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Population size and the rate of language evolution: A test across indo-European, Austronesian, and Bantu Languages

Greenhill, Simon; Hua, Xia; Welsh, Laura; Schneemann, Hilde; Bromham, Lindell

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What role does speaker population size play in shaping rates of language evolution? There has been little consensus on the expected relationship between rates and patterns of language change and speaker population size, with some predicting faster rates of change in smaller populations, and others expecting greater change in larger populations. The growth of comparative databases has allowed population size effects to be investigated across a wide range of language groups, with mixed results....[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorGreenhill, Simon
dc.contributor.authorHua, Xia
dc.contributor.authorWelsh, Laura
dc.contributor.authorSchneemann, Hilde
dc.contributor.authorBromham, Lindell
dc.date.accessioned2019-04-08T12:35:54Z
dc.date.available2019-04-08T12:35:54Z
dc.identifier.citationGreenhill SJ, Hua X, Welsh CF, Schneemann H and Bromham L (2018) Population Size and the Rate of Language Evolution: A Test Across Indo-European, Austronesian, and Bantu Languages. Front. Psychol. 9:576. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00576
dc.identifier.issn1664-1078
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/159358
dc.description.abstractWhat role does speaker population size play in shaping rates of language evolution? There has been little consensus on the expected relationship between rates and patterns of language change and speaker population size, with some predicting faster rates of change in smaller populations, and others expecting greater change in larger populations. The growth of comparative databases has allowed population size effects to be investigated across a wide range of language groups, with mixed results. One recent study of a group of Polynesian languages revealed greater rates of word gain in larger populations and greater rates of word loss in smaller populations. However, that test was restricted to 20 closely related languages from small Oceanic islands. Here, we test if this pattern is a general feature of language evolution across a larger and more diverse sample of languages from both continental and island populations. We analyzed comparative language data for 153 pairs of closely-related sister languages from three of the world's largest language families: Austronesian, Indo-European, and Niger-Congo. We find some evidence that rates of word loss are significantly greater in smaller languages for the Indo-European comparisons, but we find no significant patterns in the other two language families. These results suggest either that the influence of population size on rates and patterns of language evolution is not universal, or that it is sufficiently weak that it may be overwhelmed by other influences in some cases. Further investigation, for a greater number of language comparisons and a wider range of language features, may determine which of these explanations holds true.
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/pdf
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.publisherFrontiers Research Foundation
dc.rightsAuthor/s retain cooyright
dc.rights.urihttps://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
dc.sourceFrontiers in Psychology
dc.titlePopulation size and the rate of language evolution: A test across indo-European, Austronesian, and Bantu Languages
dc.typeJournal article
local.description.notesImported from ARIES
local.identifier.citationvolume9
dc.date.issued2018
local.identifier.absfor200406 - Language in Time and Space (incl. Historical Linguistics, Dialectology)
local.identifier.ariespublicationa383154xPUB9808
local.type.statusPublished Version
local.contributor.affiliationGreenhill, Simon, College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU
local.contributor.affiliationHua, Xia, College of Science, ANU
local.contributor.affiliationWelsh, Laura, College of Science, ANU
local.contributor.affiliationSchneemann, Hilde, College of Science, ANU
local.contributor.affiliationBromham, Lindell, College of Science, ANU
local.bibliographicCitation.issue576
local.identifier.doi10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00576
local.identifier.absseo970120 - Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture
dc.date.updated2019-03-12T07:22:17Z
local.identifier.scopusID2-s2.0-85046082303
dcterms.accessRightsOpen Access
dc.provenanceJournal: Frontiers in Psychology [1] (ESSN: 1664-1078) RoMEO: This is a RoMEO green journal Listed in: DOAJ as an open access journal Author's Pre-print: green tick author can archive pre-print (ie pre-refereeing) Author's Post-print: green tick author can archive post-print (ie final draft post-refereeing) Publisher's Version/PDF: green tick author can archive publisher's version/PDF General Conditions: On open access repositories Authors retain copyright Creative Commons Attribution License Published source must be acknowledged with citation First publication by Frontiers Media must be acknowledged Publisher's version/PDF may be used Articles are placed in PubMed Central immediately on behalf of authors.
dc.rights.licenseCreative Commons Attribution License
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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