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History and Ecology of Language and languages

Themes and actions

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The influence of the environment on linguistic diversity

  Contact person
Christophe COUPE , Egidio MARSICO , Francois PELLEGRINO

Scientific framework and objectives

This project aims at better understanding the impact of the ecological and human environment of languages on their diversity. To this end, it creates a multidisciplinary dialogue centered on the analysis of the geography, the history and the typology of languages in the light of environmental data (e.g. elevation, vegetation, population density or economic development). Our approach takes advantage of the significant development of digital data, and of the tools to investigate them: satellite data, cartographic tools, linguistic databases. It rests on techniques of spatial analysis, especially statistical ones, to study correlations between linguistic and non-linguistic distributions, and to detect possible causal relationships between them. We focus on the impact of vegetation on the sound diversity of the world’s languages, and more generally on the ecological determinants of their sociolinguistic diversity (number of speakers per language, linguistic density and contacts etc.). We also explore the issue of the spreading of Bantu languages in Africa by taking into account their paleo-environment and the human migrations which took place in it.

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