Process‐based modelling shows how climate and demography shape language diversity

Global Ecology and Biogeography Vol/Iss. 26(5) Wiley & Sons Published In Pages: 584-591
By Gavin, Michael C. , Rangel, Thiago F., Bowern, Claire, Colwell, Robert K., Kirby, Kathryn R. , Botero, Carlos A. , Dunn, Michael, Dunn, Robert R., McCarter, Joe, Pacheco Coelho, Marco Túlio, Gray, Russell D.


Researchers examined both why so many language are spoken today, and why they are so unevenly distributed geographically. Instead of looking at correlative tests, this study uses a process-based simulation model that attempted to predict both the number or precolonial languages in Australia as well as the number of languages per unit of land. The model was based upon three basic assumptions: 1) humans fill unoccupied spaces; 2) rainfall limits population density; 3) groups divide after reaching a maximum population. While researchers used the model strictly on the Australia continent, it was able to correctly explain 56% of spatial variation in language richness, and predict the total number of languages across the continent. The accuracy of this model concludes that climatic conditions and changes in group size are important factors in shaping language diversity patterns and therefore global human cultural diversity.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
Frames of Reference Previously codedBinford (2001)
WorldClimPreviously codedMean annual precipitation data - Hijmans et al., 2005

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:matthew.g.roth abbe.mccarter