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  Demographic shifts, inter-group contact, and environmental conditions drive language extinction and diversification

Coelho, M. T. P., Haynie, H. J., Bowern, C., Colwell, R. K., Greenhill, S. J., Kirby, K., et al. (2021). Demographic shifts, inter-group contact, and environmental conditions drive language extinction and diversification. SocArXiv Papers, xqr2u. doi:10.31235/osf.io/xqr2u.

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 Creators:
Coelho, Marco Tulio Pacheco, Author
Haynie, Hannah J., Author
Bowern, Claire, Author
Colwell, Robert K, Author
Greenhill, Simon J.1, Author              
Kirby, Kathryn1, Author              
Rangel, Thiago F., Author
Gavin, Michael C.1, Author              
Affiliations:
1Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society, ou_2074311              

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Free keywords: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Geography, Linguistics
 Abstract: Humans currently collectively use thousands of languages1,2. The number of languages in a given region (i.e. language “richness”) varies widely3–7. Understanding the processes of diversification and homogenization that produce these patterns has been a fundamental aim of linguistics and anthropology. Empirical research to date has identified various social, environmental, geographic, and demographic factors associated with language richness3. However, our understanding of causal mechanisms and variation in their effects over space has been limited by prior analyses focusing on correlation and assuming stationarity3,8. Here we use process-based, spatially-explicit stochastic models to simulate the emergence, expansion, contraction, fragmentation, and extinction of language ranges. We varied combinations of parameter settings in these computer-simulated experiments to evaluate the extent to which different processes reproduce observed patterns of pre-colonial language richness in North America. We find that the majority of spatial variation in language richness can be explained by models in which environmental and social constraints determine population density, random shocks alter population sizes more frequently at higher population densities, and population shocks are more frequently negative than positive. Language diversification occurs when populations split after reaching size limits, and when ranges fragment due to population contractions following negative shocks or due to contact with other groups that are expanding following positive shocks. These findings support diverse theoretical perspectives arguing that language richness is shaped by environmental and social conditions, constraints on group sizes, outcomes of contact among groups, and shifting demographics driven by positive innovations, such as new subsistence strategies, or negative events, such as war or disease.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2021-08-29
 Publication Status: Published online
 Pages: 15
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: No review
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/xqr2u
Other: shh3031
 Degree: -

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Title: SocArXiv Papers
  Alternative Title : SocArXiv
Source Genre: Web Page
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Pages: - Volume / Issue: - Sequence Number: xqr2u Start / End Page: - Identifier: URN: https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/