Emergence of “new varieties” in speech as a complex system

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The properties of complex systems engage nicely with the framework for “new varieties” of English suggested by Edgar Schneider, which highlights perceptual qualities and describes the progress of emergence of postcolonial varieties from early settlement to mature nation states. In order to explain the coexistence of multiple varieties of a language and the emergence of new subvarieties, we require a process for variety formation that does not inexorably lead to a single new variety but instead explicitly allows for linguistic systems to exist in the same place. Complexity science shows that variation in English has the property of scaling that begins in small groups that form the basis for broad and interacting regional and social continua of speech.


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