LLF – Bât. ODG – 5e étage – Salle du conseil (533)
Shiri Lev-Ari (Royal Holloway London, University of London)
Language from a social network perspective
Language is created and used by networks of people. The size of the network can influence ease of communication by influencing how easily information spreads, how much variability there is in the community and so forth. In this talk I will show how the obstacles of interacting in larger groups shape the language. In particular, using cross-linguistic analyses, experimental data, and computational simulations, I will show that the communicative challenges that larger communities face lead them to create languages that are easier to learn and use. I will illustrate this with evidence that language with larger communities have more systematic grammar and more sound symbolic words. I will also provide preliminary evidence that the size of the community can influence how languages balance speakers’ and listeners’ needs and the tension between expressivity and simplicity. Together the findings show that taking a networks perspective can shed light on why languages evolve along certain trajectories and account for patterns of cross-linguistic differences.