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Adaptive Communication: Languages with More Non-Native Speakers Tend to Have Fewer Word Forms.

Bentz C, Verkerk A, Kiela D, Hill F, Buttery P - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: We consider the effect of language contact-the number of non-native speakers a language has-on the way languages change and evolve.By analysing hundreds of languages within and across language families, regions, and text types, we show that languages with greater levels of contact typically employ fewer word forms to encode the same information content (a property we refer to as lexical diversity).Language evolution and change should be modeled as the co-evolution of multiple intertwined adaptive systems: On one hand, the structure of human societies and human learning capabilities, and on the other, the structure of language.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

ABSTRACT
Explaining the diversity of languages across the world is one of the central aims of typological, historical, and evolutionary linguistics. We consider the effect of language contact-the number of non-native speakers a language has-on the way languages change and evolve. By analysing hundreds of languages within and across language families, regions, and text types, we show that languages with greater levels of contact typically employ fewer word forms to encode the same information content (a property we refer to as lexical diversity). Based on three types of statistical analyses, we demonstrate that this variance can in part be explained by the impact of non-native speakers on information encoding strategies. Finally, we argue that languages are information encoding systems shaped by the varying needs of their speakers. Language evolution and change should be modeled as the co-evolution of multiple intertwined adaptive systems: On one hand, the structure of human societies and human learning capabilities, and on the other, the structure of language.

No MeSH data available.


Lexical diversity space.Locations of 647 languages along ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (centered and scaled). Highly diverse languages cluster towards the upper-right corner in the back (highest values), whereas lexically redundant languages cluster towards the lower-left corner in the front (lowest values). To illustrate between-family variation, Altaic (yellow squares), Indo-European (green squares) and Creole languages (red squares) are pointed out among languages of other families (grey dots).
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pone.0128254.g004: Lexical diversity space.Locations of 647 languages along ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (centered and scaled). Highly diverse languages cluster towards the upper-right corner in the back (highest values), whereas lexically redundant languages cluster towards the lower-left corner in the front (lowest values). To illustrate between-family variation, Altaic (yellow squares), Indo-European (green squares) and Creole languages (red squares) are pointed out among languages of other families (grey dots).

Mentions: To visually illustrate the range of values for all languages and all three LDT measures, we plot each language as a point in a three dimensional “lexical diversity space” along the dimensions of ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (see Fig 4).


Adaptive Communication: Languages with More Non-Native Speakers Tend to Have Fewer Word Forms.

Bentz C, Verkerk A, Kiela D, Hill F, Buttery P - PLoS ONE (2015)

Lexical diversity space.Locations of 647 languages along ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (centered and scaled). Highly diverse languages cluster towards the upper-right corner in the back (highest values), whereas lexically redundant languages cluster towards the lower-left corner in the front (lowest values). To illustrate between-family variation, Altaic (yellow squares), Indo-European (green squares) and Creole languages (red squares) are pointed out among languages of other families (grey dots).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4470635&req=5

pone.0128254.g004: Lexical diversity space.Locations of 647 languages along ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (centered and scaled). Highly diverse languages cluster towards the upper-right corner in the back (highest values), whereas lexically redundant languages cluster towards the lower-left corner in the front (lowest values). To illustrate between-family variation, Altaic (yellow squares), Indo-European (green squares) and Creole languages (red squares) are pointed out among languages of other families (grey dots).
Mentions: To visually illustrate the range of values for all languages and all three LDT measures, we plot each language as a point in a three dimensional “lexical diversity space” along the dimensions of ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (see Fig 4).

Bottom Line: We consider the effect of language contact-the number of non-native speakers a language has-on the way languages change and evolve.By analysing hundreds of languages within and across language families, regions, and text types, we show that languages with greater levels of contact typically employ fewer word forms to encode the same information content (a property we refer to as lexical diversity).Language evolution and change should be modeled as the co-evolution of multiple intertwined adaptive systems: On one hand, the structure of human societies and human learning capabilities, and on the other, the structure of language.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

ABSTRACT
Explaining the diversity of languages across the world is one of the central aims of typological, historical, and evolutionary linguistics. We consider the effect of language contact-the number of non-native speakers a language has-on the way languages change and evolve. By analysing hundreds of languages within and across language families, regions, and text types, we show that languages with greater levels of contact typically employ fewer word forms to encode the same information content (a property we refer to as lexical diversity). Based on three types of statistical analyses, we demonstrate that this variance can in part be explained by the impact of non-native speakers on information encoding strategies. Finally, we argue that languages are information encoding systems shaped by the varying needs of their speakers. Language evolution and change should be modeled as the co-evolution of multiple intertwined adaptive systems: On one hand, the structure of human societies and human learning capabilities, and on the other, the structure of language.

No MeSH data available.