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Modeling causes of language change and conservatism

Description du projet

Étudier les causes de l’évolution et du conservatisme des langues

Le langage humain est similaire à un organisme biologique en ce qu’il évolue au fil du temps, en s’adaptant aux nouveaux facteurs. Dans le cas des langues, le changement peut être vu comme une transition dans la fréquence d’une variante particulière de l’expression linguistique (par ex., l’ordre des mots) dans le discours. Si l’adaptation réussie permet une communication plus efficace (plus claire pour l’auditeur et/ou plus économique pour le locuteur), nous pouvons nous demander pourquoi le changement prend si longtemps (des siècles), si les humains apprennent extrêmement vite? Le projet CAUSALITY, financé par le CER, répondra à ces questions. Il examinera les facteurs qui stimulent l’évolution des langues et ceux qui l’entravent. Le projet mènera des simulations informatiques avec des locuteurs et des auditeurs artificiels et comparera les résultats aux données historiques issues de trois langues germaniques occidentales, qui comprendront la création d’une grande arborescence du néerlandais historique.

Objectif

Universally, human language changes over time. One fundamental assumption about language change is that it originates at the level of an individual as a shift in frequencies with which a particular variant of linguistic expression is chosen over another. Conceiving of language change as the loss of an equilibrium in a system of stochastically used grammatical options, a change presupposes an emerging disturbing factor or a cause. A change can then be viewed as an adaptation process whereby in a linguistic environment affected by a disturbing factor a hitherto marginal grammatical option begins to create a certain communicative advantage and grows in frequency. We might then in principle expect a fast transition to the new variant in the speech of an individual, given the general learning abilities of humans. However, another fundamental property of language change is that it proceeds gradually over generations. Therefore, there must be powerful conservative factors at play pushing against the communicative advantage presented by the new variant. It has been suggested that the contrast between the speed of learning projected based on an individual's cognitive abilities and the attested pace of language change may be due to the social aspect of language, whereby the communicative advantage of an innovation is balanced off by the necessity of group synchronization. Since many social coordination tasks can be completed within individual's lifetime, the question stands open which properties of language are responsible for a relatively slow group coordination when it comes to grammatical shifts. This project aims at understanding, via game-theoretic and reinforcement learning modeling, the interplay between the causes of language change and conservatism. The models will be evaluated against the empirical material from three West Germanic languages, which includes creating a treebank of historical Dutch.

Régime de financement

HORIZON-ERC - HORIZON ERC Grants
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Coordinateur

UNIVERSITEIT GENT
Contribution nette de l'UE
€ 1 172 500,00
Adresse
Sint pietersnieuwstraat 25
9000 Gent
Belgique

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Région
Vlaams Gewest Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen Arr. Gent
Type d’activité
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Liens
Autres sources de financement
€ 0,00