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Natural selection, based on Darwin's theories, states that organisms with characteristics that benefit survival survive while the weaker, less adapted individuals are weeded out.

Languages also evolve over time, which is shown by the many languages around the world, all the dialects within each language, and the difference in language from older texts.

Do languages evolve the same way as species evolve? Do languages or parts of languages change based on how well they suit those who speak it? What exactly drives linguistic evolution?

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  • Only superficially. Biological evolution emerges from two processes: random variation, and natural selection with inheritance. Some variation in language may be random, but some is not; and there is nothing in language change which is modelled by natural selection with inheritance. Nonetheless, Dawkins' concept of the meme is regarded by some (not all) as an analogue of the gene.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 12 '14 at 23:11
  • Biological evolution has a third process, sexual selection. Though two languages can combine in cases of creoles and mixed languages there is no counterpart to DNA recombination. Oct 13 '14 at 2:30
  • It depends on how one views "evolution" -- as a process limited to organisms and populations via inheritance, which eliminates language -- or as a process that can separated into statistical, population, genetic, ecological, and taxonomic subprocesses. To name a few. Darwin said that language change was an example of evolution, and there are good parallels; but I don't know of anything in biological evolution that resembles the Grammaticalization Cycle, for instance.
    – jlawler
    Oct 13 '14 at 2:39