Population Size and the Rate of Language Evolution: A Test Across Indo-European, Austronesian, and Bantu Languages

Frontiers in Psychology Vol/Iss. 9 Frontiers media Published In Pages: ??
By Greenhill, Simon J. , Hua, Xia, Welsh, Caela F., Schneemann, Hilde, Bromham, Lindell


How is the evolution of language shaped by speaker population size? Through comparative data analyses of 153 language pairs from the Austronesian, Indo-European, and Niger-Congo language families, the authors find that the influence of population size on language evolution is not the same in the three language families. Only in Indo-European languages did a smaller population size of language-speakers significantly predict more word loss.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
Austronesian Basic Vocabulary DatabaseOther researchersDatabase that contains wordlists for 210 semantic categories from 1,278 Austronesian languages.
Indo-European Lexical Cognacy Database (IELex)Other researchersDatabase that contains wordlists for 225 semantic categories from 163 Indo-European languages.
Grollemund et al. 2015 phylogenetic datasetOther researchersDataset that provides basic vocabulary for 100 words from 409 Bantu languages.
WordlistsResearchers' ownCombination of words chosen from all three databases by researchers for Indo-European, Austronesian, and Bantu language families.

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