PopLang is an interdisciplinary workshop on mathematical modelling of language learning, transmission and use.

The aim of this workshop is to combine expertise from the fields of mathematical modelling, cognitive sciences and learning theory, and linguistics in order to discuss and further develop reliable models of language vitality fluctuations. PopLang will bring together specialists across disciplinary boundaries who share an interest in understanding the mechanisms behind language use and transmission.

Why model language vitality?

At the beginning of the 20th century, over 6000 languages were spoken throughout the world. According to Krauss (1992), by the end of the 21st century 50-90% of those languages could disappear. The first victims will be such indigenous minority languages which are neither written nor scholarly documented. Along with the languages, it will be the entire knowledge and culture of such communities that will be erased. Understanding and actively protecting language vitality appears as a major challenge for preserving the world’s cultural heritage.

Sufficient understanding of the mechanisms defining speakers’ language usage in a particular ecological context should allow for reliable predictions of changes in a community’s language vitality. Such predictions could lead to the development of efficient global policies that would help slow down or even inverse the current trend.

Past experience has taught us that, more than anything, it is the continuous transmission of a language across generations that will guarantee its long-term vitality. It is when a language is no longer transmitted to the next generation that its death becomes imminent. Understanding variations in language vitality thus requires a detailed understanding of the mechanisms behind fluctuations in language use and transmission. In other words, it requires understanding the ecological constraints under which speakers in multilingual communities will be able and choose to further transmit a particular language.


Confirmed speakers

The workshop will feature specialist presentations from the fields of mathematical modelling, cognitive sciences and learning theory, and linguistics (mainly focusing on quantitative socio-linguistics, language contact, and language change).

  • Didier Demolin (Université Stendhal, Grenoble - Linguistics)
  • Anne Kandler (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig - Mathematics)
  • Lucia Loureiro-Porto (Universitat de les Illes Balears, Palma de Mallorca - Linguistics)
  • Jean-Philippe Magué (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon - Linguistics)
  • Victoria Otero-Espinar (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela - Mathematics)
  • Marco Patriarca Els Heinsalu (National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics, Tallinn - Physics)
  • Michael Ramscar (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen - Cognitive Science and Learning)
  • David Sanchez (Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems (IFISC), Palma de Mallorca - Physics)



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