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Englishes past and present as Complex Dynamic Systems (Schneider)

For a long time I have been fascinated by two theories which were developed in mathematics and the sciences but have been successfully adopted to explain phenomena in biology and the social sciences as well – chaos theory at first, and, more recently, the theory of Complex Dynamic Systems, which to some extent incorporates the former. I believe that many of the fundamental principles and properties of complex systems posited in this theory apply to and determine the evolution of human languages as well, and of English in particular. Looking at general developmental trajectories of specific features and phenomena through time and space, in the history of English and into present-day varieties, allows us to identify manifestations and effects of such principles.

Publications and presentation

Schneider, Edgar W. "Chaos theory as a model for dialect variability and change?" in Alan A. Thomas, ed., Issues and Methods in Dialectology. Bangor: University of Wales, Department of Linguistics 1997, S. 22-36.

Schneider, Edgar W. "Chaos theory." In Bernd Kortmann, ed. Wörterbücher zur Sprach- und Komunikationswissenschaft / Dictionaries of Linguistics and Communication Science. 11: Theories and Methods in Linguistics. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter 2013. DOI: 10.1515/wsk.35.0.chaostheory

Schneider, Edgar W. 2015. "Calling World Englishes as Complex Dynamic Systems: diffusion, restructuring, reallocation." Plenary lecture given to the international conference "Changing English: Integrating cognitive, social and typological perspectives." University of Helsinki.


  1. Faculty of Languages, Literature, and Cultures
  2. Department of English and American Studies

English Linguistics

Prof. Dr. Edgar W. Schneider
Professor emeritus

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