Replicator–mutator dynamics of linguistic convergence and divergence

Kauhanen, H. (2020) Replicator–mutator dynamics of linguistic convergence and divergence. Royal Society Open Science, 7, 201682.

People tend to align their use of language to the linguistic behaviour of their own ingroup and to simultaneously diverge from the language use of outgroups. This paper proposes to model this phenomenon of sociolinguistic identity maintenance as an evolutionary game in which individuals play the field and the dynamics are supplied by a multi-population extension of the replicator–mutator equation. Using linearization, the stabilities of all dynamic equilibria of the game in its fully symmetric two-population special case are found. The model is then applied to an empirical test case from adolescent sociolinguistic behaviour. It is found that the empirically attested population state corresponds to one of a number of stable equilibria of the game under an independently plausible value of a parameter controlling the rate of linguistic mutations. An asymmetric three-population extension of the game, explored with numerical solution methods, furthermore predicts to which specific equilibrium the system converges.