Linguistics and English Language

Language evolution seminar

Speaker: Christine Cuskley (Centre for Language Evolution, University of Edinburgh)

Title: Frequency, stability, and regularity in language evolution

Abstract: Highly frequent linguistic units are more stable over time: for example, highly frequent words are more robust against change than lower frequency words. This trend has a functional explanation: forms with high usage frequency are less free to vary because this is more likely to cause communicative failure. This is analogous to the dynamics of purifying and stabilizing selection in biology. Traits with acute survival relevance show strong selection against deleterious alleles (purifying selection), resulting in less variation across the population. This talk will focus on analogous frequency-stability dynamics in language using agent based models, and some experiments which examine (ir)regularisation behaviours in native and non-native speakers of English. Stability in linguistic form across a population is favoured particularly for high frequency meanings, but that the strength of this effect is mediated by dynamic properties of the population.


Seminars are organised by the Centre for Language Evolution

Andres Karjus

Centre for Language Evolution

Jan 29 2019 -

Language evolution seminar

2019-01-29: Frequency, stability, and regularity in language evolution

Room G32, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ