I suspect language acquisition is a more pervasive process than most people think. The process of learning a new language involves special cognitive processes that occur primarily during infancy, but can also happen later in life, though not as powerfully.
I think the same process may be involved in changing dialects. When someone moves to a different part of the country and lives there a few years, their speech patterns change to emulate the people in their new home. I don’t think this is entirely explained by conformity, or even trying to be more understandable. There’s something more subtle going on.
Also, I’ve noticed that when I read an author with a distinct and compelling prose style, like Ernest Hemingway or Johnathan Lethem, they influence my voice. I write more concisely after reading Hemingway, and with a more earthy, imaginative lyricism after reading Lethem.
And it’s not a concious thing. I couldn’t do it intentionally, even if I tried. I just notice it happening.
I don’t think this is a sound framework for a comprehensive theory of human learning. But it does raise an interesting question: where else does the cognitive process of language acquisition occur? Are there other circumstances and events that trigger it? Is it a more general phenomenon? Does it ever apply to other things besides meaningful sequences of sound? It’s a curious thing.