Re: Meme pools?/ evolution and ecology

Hans-Cees Speel (
Mon, 23 Jun 1997 10:09:20 +0000

From: Hans-Cees Speel <>
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 1997 10:09:20 +0000
Subject: Re: Meme pools?/ evolution and ecology

> >I have no particular objection to calling these things cultural species --
> though I think their may be something peculiar going on with language. I'm
> not sure languages should be considered as autonomous cultural species.
> Perhaps it would be better to think of langauges as constituting the
> nervous system of cultural species. That is, each cultural species has its
> language which is just a tool for manipulating the memetic repertoire of
> the species.>
> Thank you/ I think you might be on to something there. In light hearted
> moments I have been known to claim that language is something memes
> invented to have sex with [that is to enable transmittal]. I just don't
> know the extent to which a language passes on a particular cultural
> tradition. That is why I am staring to try and explore what the linguists
> have to say. Strange I was married to one once.

Like in biology, any evolutionary theory has accompanying ecological
theories. Saying that a genes uses and ecosystem to reproduce
itsself, is about the same as saying that a meme uses language to
reproduce itsself.

To me language is one of the things I can not handle systematically
in memetic theory. That is becuase words and memes, 'belong to' a
language, but language is also many things more. I think the
definition of what is language is so broad, it halts systematic
thinking (at least for me).

I know languages evolve, or at least parts of it (meanings of words
and so on). Other parts like the way we build sentences evolve much
slower. I have no idea what the selective forces are here. Or in
other words, what stops or pushes variation here, and the selection
of variation.
Why for instance do we object when foreigners switch verbs and time
(for instance when they say 'I wanted to go to the school now'). At
the same time the meaning of words is as floating as can be.
Metaphoric thinking is a mechanism for that.

The strange thing now of language is that is hold relations to other
things, like our communication, etc. It has a function for that. That
will probably mean that this function has a selective force on
language. But at the same time parts of language evolve as in genetic

well, its not clear for me, but it seem that language evolution
should be an issue for memetics.



Theories come and go, the frog stays [F. Jacob]
Hans-Cees Speel
Managing Editor "Journal of Memetics Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission"

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