International School on Complexity
Course on Statistical Physics of Social Dynamics
Opinions, Semiotic Dynamics, and Language
July 19, 2007. Erice, Italy
The Dynamics of Language
Evolution
[email protected]
William S-Y. Wang
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Ma sopra tutte le
invenzioni stupende,
qual eminenza di mente
fu quella di colui che
s'immaginò di trovar
modo di comunicare i
suoi più reconditi
pensieri a qualsivoglia
altra persona, benché
distante per lunghissimo
intervallo di luogo e di
tempo?
Languages diversify in
space
&
time
Major engines for change:
vertical, across generations
horizontal, language contact
Leonard Bloomfield
Language
1933
Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. and W.S-Y.Wang. 1986. Spatial distance and lexical
replacement. Language 62.38-55.
Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. and W.S-Y.Wang. 1986.
Spatial distance and lexical replacement.
Language 62.38-55.
“chaque mot a son histoire”
Given the heterogeneous rates of change
exhibited by the features of language,
including lexical features, how can we
capture statistically their distributions, leading
to more substantive understanding?
Lexical strata in Japanese
based on Shibatani 1987:133.
Meaning : cancellation detour
idea
acrobatics
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------wago :
torikeshi
mawarimichi omoitsuki
karuwaza
和語
kango :
漢語
kaiyaku
解 約
ukairo
迂回路
chakusô
著 想
kyokugei
曲
藝
gairaigo :
外來語
kyanseru
baipasu
aidea
akurobatto
Chinese
Japanese
Vng=o:
wang 王
o:
yang 陽
yo:
lang 浪
ro:
mang 盲
mo:
fang 方
ho:
kong 孔
ko:
dong 東
to:
song 宋
so:
nong 農
no:
ding 丁
cho:
qing 情
jo:
xing 星
sho:
ming 命
myo:
ling 嶺
ryo:
bing 冰
hyo:
bing 病
byo:
Chinese
hu
he
hei
hai
hua
hua
huo
han
hun
huang
xi
xi
xiu
xin
xian
xiang
壺
鶴
黑
海
花
滑
活
漢
婚
黃
喜
系
休
欣
險
向
Japanese
ko
h :: k
kaku
koku
kai
ka
kotsu
katsu
kan
kon
ko:
ki
h > x
kei
kyu:
kin
ken
ko:
• Dao Hua (倒话)
– A creole language in
Southwest Sichuan Prov.,
between the Tibetan area
and Han area.
– Emerged 300 years ago
during the invasion of Qing
troops into Tibetan to
suppress the minority riot.
– Influenced a lot by
Southwest Mandarin (e.g.,
Lexicons) and Tibetan
(e.g., Grammar).
Dao Hua’s area
ACuo (阿错)
Mixture of Mandarin and Tibetan in Dao Hua
–
–
–
–
马
骑 人 一 个
来了。
Horse ride man one MW come
一 个 骑 马
的人
来了.
one MW ride horse Pt man come Pt.
–他
-ki
茶 喝
-tsv4 - tsu4 - di- jiu3- li。
– he (subject) tea drink (when is going to and not begin yet)
– (他正要喝茶(还没喝)的时候)
Mixture in Linguistic components in Dao Hua
L: Language; T: Tibetan; M: Mandarin; Z: Dao hua
V: Vocabulary; S: Semantics;
Gc: Grammar (content); Gf: Grammar (form);
Ps: Phonology (Phonotactics ); Pe: Phonology (Phonemes);
L(Z) = {V(M), {Gc(T), Gf(T&M)}, {Ps(M), Pe(T)}, S(T&M)}
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
ashes
bark
cloud
fire
leaf
man
moon
mountain
person
rain
root
sand
seed
smoke
star
stone
sun
tree
water
woman
salt
wind
7
belly
blood
bone
breast
ear
egg
eye
foot
hair
hand
head
heart
knee
liver
meat
mouth
neck
nose
skin
tongue
tooth
bird
claw
dog
feather
fish
horn
louse
tail
bite
burn
come
die
drink
eat
fly
give
hear
kill
know
lie
say
see
sit
sleep
stand
swim
walk
all
big
black
cold
dry
fat
full
good
green
long
many
new
red
round
small
warm
white
yellow
earth
I
name
night
not
one
road
that
this
thou
two
we
what
who
Basic
meanings
according to
M. Swadesh
&
S.Yakhontov
100
year
9
5
3
2
9
35
Schleicher, August. Compendium der vergleichenden Grammatik
der indo-germanischen Sprachen. 4th ed. 1876. Weimar.
• Schleicher, August. Compendium der
vergleichenden Grammatik der
indogermanischen Sprachen. 4th ed. 1876.
• P.8: Die länge der linien deutet die zeitdauer an, die
entfernung der selben von einander den
verwantschaftsgrad.
• The length of the lines indicates the amount of time
which had elapsed and the distance between them
degrees of relationship. W.K.Percival 1987:6.
Cognate percentages for basic words.
based on Dyen, Kruskal and Black 1992.
German
Swedish
French
Spanish
Italian
Russian
E






G Sw Fr Sp It






 
  
   
Cognate percentages for basic words.
based on Xu, 1991.
BJ SZ CS NC MX GZ
Suzhou
Changsha
Nanchang
Meixian
Guangzhou
Xiamen












 
  
  

Wang, W.S-Y. 1998.
Three windows on the past.
Pp.508-534 in V.H.Mair, ed.
William S-Y. Wang.
The migration of the
Chinese people and the
settlement of Taiwan.
Anthropological Studies of the
Taiwan Area 15-36, 1989.
Two subgroups of equal time depth and retention rate
R
A
W
δ
a b c d
w x y z
a
b
c
d
w
x
y
z
a
b
c
d
w
x
y
z
.
α
α
α
γ
γ
γ
γ
.
α
α
γ
γ
γ
γ
.
α
γ
γ
γ
γ
.
γ
γ
γ
γ
.
β
β
β
.
β
β
.
β
.
Suppose language w adopts δ words from language d:
a
b
c
d
w
x
y
z
a
b
c
d
w
x
y
z
.
α
α
α
γ
γ
γ
γ
.
α
α
γ
γ
γ
γ
.
α
γ
γ
γ
γ
.
γ+δ
γ
γ
γ
.
β
β
β
.
β
β
.
β
.
How can we detect such effects of
language contact in prehistory,
•
•
•
when multiple languages are involved?
when the adoptions are bidirectional?
when the sources are outside the set?
etc.
Words for integers in some Indo-European languages.
from C.Renfrew 1989.
Vowel alternations in English
a > e
e > i
i > ai
sanity > sane
gratitude >grateful
opacity > opaque
tabular > table
chastity > chaste
shepherd > sheep
kept > keep
serenity > serene
obscenity > obscene
leapt > leap
hid > hide
Christmas > Christ
divinity > divine
linear > line
fifth > five
pt > tt
settembre
adattore
adottore
kt > tt
dm > mm
dv > vv
ottobre
ammirare avverso
attore
ammettere avverbio
*practicare
bd > dd
addome
*abdicare
kd > dd
ks > ss
bs > ss
aneddoto affisso
assenza
apoplessia assorbire
assurdo
Lexical Diffusion - an early model
U
V
W1
C
W1
W2
W2 ~ W 2
W3
W3 ~ W 3
.
,
.
.
.
.
Wn
Wn
[u] > [ŭ] in English
Lexical Diffusion:
U
V
-k
C
hook
-t
loot
-d
food
-m
gloom
-n
noon
soot
foot
hood
groom
Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. & M.W.Feldman. 1981.
Cultural Transmission and Evolution. Princeton.
The new word that becomes part of a
language, - - -, is an innovation and can be
considered as an analog of mutation in biology. - - When the process of diffusion of an
innovation is followed for a sufficiently long time,
the frequency of use of the innovation almost
always follows an S-shaped curve. At the
beginning the number of acceptances rapidly
increases - - -. Then follows an approximately
linear increase, and finally the increase slows
down and is barely perceptible. P.29-30.
• Shen, Zhongwei. 1997. Exploring the
Dynamic Aspect of Sound Change. Journal
of Chinese Linguistics Monog. #11.
• Niyogi, Partha, 2006. The Computational
Nature of Language Learning and Evolution.
MIT Press.
Age as Virtual Time
Model for Lexical Diffusion —
One Word
t:
u
t + dt:
u (1 – a c)
c
uac
u+c=1
c
u denotes the proportion of unchanged forms
c denotes the proportion of changed forms
a is a constant that controls the rate of change of c, 0 ≤ a ≤ 1
Solution to One Word Model
The frequency of changed
forms has the solution:
ea t
c t   
1   e a t 1

1

0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
C (t)
— the Logistic Curve
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0
0
2
4
6
t
8
10
12
Proportion of words that have acquired changed form
Lexical Diffusion and the
Snowball Effect
1
0.9
0.8
Successive words acquire
changed form at an
increasingly rapid rate
0.7
0.6
0.5
This can be observed:
0.4
i) in the gradient of curves
0.3
0.2
ii) in the separation of curves
0.1
0
0
2
4
6
8
10
Time
12
14
16
18
20
Three examples of linguistic study:
• Lexical replacement in Micronesia,
• Time depth and prehistory,
• Diffusion of a sound change.
A language is NOT a unitary
homogeneous object,
but a heterogeneous, layered,
dynamic mosaic of features,
constructed piece-meal by the
child during the early years,
and enriched by the adult,
adopting features from other
speakers and other languages.
sounds,
meanings,
words,
constructions.
etc.
vertical
transmission
horizontal
transmission
How do we best model the two modes of
transmission word by word across the lexicon,
from generation to generation, from speaker to
speaker, and from community to community?
How do we distinguish the products of the two
modes of transmission in order to better
understand linguistic prehistory, and thereby
human prehistory?
Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. and W.S-Y. Wang. 1986. Spatial distance
and lexical replacement. Language 62.38-55.
Wang, W.S.-Y., J.Y. Ke and J.W. Minett. 2004. Computational
studies of language evolution. 65-106 in Computational
Linguistics and Beyond. Huang, C.R. and W. Lenders eds.
Academia Sinica: Institute of Linguistics.
Gong, T., J. Ke, J.W. Minett, J.H. Holland and W.S-Y. Wang.
2005. Coevolution of lexicon and syntax from a
simulation perspective. Complexity, 10.6: 50-62.
Wang, W.S-Y. and J.W. Minett. 2005. Vertical and horizontal
transmission in language evolution. Transactions of the
Philological Society 103.2.121-46.
Heartfelt thanks to the two directors,
Luc and Vittorio, and their many able associates
for a week of intellectual feasts on
Opinions, Semiotic Dynamics, and Language
in such a
fairyland setting !
Grazie di cuore per una
settimana stupenda!
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