

Swathi Sivakumar Menon,
National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India 

Vinod Balakrishnan,
National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India 

DOI: 10.47298/cala2022.7-4
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in Asia 2022


Decades of scholarly work have displaced previously accepted assumptions of the separation of the cognitive and the cultural as two separate entities. Notably, interventions of scholars such as Bouchard, Arbib, and Odling-Smee, have effectively positioned this older and more archaic thinking.

In this paper, we posit that the propensity for constructivism in human languages has not been sufficiently studied. To this end, we propose Niche Construction Theory, a framework with which to address this gap. We also juxtapose natlangs (natural languages) with conlangs (constructed languages) in order to clarify the effectiveness of each. To facilitate this discussion, we propose the following points: Conlang origins are well-known, the study of conlangs has tangible evidence of manipulation of language elements, and the study of conlangs can further our understanding of natlangs.

We draw on multiple fields to effect this anthropological study. Our literature in this paper has invited our use of Bouchard’s concept of offline base systems (OBS) to respond to questions of the characteristics and mechanics of language vis-à-vis ethnological work. For this, we turn to issues of embodiment, to then extend this to other consequences of and motives for developing conlangs and hence language evolution, such as language disabilities and impairments, a field which is still in its infancy. A focus on language construction using conlangs to test OBS promises another avenue to explore language evolution.

Keywords: Conlangs, language evolution, natlangs, niche construction theory, OBS, linguistic anthropology


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