Simpler grammar, larger vocabulary: How population size affects language

View Researcher's Other Codes

Disclaimer: The provided code links for this paper are external links. Science Nest has no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of these links. Also, by downloading this code(s), you agree to comply with the terms of use as set out by the author(s) of the code(s).

Please contact us in case of a broken link from here

Authors Florencia Reali, Nick Chater, Morten H. Christiansen
Journal/Conference Name Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Languages with many speakers tend to be structurally simple while small communities sometimes develop languages with great structural complexity. Paradoxically, the opposite pattern appears to be observed for non-structural properties of language such as vocabulary size. These apparently opposite patterns pose a challenge for theories of language change and evolution. We use computational simulations to show that this inverse pattern can depend on a single factor ease of diffusion through the population. A population of interacting agents was arranged on a network, passing linguistic conventions to one another along network links. Agents can invent new conventions, or replicate conventions that they have previously generated themselves or learned from other agents. Linguistic conventions are either Easy or Hard to diffuse, depending on how many times an agent needs to encounter a convention to learn it. In large groups, only linguistic conventions that are easy to learn, such as words, tend to proliferate, whereas small groups where everyone talks to everyone else allow for more complex conventions, like grammatical regularities, to be maintained. Our simulations thus suggest that language, and possibly other aspects of culture, may become simpler at the structural level as our world becomes increasingly interconnected.
Date of publication 2018
Code Programming Language R
Comment

Copyright Researcher 2021