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Data from: Language structure is influenced by the number of speakers but seemingly not by the proportion of non-native speakers

Citation

Koplenig, Alexander (2019), Data from: Language structure is influenced by the number of speakers but seemingly not by the proportion of non-native speakers, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.g0m3b82

Abstract

Large-scale empirical evidence indicates a fascinating statistical relationship between the estimated number of language users and its linguistic and statistical structure. In this context, the linguistic niche hypothesis argues that this relationship reflects a negative selection against morphological paradigms that are hard to learn for adults, since languages with a large number of speakers are assumed to be typically spoken and learned by greater proportions of adults. In this paper, this conjecture is tested empirically for more than 2,000 languages. The results question the idea of the impact of non-native speakers on the grammatical and statistical structure of languages, as it is demonstrated that the relative proportion of non-native speakers does not significantly correlate with neither morphological nor information-theoretic complexity. While it thus seems that large numbers of adult learners/speakers do not affect the (grammatical or statistical) structure of a language, the results suggest that there is indeed a relationship between the number of speakers and (especially) information-theoretic complexity, i.e. entropy rates. A potential explanation for the observed relationship is discussed.

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