Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Lexical Right-sizing in the Evolution of Spanish: Understanding Language as a Complex Adaptive System

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2016), 93, (7), 717–733.

Abstract

Researchers of Latin and its evolution to Spanish have observed that short forms tend to be replaced by more robust forms (ōs by bucca (> Sp. boca)). This observation represents a starting point for the systematic study of the effect of loss of phonological bulk, compensation mechanisms, and the operation of this phenomenon in Latin > Spanish evolution. The mechanisms of compensation for the loss of phonological bulk are phonological adjustments, morphological augment, and lexical replacement. Forms that are underweight, so to speak, occasion an increase in bulk, while new constructions, as they are reduced to lexical forms, lose phonological material quickly (tenēre habeō > tendré). This reflects the Theory of Communication of Shannon and Weaver (1949). Zipf (1965) showed that the length of words is inversely related to frequency and that word length shows a direct relationship to semantic complexity. The evolution of the Spanish lexicon expresses the principles captured in their formulations. The process of change that maintains the phonological– semantic macro-stability reflects the functioning of language as a Complex Adaptive System. Users of a language propose and accept (or reject) innovations that tend to optimize communication and these propagate, creating a vast diachronic network of diffusion. This self-regulating mechanism of language change maintains balance in the lexicon.

Investigadores del latín y su evolución al español han observado que formas cortas tienden a ser reemplazadas por formas más robustas (ōs por bucca (> es. boca)). Esta observación representa el punto de partida para el estudio sistemático del efecto de la pérdida de peso fonológico, los mecanismos de su compensa, y la operación de este fenómeno en la evolución del latín al español. Funcionen como mecanismos de compensa los ajustes fonológicos, el aumento morfológico, y el reemplazo léxico. Las formas de bajo peso, por un decir, ocasionan el aumento de bulto fonológico. En cambio, nuevas construcciones, al reducirse a formas léxicas, pierden materia fonológica de manera acelerada (tenēre habeō > tendré). El aumento o la reducción refleja la Teoría de Comunicación de Shannon y Weaver (1949); Zipf (1965) demostró que la complejidad de palabras tenía una relación inversa a su frecuencia y una relación directa con su complejidad semántica. La evolución del léxico del español expresa los principios que se capturan en estas formulaciones. El proceso de cambio que mantiene la macro-estabilidad fonológica-semántica refleja el funcionamiento del leguaje como Sistema Complejo Adoptivo. Los que usan un idioma proponen o aceptan (o bien rechazan) innovaciones que tienden a optimalizar la comunicación y éstas se propagan, creando una inmensa red diacrónica de difusión. Este mecanismo de cambio lingüístico, que se auto-regula, mantiene el balance en el léxico.

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Palmer, L. R., 1954. The Latin Language (London: Faber and Faber). The Latin Language Google Scholar

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Penny, Ralph, 2002. A History of the Spanish Language. Second edition. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). A History of the Spanish Language Google Scholar

Rini, Joel, 1999. Exploring the Role of Morphology in the Evolution of Spanish (Amsterdam: John Benjamins). Exploring the Role of Morphology in the Evolution of Spanish Google Scholar

Shannon, Claude, and Warren Weaver, 1949. The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Urbana: University of Illinois Press). The Mathematical Theory of Communication Google Scholar

Wanner, Dieter, 1987. The Development of Romance Clitic Pronouns (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter). The Development of Romance Clitic Pronouns Google Scholar

Zipf, George K., 1965. The Psycho-Biology of Language (Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press). The Psycho-Biology of Language Google Scholar

Beckner, C., R. Blythe, J. Bybee, M. H. Christiansen, W. Croft, N. C. Ellis, J. Holland, J. Ke, D. Larsen-Freeman, and T. Schoenemann, 2009. ‘Language is a Complex Adaptive System’, Position Paper, Language Learning, 59, Supplement 1: 1–27. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan). Language is a Complex Adaptive System Language Learning 59 1 27 Google Scholar

Beckner, C., R. Blythe, J. Bybee, M. H. Christiansen, W. Croft, N. C. Ellis, J. Holland, J. Ke, D. Larsen-Freeman, and T. Schoenemann, 2009. ‘Language is a Complex Adaptive System’, Position Paper, Language Learning, 59, Supplement 1: 1–27. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan). Language is a Complex Adaptive System Language Learning 59 1 27 Google Scholar

Bourciez, Édouard, 1946. Éléments de linguistique Romane. Fourth edition. (Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck). Éléments de linguistique Romane Google Scholar

Bourciez, Édouard, 1946. Éléments de linguistique Romane. Fourth edition. (Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck). Éléments de linguistique Romane Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan, 2010. Language, Usage, and Cognition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). Language, Usage, and Cognition Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan, 2010. Language, Usage, and Cognition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). Language, Usage, and Cognition Google Scholar

Croft, W., 2000. Explaining Language Change: An Evolutionary Approach (London: Longman). Explaining Language Change: An Evolutionary Approach Google Scholar

Croft, W., 2000. Explaining Language Change: An Evolutionary Approach (London: Longman). Explaining Language Change: An Evolutionary Approach Google Scholar

Elerick, Charles, 1983. ‘Two New Sources for Spanish echar’. Papers in Romance, 5.1: 37–45. Two New Sources for Spanish echar Papers in Romance 5.1 37 45 Google Scholar

Grandgent, Charles, 1907. An Introduction to Vulgar Latin (Boston, MA: D. C. Heath). An Introduction to Vulgar Latin Google Scholar

Haiman, John, 1985. Natural Syntax: Iconicity and Erosion (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). Natural Syntax: Iconicity and Erosion Google Scholar

Herman, Joszef, 2000. Vulgar Latin (University Park: University of Pennsylvania Press). Vulgar Latin Google Scholar

Hyman, Larry, 1975. Phonology: Theory and Analysis (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston). Phonology: Theory and Analysis Google Scholar

Janson, Tore, 1979. Mechanisms of Language Change in Latin (Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell International). Mechanisms of Language Change in Latin Google Scholar

Elerick, Charles, 1983. ‘Two New Sources for Spanish echar’. Papers in Romance, 5.1: 37–45. Two New Sources for Spanish echar Papers in Romance 5.1 37 45 Google Scholar

Jespersen, Otto, 1917. Negation in English and Other Languages (Copenhagen: A. F. Host). Negation in English and Other Languages Google Scholar

Grandgent, Charles, 1907. An Introduction to Vulgar Latin (Boston, MA: D. C. Heath). An Introduction to Vulgar Latin Google Scholar

Labov, William, 1972. Sociolinguistic Patterns (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press). Sociolinguistic Patterns Google Scholar

Haiman, John, 1985. Natural Syntax: Iconicity and Erosion (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). Natural Syntax: Iconicity and Erosion Google Scholar

Lapesa, Rafael, 1981. Historia de la lengua española. Ninth edition. (Madrid: Gredos). Historia de la lengua española Google Scholar

Herman, Joszef, 2000. Vulgar Latin (University Park: University of Pennsylvania Press). Vulgar Latin Google Scholar

Lee, Namhee, L. Mikesell, A. D. I. Joaquin, A. Mates, and J. Schumann, 2009. The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press). The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language Google Scholar

Lindblom, Björn, 1990. ‘Explaining Phonetic Variation: A Sketch of the H&H Theory’, in Speech Production and Speech Modelling, ed. W. J. Hardcastle and Alain Marchal (Dordrecht, Germany: Kluwer). Explaining Phonetic Variation: A Sketch of the H&H Theory Speech Production and Speech Modelling Google Scholar

Hyman, Larry, 1975. Phonology: Theory and Analysis (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston). Phonology: Theory and Analysis Google Scholar

Palmer, L. R., 1954. The Latin Language (London: Faber and Faber). The Latin Language Google Scholar

Janson, Tore, 1979. Mechanisms of Language Change in Latin (Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell International). Mechanisms of Language Change in Latin Google Scholar

Patterson, William, and Hector Urrutibéheity, 1975. The Lexical Structure of Spanish (The Hague, The Netherlands: Mouton de Gruyter). The Lexical Structure of Spanish Google Scholar

Jespersen, Otto, 1917. Negation in English and Other Languages (Copenhagen: A. F. Host). Negation in English and Other Languages Google Scholar

Penny, Ralph, 2002. A History of the Spanish Language. Second edition. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). A History of the Spanish Language Google Scholar

Labov, William, 1972. Sociolinguistic Patterns (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press). Sociolinguistic Patterns Google Scholar

Rini, Joel, 1999. Exploring the Role of Morphology in the Evolution of Spanish (Amsterdam: John Benjamins). Exploring the Role of Morphology in the Evolution of Spanish Google Scholar

Lapesa, Rafael, 1981. Historia de la lengua española. Ninth edition. (Madrid: Gredos). Historia de la lengua española Google Scholar

Shannon, Claude, and Warren Weaver, 1949. The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Urbana: University of Illinois Press). The Mathematical Theory of Communication Google Scholar

Lee, Namhee, L. Mikesell, A. D. I. Joaquin, A. Mates, and J. Schumann, 2009. The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press). The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language Google Scholar

Wanner, Dieter, 1987. The Development of Romance Clitic Pronouns (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter). The Development of Romance Clitic Pronouns Google Scholar

Lindblom, Björn, 1990. ‘Explaining Phonetic Variation: A Sketch of the H&H Theory’, in Speech Production and Speech Modelling, ed. W. J. Hardcastle and Alain Marchal (Dordrecht, Germany: Kluwer). Explaining Phonetic Variation: A Sketch of the H&H Theory Speech Production and Speech Modelling Google Scholar

Zipf, George K., 1965. The Psycho-Biology of Language (Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press). The Psycho-Biology of Language Google Scholar

Palmer, L. R., 1954. The Latin Language (London: Faber and Faber). The Latin Language Google Scholar

Patterson, William, and Hector Urrutibéheity, 1975. The Lexical Structure of Spanish (The Hague, The Netherlands: Mouton de Gruyter). The Lexical Structure of Spanish Google Scholar

Penny, Ralph, 2002. A History of the Spanish Language. Second edition. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). A History of the Spanish Language Google Scholar

Rini, Joel, 1999. Exploring the Role of Morphology in the Evolution of Spanish (Amsterdam: John Benjamins). Exploring the Role of Morphology in the Evolution of Spanish Google Scholar

Shannon, Claude, and Warren Weaver, 1949. The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Urbana: University of Illinois Press). The Mathematical Theory of Communication Google Scholar

Wanner, Dieter, 1987. The Development of Romance Clitic Pronouns (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter). The Development of Romance Clitic Pronouns Google Scholar

Zipf, George K., 1965. The Psycho-Biology of Language (Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press). The Psycho-Biology of Language Google Scholar

Beckner, C., R. Blythe, J. Bybee, M. H. Christiansen, W. Croft, N. C. Ellis, J. Holland, J. Ke, D. Larsen-Freeman, and T. Schoenemann, 2009. ‘Language is a Complex Adaptive System’, Position Paper, Language Learning, 59, Supplement 1: 1–27. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan). Language is a Complex Adaptive System Language Learning 59 1 27 Google Scholar

Bourciez, Édouard, 1946. Éléments de linguistique Romane. Fourth edition. (Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck). Éléments de linguistique Romane Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan, 2010. Language, Usage, and Cognition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). Language, Usage, and Cognition Google Scholar

Croft, W., 2000. Explaining Language Change: An Evolutionary Approach (London: Longman). Explaining Language Change: An Evolutionary Approach Google Scholar

Elerick, Charles, 1983. ‘Two New Sources for Spanish echar’. Papers in Romance, 5.1: 37–45. Two New Sources for Spanish echar Papers in Romance 5.1 37 45 Google Scholar

Grandgent, Charles, 1907. An Introduction to Vulgar Latin (Boston, MA: D. C. Heath). An Introduction to Vulgar Latin Google Scholar

Haiman, John, 1985. Natural Syntax: Iconicity and Erosion (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). Natural Syntax: Iconicity and Erosion Google Scholar

Herman, Joszef, 2000. Vulgar Latin (University Park: University of Pennsylvania Press). Vulgar Latin Google Scholar

Hyman, Larry, 1975. Phonology: Theory and Analysis (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston). Phonology: Theory and Analysis Google Scholar

Janson, Tore, 1979. Mechanisms of Language Change in Latin (Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell International). Mechanisms of Language Change in Latin Google Scholar

Jespersen, Otto, 1917. Negation in English and Other Languages (Copenhagen: A. F. Host). Negation in English and Other Languages Google Scholar

Labov, William, 1972. Sociolinguistic Patterns (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press). Sociolinguistic Patterns Google Scholar

Lapesa, Rafael, 1981. Historia de la lengua española. Ninth edition. (Madrid: Gredos). Historia de la lengua española Google Scholar

Lee, Namhee, L. Mikesell, A. D. I. Joaquin, A. Mates, and J. Schumann, 2009. The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press). The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language Google Scholar

Lindblom, Björn, 1990. ‘Explaining Phonetic Variation: A Sketch of the H&H Theory’, in Speech Production and Speech Modelling, ed. W. J. Hardcastle and Alain Marchal (Dordrecht, Germany: Kluwer). Explaining Phonetic Variation: A Sketch of the H&H Theory Speech Production and Speech Modelling Google Scholar

Palmer, L. R., 1954. The Latin Language (London: Faber and Faber). The Latin Language Google Scholar

Patterson, William, and Hector Urrutibéheity, 1975. The Lexical Structure of Spanish (The Hague, The Netherlands: Mouton de Gruyter). The Lexical Structure of Spanish Google Scholar

Penny, Ralph, 2002. A History of the Spanish Language. Second edition. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). A History of the Spanish Language Google Scholar

Rini, Joel, 1999. Exploring the Role of Morphology in the Evolution of Spanish (Amsterdam: John Benjamins). Exploring the Role of Morphology in the Evolution of Spanish Google Scholar

Shannon, Claude, and Warren Weaver, 1949. The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Urbana: University of Illinois Press). The Mathematical Theory of Communication Google Scholar

Wanner, Dieter, 1987. The Development of Romance Clitic Pronouns (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter). The Development of Romance Clitic Pronouns Google Scholar

Zipf, George K., 1965. The Psycho-Biology of Language (Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press). The Psycho-Biology of Language Google Scholar

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Elerick, Charles