With more and more languages fading into obscurity each year, linguists and other interested scholars find themselves frantically trying to record the details of these rare tongues before they completely disappear. Ultimately, while a language’s salvation lies in the hands of its population of current and potential speakers, the field of mathematics may be able to help when people decide that a language is indeed worth preserving.
A mathematician and her team of colleagues have worked to create a model consisting of several different equations, which describes the current state of an endangered local language. Cultural programs and organizations that promote learning of the language in question can utilize the data generated from calculations performed with this model to determine what steps must be taken for a stable population of bilinguals to develop, thus securing the language’s continued existence.
The model must be specifically tailored to variables such as a language’s cultural and economic value, and at the moment, the model only functions with Scottish Gaelic; however, researchers are hoping to expand to other languages such as Quechua and Chinook.
For more information about this research bringing together math and language, take a look at this article at Discover Magazine.