Sociolinguistics & Network Games

Workshop at ESSLLI 2014, University of Tübingen

The Workshop 'Sociolingiostics and Network Games' provides a platform of new research on studies that address phenomena in language use, language change and language contact. We welcome studies from a broad field of different reseach methods; from empirical field studies to computer simualtions. One central goal of the workshop is to forge links between diverse approaches.

Although all kind of studies that contribute to the topic are welcome, we particularly focus computational and simulation models of artificial multi-agent societies, particularly models that combine (i) techniques from network theory to build and analyze artificial social environments and (ii) decision/game theory to model (linguistic) behavior of its members.

We solicit original papers that report field studies as well as computational studies of (socio-)linguistic phenomena. We particularly welcome papers that focus on the interplay between network structure and linguistic behavior. The workshop is open to all frameworks and methodological approaches including, but not limited to:

  • Studies of Linguistic Phenomena in Social Networks
  • Field Studies of Language Contact and Language Change
  • Simulation Models of Language Change
  • Models of Information Flow in Social Systems
  • Computational Sociolinguistics
  • (Spatial) Game Theory in Linguistics/Pragmatics
  • Signaling Games and Behavioral Dynamics
  • Dynamics of Repeated Games in Social Environments
  • Agent Communication Languages
  • Opinion Dynamics in Social Network Structures

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.

Recently quite different research directions emerged that use computational models for artificial populations of communicationg agents. By analyzing dependencies between the population's interaction structure and its members' communicative behavior, researchers want to get a better understanding of population dynamics that cause phenomena in language change and language evolution.

One of these research directions is dealing with the question of how language change is accused by network structure (c.f. Nettle 1999; Ke, Gong & Wang 2008; Fagyal, Swarup, Escobar, Gasser & Lakkaraju 2010). The basic model looks as follows: agents are placed in a social network structure and can choose between different variants of a linguistic item, whereby their choice is i.a. influenced by their position in the network.

Furthermore, there is an interesting development in the field of game-theoretic linguistics (especially game-theoretic pragmatics), where the classical program applies signaling games (Lewis, 1969). In this field, researcher traditionally analyze repeated games between two players, but a couple of projects extended this account to multi-agent structures (Zollman 2005; Wagner 2009; Mühlenbernd 2011). There is quite a small number of projects that use game theory in combination with network theory to deal with concrete question from sociolinguistics (Mühlenbernd & Quinley 2013; Ahern 2014).

Welcome are all proposals that make a contribution to this agenda, also those that do not fit directly to the aforementioned research directions. A key goal of this workshop is to bring together different research groups and directions to build and reinforce a network of exchange and collaboration.


Ahern C. (2014). Mergers, Migration, and Signaling. Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Penn Linguistics Conference.

Fagyal Z., S. Swarup, A.M. Escobar, L. Gasser & K. Lakkaraju (2010). Center and Peripheries: Network Roles in Language Change. Lingua 120: 2061-2079.

Ke, J., T. Gong & W. Wang (2008). Language Change and Social Networks. Communications in Computational Physics 3: 935-949.

Lewis, D. (1969). Convention. A Philoshophical Study. Harvard University Press.

Mühlenbernd (2011). Learning with Neighbours: Emergence of Convention in a Society of Learning Agents. Synthese 183 (S1): 87-109.

Mühlenbernd, R. & Quinley J. (2013). Signaling and Simulations in Sociolinguistics. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics Vol. 19, Iss. 1, Article 16.

Nettle, D. (1999). Using Social Impact Theory to simulate Language Change. Lingua 108: 95-117.

Wagner, E. (2009). Communication and Structured Correlation. Erkenntnis 71: 377-393.

Zollman, Kevin J.S. (2005). Talking to Neighbors: The Evolution of Regional Meaning. Philosophy of Science 72:69-85.