Over the years this blog has seen quite a bit of discussion on topics surrounding correlations between social structure and linguistic structures and the analysis of these correlations, so I thought you’d be interested in this new paper in Frontiers in Language Sciences by Cynthia Siew which uses community detection methods to extract data to be compared with randomly generated communities.
Community structure, which refers to the presence of densely connected groups within a larger network, is a common feature of several real-world networks from a variety of domains such as the human brain, social networks of hunter-gatherers and business organizations, and the World Wide Web (Porter et al., 2009). Using a community detection technique known as the Louvain optimization method, 17 communities were extracted from the giant component of the phonological network described in Vitevitch (2008). Additional analyses comparing the lexical and phonological characteristics of words in these communities against words in randomly generated communities revealed several novel discoveries. Larger communities tend to consist of short, frequent words of high degree and low age of acquisition ratings, and smaller communities tend to consist of longer, less frequent words of low degree and high age of acquisition ratings. Real communities also contained fewer different phonological segments compared to random communities, although the number of occurrences of phonological segments found in real communities was much higher than that of the same phonological segments in random communities. Interestingly, the observation that relatively few biphones occur very frequently and a large number of biphones occur rarely within communities mirrors the pattern of the overall frequency of words in a language (Zipf, 1935). The present findings have important implications for understanding the dynamics of activation spread among words in the phonological network that are relevant to lexical processing, as well as understanding the mechanisms that underlie language acquisition and the evolution of language.
I would like to hear James or Sean’s thoughts on this.
Addendum: I just realised the communities the abstract is referring to are communities of words rather than people. Slightly confusing language but I guess this is still pretty interesting stuff.