Two languages in peaceful coexistence

March 3, 2011

Physicists and mathematicians from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain are putting paid to the theory that two languages cannot co-exist in one society.

Analysing the pattern of populations speaking Castilian, the most common spoken in Spain, and Galician, a language spoken in Galicia, the North West autonomous community of Spain, the researchers have used mathematical models to show that levels of in a stable population can lead to the steady co-existence of two languages.

The research, published today, Thursday 3 March 2011, in , refutes earlier research which sought to show how one of two languages would inevitably die out.

Older models only took the number of each language's speakers and the relative status of each language into consideration, concluding that eventually the most dominant language would kill off the weaker; the decline of Welsh is often cited as an example of this.

Still with an interest in languages' relative status, the researchers used historical data to show how you can predict the continued existence of a language when you also incorporate a mathematical representation of the languages' similarity to one another, and the number of bilingual speakers, into the calculation.

If a significant fraction of the population is bilingual in two relatively similar languages, there appears to be no reason to believe that the more dominant language will inevitably kill off the weaker.

Researcher Jorge Mira Pérez said, "If the statuses of both languages were well balanced, a similarity of around 40% might be enough for the two languages to coexist. If they were not balanced, a higher degree of similarity (above 75%, depending on the values of status) would be necessary for the weaker tongue to persist."

The researchers suggest their work could be used to inform political decisions concerning the protection of endangered languages, "Allowing for varying statuses and interlinguistic similarity could suggest further and more precise political guidelines for protecting endangered tongues, as well as illuminating the evolution of the language entities themselves."

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not rated yet Mar 04, 2011
One Language is preferred for facilitation of increased 'comprehension' of the thoughts of another person: "What are you trying to say?"
Though my biggest concern with separate and distinct languages, little shared amongst the population at large, has to do with a 'failure to acculturate' or adapt to the mores of the 'At Large' society; which begets misunderstandings of immense proportion!

Roy J Stewart,
Phoenix AZ
1 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2011
The research motivates questions, not solutions. What came first? Evolution or Equations? Both are languages. The older the language, the greater the peril towards extinction?

I prefer the human language. With all it's variations. Putting aside competition. The greatest vocabulary has the least misunderstanding and greatest expression.

So, I repeat, a Wittgenstein Adage:

"The limits of your languages, are the limits of your world."

The greatest of ironies is this adage is translated.
All translation morphs original meaning.

I am not ready.
Equation before Evolution.
Beauty before Age.

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