Languages Simplify as Number of Speakers Increases When more people speak a language, that language becomes simpler, indicates a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Languages with larger communities of speakers, such as English or Mandarin, tend to have less complex grammar structures and broader vocabulary. Researchers at Cornell University also ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   April 01, 2018
Languages Simplify as Number of Speakers Increases
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Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   April 01, 2018
Languages Simplify as Number of Speakers Increases
The ASHA Leader, April 2018, Vol. 23, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.23042018.18
The ASHA Leader, April 2018, Vol. 23, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.23042018.18
When more people speak a language, that language becomes simpler, indicates a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Languages with larger communities of speakers, such as English or Mandarin, tend to have less complex grammar structures and broader vocabulary.
Researchers at Cornell University also found the inverse true: languages spoken by a smaller population contained limited vocabulary and a more complex grammar structure.
Using a computer simulation, researchers calculated the ease with which linguistic conventions diffuse through a population. Computer simulations could either create new language conventions or use previously generated ones (either self-created or learned from another simulation).

Languages spoken by a smaller population contained limited vocabulary and a more complex grammar structure.

Researchers defined conventions as either “easy” or “hard” based on how many times a simulated agent needed to interact with that convention to learn it. They found that in larger groups, language conventions deemed “easy” passed through the group more quickly. In smaller groups, because most or all of the simulations interacted with the entire group, more complex grammatical rules survived.
“Our simulations thus suggest that language, and possibly other aspects of culture, may become simpler at the structural level as our world becomes increasingly interconnected,” the authors write.
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April 2018
Volume 23, Issue 4