Please join us this Friday at 3 PM via ZOOM to hear College of Charleston faculty, Dr. Garrett Michener, speak about...
Prediction-Driven Instability and the Time Scale of Language Change
To join via ZOOM contact the Colloquium Coordinator, Dr. Kristen Roland (rolandke).
Abstract: Human languages are stable on long time scales but have a tendency to change dramatically in a matter of a few decades. Some changes can be attributed to contact between languages, but others seem to be essentially spontaneous. I will describe a stochastic dynamical system that models a population of speakers that can change spontaneously from one language to another on an appropriate time scale. Certain details of its formulation are important for getting the correct behavior. The phase space must be in at least two dimensions, and there must be some form of momentum. These features are incorporated by dividing the population into age groups, and using the observation that children seem to be able to detect correlations between language variation and age. Surprisingly, it also turns out to be necessary for adult speech to include random variation.