An Application of an Analogue of the Partition Function to the Evolution of Diglossia

John Wyburn, John Hayward

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Recent trends in the numbers of minority language speakers have given cause for concern as to the effectiveness of traditional language-acquisition and survival strategies. This paper addresses the establishment of a recognized survival scenario, that of diglossia, the allocation of different languages to complementary social domains. The method is the novel application of an analogue of the partition function of statistical mechanics, embodied in a cellular automaton, to a population of subsets of social domains in which either of two languages may be spoken. The case of modern Wales is discussed in detail. Conclusions are drawn regarding the role of diglossia in the preservation of endangered languages.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberPHYSA-181577
Pages (from-to)447-463
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Early online date30 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019


  • Language shift
  • bilingualism
  • language dynamics
  • partition function
  • cellular automaton
  • language group dynamics
  • quantitative linguistics


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