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Molecular Physics seminar

Language diffusion: Modelling language spread using physical models

by Katharina Prochazka (University of Vienna)

FA 31 ()

FA 31

Languages, like atoms in a solid, are constantly in motion. Through this movement, languages can spread, i.e. the regions where they are used increase in size. Oftentimes, the spread of one language means that another language is replaced and ultimately, languages may even die out. To try to predict these developments and develop countermeasures, computer simulations and mathematical models are used. These models apply the concept of physical diffusion (movement of atoms) to linguistics (movement of languages). In my talk, I will discuss the challenges in choosing adequate physical models for linguistic applications and present a model to simulate language spread in Carinthia, Austria. In this region, use of the minority language Slovenian has been steadily declining while use of the dominant language German has been increasing. The proposed model allows us to follow the evolution of the language distribution over time and space on a large scale and thus offers a complement to existing smaller-scale linguistic studies.