Quentin Feltgen

Quentin Feltgen

Université Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle

Quentin Feltgen has studied Statistical Physics at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris. He devoted his PhD thesis on the topic of language change, in the Laboratoire de Physique Statistique at the ENS, under the joint supervision of Jean-Pierre Nadal and Benjamin Fagard. Since then, he has worked at the ICM (Paris Brain Institute) on decision-making, and at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle on the ANR research project Pro-Text, studying the statistical regularities of the bursts of language production in typing tasks. He is also working on the dynamical systemic organization of language over time, to which he will devote an upcoming three-years project at Ghent University.

Modelling the frequency rise of language change at the interplay of the social and the cognitive

Ever since the Naming Game, agent-based modelling has beautifully illustrated how shared and complex linguistic conventions could emerge out of multiple inter-speaker interactions sharing communication goals. However, how a community can switch from one linguistic convention to another – and therefore enact a language change – has remained troublesome, and usually require additional mechanisms: a selective advantage of the new variant, a change endorsed by an influential sub-community, or an amplification of ongoing trends. What has been neglected, however, is that this sociolinguistic account does not necessarily map with the available evidence of the change – namely, the frequency of use as recorded in diachronic corpora. In this talk, I will review this evidence on actual case studies, and introduce the model of language change I developed during my PhD. This model focuses not on social interactions, but on the cognitive organization of language, which is assumed to drive the change. I will then discuss the limitations of this model, and how it can be expanded in the future, especially to be reconciled with a sociolinguistic account.