Transforming Conceptions of Language and its Development: What is on Offer from Complexity Theory


Open lecture by Professor Diane Larsen-Freeman from the University of Michigan

Complexity Theory, also known as Dynamic Systems Theory, is a theory originating in the physical sciences. However, its focus on complex, dynamic, nonlinear systems has much to offer those of us interested in language. I will begin this talk by discussing the theoretical tenets underpinning Complexity Theory. Then, I will proceed to apply them to language, making some necessary adaptations for our human enterprise. I will go on to propose that not only does a Complexity Theory perspective transform our concept of language, but it also inspires a helpful way of conceiving of second language acquisition/development. In fact, drawing on the theory, I will suggest that language, its use, its evolution, and its development are self-similar processes, albeit operating at different timescales.

Om Diane Larsen-Freeman