Is Language a Complex System?
My thesis examines the origins of linguistic structure and whether it tells us anything about the structure of the human mind, communication or the world. Recently it has been argued that the structure of natural language is a product of self-organisation. Drawing on work in philosophy, linguistics and machine learning, I intend to see whether this amounts to a substantive claim about natural language or whether it is mere rhetoric. This involves examining the philosophical commitments implicit in the different mathematical idealisations used to represent linguistic structure. I will then examine to what extent ‘self-organisation’ does explain properties of language and whether explanations drawing upon this notion lessen the burden of explanation on the biological basis of our linguistic capacities.