Analyzing imperfective games

Igor Yanovich


Deo 2015 is the first study applying mathematically explicit evolutionary analysis to a specific semantic-change phenomenon, namely the progressive-imperfective diachronic cycle. However, Deo’s actual results do not match completely the empirical observations about that cycle. Linguistic communities passing through the cycle often employ, in the synchrony, a single common type of progressive-imperfective grammar. In Deo’s modeling results, however, two of the grammars never get shared by nearly all the population, including the grammar with the obligatory use of progressive marking in semantically progressive contexts, as in Present-Day English. This paper improves on that wrong prediction. The crucial modeling decision enabling the improvement is switching from the assumption of infinite speaker population to the more realistic, but harder to analyze finite population setting. The finite-population version of Deo’s model derives stages where at many time points, all or almost all speakers share the same grammar. Interestingly, two different a priori reasonable types of trajectories with that feature emerge, depending on the parameter settings. These two trajectory types constitute novel empirical predictions regarding the shape of the cycle generated by (the proposed extension of) Deo’s model.

Supplementary materials (SM 1 and SM 2)

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evolutionary modeling; semantic change; progressive; imperfective; genetic drift

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ISSN: 1937-8912

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