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Other: Language is a usage-based dynamic complex-adaptive system. But how does such a system actually work?

Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Schmid

Languages are complex-adaptive systems par excellence. Like animal flocks, economic
markets or ecosystems, languages are ultimately driven and shaped by the intentional actions
of speakers. Linguistic conventions such as words, constructions or rules and the linguistic
system at large emerge from this interaction and feed back into it. What we tend to objectify
as linguistic structure or the linguistic system emerges from the interaction among speakers
and constantly feeds back into it by means of self-reinforcing feedback loops. This explains
why languages are subject to situational, social (incl. regional) and individual variation and
on-going historical change.
It is one thing to claim that languages are complex-adaptive systems, but it is quite
another to actually model such a system, especially if the full range of structural, use-related,
social and cognitive aspects of language are to be taken into consideration. To the best of my
knowledge, a unified complex-adaptive model of language integrating all these aspects has
not been proposed so far.
In my talk I will present such a model. Over the past ten years, I have developed what
I refer to as the Entrenchment-and-Conventionalization Model (cf., Schmid 2014, 2015, 2016,
2018, and Schmid and Mantlik 2015). In its latest version (cf. Schmid in print), this model
aims at detailing how the interaction between usage activities, cognitive entrenchment
processes, social conventionalization processes and a range of forces bring about, sustain and
adapt what we call the linguistic system and in which ways this interaction contributes to the
persistence, variation and change of linguistic structure.
The talk will focus on the main components of the model and provide some case
studies exemplifying how it works.

Schmid, Hans-Jörg (2014). ‘Lexico-Grammatical Patterns, Pragmatic Associations and Discourse Frequency’, in
Thomas Herbst, Hans-Jörg Schmid, and Susen Faulhaber (eds.), Constructions Collocations Patterns,
Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 239-293.
Schmid, Hans-Jörg (2015). ‘A Blueprint of the Entrenchment-and-Conventionalization Model’, Yearbook of the
German Cognitive Linguistics Association 3(1): 3-25.
Schmid, Hans-Jörg (2016). ‘Why Cognitive Linguistics Must Embrace the Social and Pragmatic Dimensions of
Language and How It Could Do So More Seriously’, Cognitive Linguistics 27(4): 543-557.
Schmid, Hans-Jörg (2018). ‘Ein integratives soziokognitives Modell des dynamischen Lexikons’, in Stefan
Engelberg, Henning Lobin, Kathrin Steyer, and Sascha Wolfer (eds.), Wortschätze. Dynamik, Muster,
Komplexität, Berlin/ Boston, MA: De Gruyter, 215-232.
Schmid, Hans-Jörg (in print). The Dynamics of the Linguistic System. Usage, Conventionalization, and
Entrenchment, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schmid, Hans-Jörg and Annette Mantlik (2015). ‘Entrenchment in Historical Corpora? Reconstructing Dead
Authors’ Minds from Their Usage Profiles’, Anglia 133(4): 583-623.


Day: 2019-11-28
Start time: 10:00
Duration: 01:00
Room: Oettingenstr. 67 BU101

Language: en



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