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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: December 2009

3 - The evolution of Postcolonial Englishes: the Dynamic Model

Summary

Transforming selves in migration: theoretical background

In section 3.2 of this chapter I introduce the Dynamic Model of the evolution of PCEs, which claims that despite all surface differences there is an underlying uniform process which has driven the individual historical instantiations of PCEs growing in different localities. In the present section I outline some theoretical prerequisites which have informed this model. It operates within the confines of language contact theories in general, for instance as surveyed by Thomason (2001), and, more specifically, it adopts an evolutionary perspective emphasizing the importance of linguistic ecologies and the idea of new language varieties emerging in a competition-and-selection process between features available to speakers in a “feature pool” of possible linguistic choices (Mufwene 2001b, 2005a). In particular, it rests upon the assumption that, in selecting from this pool, speakers keep redefining and expressing their linguistic and social identities, constantly aligning themselves with other individuals and thereby accommodating their speech behavior to those they wish to associate and be associated with.

Language contact: processes, perspectives, scenarios

PCEs have emerged in language contact situations, so a theory of language contact provides a necessary frame of reference. While some branches of linguistics, in particular historical linguistics in models like the family tree, have emphasized the purity and homogeneity of languages, the ubiquity of language contact in almost all cultures around the globe has recently been recognized and established, and language contact theory has come to be a growing sub-discipline of linguistics.