Salikoko Mufwene, the Frank J. McLoraine distinguished service professor in linguistics, is featured in The University of Chicago Magazine. In an interview, Professor Mufwene discusses the ideas in his 2008 book, Language Evolution: Contact, Competition and Change. From the article:
“Every individual is just doing something that is beneficial to him or her,” emphasizes Mufwene, who holds a joint appointment in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology and whose ecological approach to language evolution challenges long-standing linguistic ideas. Just as diverse organisms comprise a given species, he explains, variations of words and sounds comprise a language. […] Linguistically, an invisible hand is at work, Mufwene says. “Nobody has consulted with anybody else,” but as people make choices about how they speak, the population gravitates toward similarity in pronunciation, meaning, and grammar. A communal norm emerges “in the same way that patterns emerge out of chaos. The variants that we hear the most are the variants we try to reproduce.”
For more information on Mufwene’s work, read the full feature at The University of Chicago Magazine.