2004
Volume 25, Issue 2-3
  • ISSN: 1384-5845
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1171

Abstract

Abstract

In his contribution to the 2005 anniversary issue of the journal , Fred Weerman remarked on the famous S-curve underlying language change, and claimed that a good explanation for this pattern is still lacking. We pick up the thread and assess what 15 years of research have clarified about the nature of the curve. We look at two aspects: the onset of the curve (also known as the ‘actuation problem’), and the sigmoid trajectory (known as ‘propagation’). For the actuation problem, we highlight the role of external variables, notably the role of cities in what kind of changes are more likely to occur. Higher urbanization leads to morphological simplification. For the propagation, we investigate the underlying mathematics of the curve, and its conceptual motivation. We argue that the lesser-known probit function is conceptually more insightful than the commonly used logit function, and marginally outperforms the latter as well, when tested on real data. The difference is so small, however, that in actual practice, the logit function, which is mathematically simpler, may continue to be preferred

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2020-10-01
2021-10-24
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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): actuation; complexity; logistic regression; logit; probit; propagation; s-curve; sigmoid
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