Cellular Automaton

Visualizing Complex Data

This page links to the Cellular Automaton, a model of complexity in language change. The cellular automaton models language change across time. This provides an excellent example of dialect feature diffusion as the adaptive aspect of the complex system of speech. As a consequence of simple rules, a feature can spread across an area or diminish. This validates known patterns of linguistic distributions in the Linguistic Atlas Project. The cellular automaton models emerging regional and social distribution patterns, which update as a consequence of simple computational rules.

A complex system does not necessarily have to be an animate system to be active. This is shown through the cellular automaton as a model of linguistic diffusion (in Kretzschmar & Juuso, 2014). This reveals that language and the way that people speak is local in nature, as it relates to the larger complex system. We see in the cellular automaton that each cell turns on or off depending on how the other cells behave, thereby pointing out the importance of each neighbor in relationship. This models not only the complex system of language but also dialect formation and diffusion, while all people speak in relation to their neighboring communities. Whether they choose to speak the same way or not as neighbors cannot be predicted, but we do see the whole system and characteristics of a complex system being modeled throughout the cellular automaton.

From Kretzschmar, William, and Illka Juuso. 2014. Cellular Automata for Modeling Language Change. International Conference on Cellular Automata.