Co-opting exaptation in a theory of language change

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In contrast with exaptation, which has been widely discussed over the last years, its conceptual counterpart in evolutionary biology, namely adaptation, does not seem to play any significant role in the actual linguistic debate. In the paper, the attempt is made to integrate this conceptual pair into our linguistic epistemology basically extending Lindblom’s (1998) model of adaptive changes beyond the domain of phonological change. In this light, adaptive changes are characterized as oriented and responding to a general design of economy and plasticity, while exaptive changes are normally non-oriented and result from the refunctionalization of (partially pre-adapted) linguistic material.


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