The interaction between learning at the individual level and the trajectory of a population over time is fundamental to our understanding of linguistic change. Here we use game theory as a mathematical framework for formulating and testing hypotheses about this interaction. We formalize two hypotheses regarding the spread of vowel mergers and use them to derive the proportion of merged in-migrants that would precipitate a merger in a previously non-merged speech community. We test these predictions against the documented spread of the low-back merger. In light of these results, we consider the impact of social network structures on both models.
Ahern, Christopher A.
"Mergers, Migration, and Signaling,"
University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics:
1, Article 2.
Available at: http://repository.upenn.edu/pwpl/vol20/iss1/2