Waves in computer simulations of linguistic diffusion

Thöny, Luzius (2019). Waves in computer simulations of linguistic diffusion. In: Cennamo, Michela; Fabrizio, Claudia (eds.) Historical Linguistics 2015: Selected papers from the 22nd International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Naples, 27-31 July 2015. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory: Vol. 348 (pp. 616-630). Amsterdam: John Benjamins

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Since the 19th century, the wave has been a key concept in descriptions of the diffusion of linguistic innovations in speaker communities. Recently, the study of language change through computer modeling and simulations has become more widespread. The aim of this paper is to investigate whether computer simulations of linguistic diffusion show wavelike phenomena. A brief review of diffusion mechanisms from previous literature is presented, followed by the description of a new software framework for testing hypotheses (PDIFFSIM) and a report of some results of own simulations. These results show that it is possible to implement a diffusion mechanism which produces waves of diminishing strength. Despite this, it is ultimately concluded that diffusion processes in the real world are better thought of as cascades in social networks rather than waves. Limiting factors of real world diffusion processes are rather to be sought in language-internal and -external restrictions.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Germanic Languages

UniBE Contributor:

Thöny, Luzius Christian


000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
400 Language > 430 German & related languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 830 German & related literatures




Current Issues in Linguistic Theory


John Benjamins




Luzius Christian Thöny

Date Deposited:

17 Sep 2019 11:37

Last Modified:

31 May 2023 07:42

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Computer simulation Modelling Language Change





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