Modeling of the Ecology of Writing and Its Application to Sociolinguistics

Project leader: YOKOYAMA Shoichi
Professor, Department of Linguistic Theory and Structure, NINJAL
Keywords: Writing, Sociolinguistics, Standardization of dialect, Cognitive science


When typing Japanese text on a computer or mobile telephone, the input method software often presents a choice of different orthographies for the same word. Thus the word hinoki ‘Japanese cypress’ can be represented with simplified kanji (桧), traditional kanji (檜), katakana (ヒノキ) or hiragana (ひのき). The writer will ordinarily choose an appropriate form with little or no reflection. The question arises as to how the writer makes the choice, and whether it is possible to predict the choice using probability theory. This project seeks to develop a qualitative and quantitative model of the relationship between factors in the linguistic environment and an individual's written language use. This model of the ecology of writing, referring to concepts and theories from such fields as Japanese linguistics, cognitive science and mathematical economics, can also be applied to the study of the progressive standardization of language in society.

In coordination with the Center for Research Resources and the Department of Language Change and Variation, this project builds on an ongoing long-term study of the relationship between local dialect and standard language in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture, and will examine and rework the data to make a statistical analysis that will test theoretical aspects of linguistic change and to contribute to the fields of sociolinguistics and quantitative linguistics. This project represents a truly interdisciplinary approach, and the results should open up new possibilities for studies of language acquisition , neuroscience , and gerontology.