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posted by martyb on Wednesday July 26, @09:06AM   Printer-friendly
from the that's-his-soapposition dept.

Language patterns could be predicted by simple laws of physics, a new study has found.

Dr James Burridge from the University of Portsmouth has published a theory using ideas from physics to predict where and how dialects occur.

He said: "If you want to know where you'll find dialects and why, a lot can be predicted from the physics of bubbles and our tendency to copy others around us.

"Copying causes large dialect regions where one way of speaking dominates. Where dialect regions meet, you get surface tension. Surface tension causes oil and water to separate out into layers, and also causes small bubbles in a bubble bath to merge into bigger ones.

"The bubbles in the bath are like groups of people - they merge into the bigger bubbles because they want to fit in with their neighbours.

"When people speak and listen to each other, they have a tendency to conform to the patterns of speech they hear others using, and therefore align their dialects. Since people typically remain geographically local in their everyday lives, they tend to align with those nearby."

Is proximity the determinant to dialect, or is identity?


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @09:45AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @09:45AM (#544557)

    i love the way you troll us phoenix, and i think that proximity=f(identity); err, that who you are ([self-]identify-as) determines who you are proximate to by selecting who you do the oil-bubble blending with, err, are even talking or listening to. So we basically master local dialects if it suits us to gain the benefits of group-membership (and now we're back to identity) :-) nice troll. nice 1d stoner analogy too.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @11:17AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @11:17AM (#544584)

      Is proximity the determinant to dialect?

      It's not the determinant [wikipedia.org], is the trace [wikipedia.org] (with is related with the derivative of the determinant). You get it now?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @07:48PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @07:48PM (#544823)

      I think it is a matter of social proximity (people that speak to each other), which is a property of physical proximity and social identity (and surely a few other things).

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @10:06AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @10:06AM (#544564)

    Your identity to a large part determines your proximity: Who you are determines who you talk to, and who you talk to influences how you talk. But of course this works also the other way round: Who you are is largely determined by who you talk to, and how you talk largely determines who you talk you (by determining who talks with you). And of course who you are also quite directly influences how you talk, and vice versa.

    Or in short: Any attempt to single out one side as the cause and the other as the effect will fail. Proximity and identity are not well-separated concepts, nor are identity and dialect, or proximity and dialect.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @01:08PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 26, @01:08PM (#544610)

    Whenever someone tries to explain or make an analogy like this, it all falls apart with the Basque people and language -- they are in the middle of Spain and France and their language is completely different.

    • (Score: 2) by Zinho on Wednesday July 26, @02:59PM

      by Zinho (759) on Wednesday July 26, @02:59PM (#544661)

      As long as the Basque aren't interacting with Spaniards or the French directly over the course of their day, then in this model they can be considered non-touching bubbles in the proposed models and wouldn't count as a counterexample.

      You would be amazed at how fiercely regional Europeans can be. In Italy they have a phenomenon they call "campanilismo", which they define as a tendency to not even talk to anyone who isn't in earshot of their local church bells ("campanile"). As a consequence of this there are literally hundreds of local dialects within a single city like Turin, some of which are mutually unintelligible. [1] The kids all speak standard Italian, but there are some old folks I've met who never needed to put in that effort. [2]

      As long as the Basque people don't consider themselves "neighborly" with the French or Spanish regions around them then the self-imposed isolation would be enough to keep their linguistic "bubbles" from touching.

      [1] They complain about not understanding people from across town, and then in the next sentence say they are able to muddle by when the cross the border into France; apparently Piedmont dialects in France and Italy are much closer than Italian and French are to each other. Kinda agrees with the article's premise.

      [2] At least, that's the excuse their relatives used for why the old folks wouldn't talk to me. If they're militantly isolationist enough to not talk to other Italians from the same city, maybe they just didn't want to talk to an American either.

      --
      "Space Exploration is not endless circles in low earth orbit." -Buzz Aldrin
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