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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 for Indo-European languages.Locations of Indo-European languages along ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (UDHR only). High LDT languages are to be found in the upper-right corner (e.g. Lithuanian, Marathi), low LDT languages are to be found in the lower-right corner (e.g. Low Saxon, English, Afrikaans).
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pone.0128254.g005: Lexical diversity space for Indo-European languages.Locations of Indo-European languages along ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (UDHR only). High LDT languages are to be found in the upper-right corner (e.g. Lithuanian, Marathi), low LDT languages are to be found in the lower-right corner (e.g. Low Saxon, English, Afrikaans).

Mentions: On top of between-family variation, there is also within-family variation in our data sample. This is illustrated for Indo-European languages of the UDHR in Fig 5. Even within the same familiy (Indo-European) there is a considerable spectrum of LDT values, ranging from Low Saxon (nds), on the extreme low end, to Marathi (mar), at the high end.


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 for Indo-European languages.Locations of Indo-European languages along ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (UDHR only). High LDT languages are to be found in the upper-right corner (e.g. Lithuanian, Marathi), low LDT languages are to be found in the lower-right corner (e.g. Low Saxon, English, Afrikaans).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone.0128254.g005: Lexical diversity space for Indo-European languages.Locations of Indo-European languages along ZM’s α, Hw and TTR (UDHR only). High LDT languages are to be found in the upper-right corner (e.g. Lithuanian, Marathi), low LDT languages are to be found in the lower-right corner (e.g. Low Saxon, English, Afrikaans).
Mentions: On top of between-family variation, there is also within-family variation in our data sample. This is illustrated for Indo-European languages of the UDHR in Fig 5. Even within the same familiy (Indo-European) there is a considerable spectrum of LDT values, ranging from Low Saxon (nds), on the extreme low end, to Marathi (mar), at the high end.

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.