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History and Ecology of Language and languages

Themes and actions

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Modeling the competition between languages

  Contact person
Vincent ARNAUD , Francois PELLEGRINO

Scientific framework and objectives

UNESCO estimates that, “if nothing is done, half of the over 6,000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century. With the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only an irreplaceable cultural heritage but also valuable ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages.” The analysis and understanding of the mechanisms that structure the use of a language in a given ecological context should make it possible to establish relatively reliable mathematical predictions of possible changes in the vitality of this language.

Different mathematical models aimed at modelling the evolution of the number of speakers of one language in competition with another have been proposed in the literature. These models are generally rather simple, even if they lead to interesting results. On the initiative of mathematicians from the Camille Jordan Institute, a collaboration has been launched to design models taking into account in particular the sociolinguistic dynamics and demographic factors involved in language competition.

This project gave rise to a workshop entitled Poplang: Population effects on languages: modeling population dynamics and language transmission from the perspective of language learning, contact and change, which took place in Lyon on 20 November 2017.


  • « Sur le bout de la langue » Project
    • Coordination : Morgane Bergot, Institut Camille Jordan
    • Co-funding : IXXI (Institut Rhônalpin des Systèmes Complexes) and ISH (Institut des Sciences de l’homme)
    • 2016-2017

  • PopLang Worshop
    • Co-funding : LabEx MiLyon, Labex Aslan, Laboratoire DDL, Institut Camille Jordan and Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC).
    • November 2017

  Financial support
  • Financement de projet
    Sur le bout de la langue
    IXXI (Institut Rhônalpin des Systèmes Complexes) et ISH (Institut des Sciences de l’homme)

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