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Study focusing on model that may protect minority languages from extinction

ANI | Updated: Apr 22, 2020 23:09 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], April 22 (ANI): Using mathematical modelling, statistical physicists have described two mechanisms through which the minority language extinction scenario does not occur, that is, several languages come to coexist in the same area.
Over 6,000 languages are currently spoken worldwide, but a substantial minority -- well over 5 per cent -- are in danger of dying out. It is perhaps surprising that this fraction is no higher, as most models have so far predicted that a minority language will be doomed to extinction once contacts with speakers of the majority language reach a certain level.
Statistical physicists Jean-Marc Luck from Universite Paris-Saclay, Paris, France, and Anita Mehta from the University of Oxford, UK, have introduced the model in the study published in the journal of The European Physical Journal B.

Clearly, some languages will be more popular than others, because, for example, of their universal utility: Luck and Mehta parametrised this by 'attractiveness', which was a key variable in the coupled differential equations they devised to model language competition. Their equations turned out to belong to the class of Lotka-Volterra equations describing the dynamic relationship between predators and their prey.
The authors outlined two possible scenarios leading to language coexistence. The first of these concerns linguistic diversity: in a nation such as India, a regional language can, in a given state, coexist with the national languages spoken by the majority of the country.
The second scenario is more subtle, where the coexistence of two or more languages is determined by the internal dynamics of the population of speakers in a given region. The simplest way of explaining this is to say that the dynamics between two competing languages in a single geographical area depends on the degree to which their speakers are mixed.
Luck and Mehta now intend to extend this model to explore the synchronous competition between different forms of past participles and the eventual survival of one, which is an important open problem in linguistics. They continue also to work on other problems in linguistics using the methods of statistical physics, such as the perception of speech. (ANI)