Complex, dynamic systems and emergent behaviour can be seen all around us – in swirling flocks of birds, in the vicissitudes of the market, in the self-organized use of escalators and check-outs. Language is such a system, with words/grammar constantly evolving and changing as individuals and communities interact.
Learner corpus research analyzes databases of language learners’ texts in order to study patterns of language acquisition and use. This study reverses the usual focus and looks instead at the text of just one student of English to see how the use of clusters (units of frequently combined words) is related to patterns of usage by the whole student population.
Clusters, it is argued, represent the emergent, aggregate behaviour of a community of learners. Resulting from frequency-based learning and collocation, clusters are the building blocks of language. And as with single birds within a swirling flock, within the complex dynamics of interaction and acquisition, each language learner follows their own unique developmental path.
"Emergent Language" is a non-peer-reviewed academic video which aims to bring complexity theory and corpus linguistics to a wider audience.
A pdf transcript of the video, with references and credits, is available at:
My thanks to Archive.org, Pixabay.com, Vimeo.com, and Wikipedia, and to all those who have made their work available under Creative Commons licences.
Special thanks to the Mauritshuis, The Hague, for kindly providing the image of Woman Writing a Letter (Gerard ter Borch, c.1655), mauritshuis.nl/en/
Royalty-free use of Connection Structure, 3D Animation Abstract Background (49900125) by Glock, copyright Pond5.com,
Please see the end of the video for a full list of references and credits
"Galaxia" by Orquesta Arrecife; archive.org/details/packrat; Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0
"Voice Over Under" by Kevin MacLeod; incompetech.com/music; Creative Commons Licence: By Attribution 3.0
"Wallpaper" by Kevin MacLeod; incompetech.com/music; Creative Commons Licence: By Attribution 3.0
This video was created by Nick Wood and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
In memoriam: John Holland (1929-2015) pioneer in the study of complex adaptive systems