Do Language Change Rates Depend on Population Size?

author: Dietrich Stauffer, Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Cologne
published: Dec. 14, 2007,   recorded: October 2007,   views: 4187

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An earlier study (Nettle 1999b) concluded, based on computer simulations and some inferences from empirical data, that languages will change the more slowly the larger the population gets. We replicate this study using a more complete language model for simulations (the Schulze model combined with a Barab´asi-Albert network) and a richer empirical dataset (the World Atlas of Language Structures edited by Haspelmath et al. 2005). Our simulations show either a weak or stronger dependence of language change on population sizes depending on the parameter settings, and empirical data, like some of the simulations, show a weak dependence.

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