Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 80, Issue 10, pp 2761–2786 | Cite as

The Persistence of a Local Dialect When a National Standard Language is Present: An Evolutionary Dynamics Model of Cultural Diversity

  • Cinthia M. TanakaEmail author
  • Joung-Hun Lee
  • Yoh Iwasa
Original Article


In recent decades, cultural diversity loss has been a growing issue, which can be analyzed mathematically through the use of the formalism of the theory of cultural evolution. We here study the evolutionary dynamics of dialects in order to find the key processes for mitigating the loss of language diversity. We define dialects as different speech systems of the same language which are mutually intelligible. Specifically, we focus on the survival of a local dialect when competing against a national standard language, with the latter giving an advantage in occupational and economic contexts. We assume individuals may use different dialects, in response to two different situations: they may use the national language in a formal workplace, while they may use a local dialect in family or close friend meetings. We consider the choice of a dialect is guided by two forces: (1) differential attractiveness of the local/standard language and (2) willingness to speak the same dialect (conformity factor) inside a private group. We found that the evolutionary outcome critically depends on how conformity works. Conformity enhances the effect of differential attractiveness between the local dialect and the standard language if conformity works favoring only those states in which all speakers use the same dialect (unanimity pressure model), but conformity has no effect at all if it works in proportion to the fraction among peers (peer pressure model).


Language evolution Cultural evolution Standard language Dialect preservation 



We would like to thank Mayuko Nakamaru, Hisashi Ohtsuki and the members of the Kyushu University Mathematical Biology Laboratory for their comments and suggestions. This work was carried out during C.M.T. visit to Kyushu University, Japan, supported by Kyushu University, under the program Kyushu University Friendship Scholarship, and CAPES. J.H.L. received financial support from Leading Graduate School Program for Decision Science to Kyushu University of MEXT, Japan. JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Basic Scientific Research (B) No. 15H04423 to Y.I. is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied MathematicsInstitute of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Sao PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Center for Decision ScienceKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan
  3. 3.Department of Biology, Faculty of SciencesKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan

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