the role of mistaken inferences in adding diversity to the linguistic pool is essentially analogous to the role of mutations in adding diversity to the genetic pool… In both cases, the mistransmission of a code adds to a pool of choices from which other factors (environmental factors/learnability) differentially select. The take-home message is that even optimizing changes in language are a product of our inability to completely understand one another.
I particularly like this passage: “While languages obviously serve as media of communcation, they are in many ways ill-suited to this task. Grammars are too complex, too byzantine, too intricate, and indeed too beautiful, to be optimal codes for communcation.” Yes, exactly, and for many of us it is precisely the intricate, byzantine bits that are a primary attraction. I’ve never been able to work up any interest in Esperanto and the other simplified languages, despite their theoretical value for easy communication, because they’re too damn boring. If I can’t have irregular verbs, I’d rather grunt and point.