Language patterns could be predicted by simple laws of physics, a new study has found.
Dr James Burridge from the University of Portsmouth has published a theory using ideas from physics to predict where and how dialects occur.
These maps show a simulation of three language variants that are initially distributed throughout Great Britain in a random pattern. As time passes (left to right), the boundaries between language variants tend to shorten in length. One can also see evidence of boundary lines fixing to river inlets and other coastal indentations.
Credit: James Burridge, University of Portsmouth
He said: "If you want to know where you'll find dialects and why, a lot can be predicted from the physics of bubbles and our tendency to copy others around us.
"Copying causes large dialect regions where one way of speaking dominates. Where dialect regions meet, you get surface tension. Surface tension causes oil and water to separate out into layers, and also causes small bubbles in a bubble bath to merge into bigger ones.
"The bubbles in the bath are like groups of people - they merge into the bigger bubbles because they want to fit in with their neighbours.
"When people speak and listen to each other, they have a tendency to conform to the patterns of speech they hear others using, and therefore align their dialects. Since people typically remain geographically local in their everyday lives, they tend to align with those nearby."
Dr Burridge from the University's department of mathematics departs from the existing approaches in studying dialects to formulate a theory of how country shape and population distribution play an important role in how dialect regions evolve.
Traditional dialectologists use the term 'isogloss' to describe a line on a map marking an area which has a distinct linguistic feature.
Dr Burridge said: "These isoglosses are like the edges of bubbles - the maths used to describe bubbles can also describe dialects.
"My model shows that dialects tend to move outwards from population centres, which explains why cities have their own dialects. Big cities like London and Birmingham are pushing on the walls of their own bubbles.
"This is why many dialects have a big city at their heart - the bigger the city, the greater this effect. It's also why new ways of speaking often spread outwards from a large urban centre.
"If people live near a town or city, we assume they experience more frequent interactions with people from the city than with those living outside it, simply because there are more city dwellers to interact with.
His model also shows that language boundaries get smoother and straighter over time, which stabilises dialects.
Dr Burridge's research is driven by a long-held interest in spatial patterns and the idea that humans and animal behaviour can evolve predictably. His research has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
The research was published last week in the American Physical Society journal Physical Review X.
Media contact: Sophie Hall
M. 07966 314727
T. 02392 845350
Sophie Hall | EurekAlert!
How to design city streets more fairly
18.05.2020 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH
Insects: Largest study to date confirms declines on land, but finds recoveries in freshwater – Highly variable trends
24.04.2020 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.
When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...
Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.
Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...
Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.
A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...
By studying the chemical elements on Mars today -- including carbon and oxygen -- scientists can work backwards to piece together the history of a planet that once had the conditions necessary to support life.
Weaving this story, element by element, from roughly 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) away is a painstaking process. But scientists aren't the type...
Study co-led by Berkeley Lab reveals how wavelike plasmons could power up a new class of sensing and photochemical technologies at the nanoscale
Wavelike, collective oscillations of electrons known as "plasmons" are very important for determining the optical and electronic properties of metals.
19.05.2020 | Event News
07.04.2020 | Event News
06.04.2020 | Event News
25.05.2020 | Medical Engineering
25.05.2020 | Information Technology
25.05.2020 | Information Technology