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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

Along with game theory, the emerging science of networks has given us a framework for analyzing social systems plausible to both intuition and implementation. As an interaction structure in computer simulation models, social networks provide a way to envision phenomena like information spread, dialect formation, and language change in a more robust way. In this sense a multitude of sociolinguistic issues are potential 'objects of study' for a) being delineated with methods from game theory and/or network theory and b) being analyzed by simulations of multi-agent interactions, with the goal of exploring the interplay between social factors and linguistic usage. In this sense we i) consider network structure as an important social variable; ii) depict the usage of computer simulations as an appropriate, valid, and powerful technique to analyze sociolinguistic issues; and iii) put a premium on game theory as a method for adequately modeling communicative behavior, with the conclusion that network theory & game theory in simulation models represents a powerful combination for the analysis of sociolinguistic phenomena. This makes it a crucial supplement towards enhancing current sociolinguistic experimentation and theories.

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