Salikoko Mufwene (University of Chicago)
An important contribution of genetic creolistics to genetic linguistics is the light it sheds on the role of language contact in the speciation of the languages, viz., those that prevail while often also driving their competitors to extinction. This is evident not only in the emergence of creoles and the Romance languages, concurrent with the demise of numerous Celtic languages, but also in the dispersal of Proto-Bantu and its speciation into so many Bantu languages, at the expense of Pygmy and Khoisan languages.
However, there is much more than meets the eye in these diachronic developments. At the population level, language contact presupposes population movement and depends largely on the ensuing population structure. Africa has quite a story to tell regarding the causes of such movements and how they have proceeded, starting with the Exodus out of Africa, and variation in the ensuing population structures involving layers of internal or external colonization (i.e., relocation to and domestication of new territories, with or without domination of another population). The causes include natural ecological changes, degrading economies, and political conflicts. In this paper I wish to articulate the contribution that African linguistics has made and can still make to evolutionary linguistics from the study of language contact at the population level and from an ecological perspective.