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Language change in socially structured populations

  • Schulz, Ruth
  • Whittington, Matthew
  • Wiles, Janet
Publication Date
Mar 16, 2012
Queensland University of Technology ePrints Archive
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Language contact is a significant external social factor that impacts on the change in natural languages over time. In some circumstances this corresponds to language competition, in which individuals in a population choose one language over another based on their social interactions. We investigated the dynamics of language change in two initially separate populations of agents that were then mixed with levels of influence determined by the social classes of the two populations, with 16 different combinations tested. As expected, the study found that how the communities interact with each other impacts on the communal language developed. However, it was also found that the acquisition of new words was substantial even with limited interaction between populations and low levels of influence, and that comprehension could be well established across language groups even when production of words from the other language group was low.

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