The language puzzle: how Physics helps unlock linguistic mysteries

June 22, 2023

The field of language dynamics, which applies physics to linguistics, is a relatively new interdisciplinary area of research. Physicists have successfully used their methods to study various aspects of language. By analyzing linguistic data and using mathematical models, physicists have contributed to explain how certain words spread across a country and how languages evolve and split into dialects. Language dynamics also involves studying language shift and the coexistence of multiple languages within a population. Specifically, physicists have used statistical physics and computational tools to analyze large datasets, such as written texts and tweets, to uncover regularities and patterns in language use, revealing insights into language complexity, social interactions, and cultural variations. 

IFISC (UIB-CSIC) researcher Dr. David Sánchez, together with Dr. Marco Patriarca (NICPB) and Dr. Els Heinsalu (NICPB), both IFISC alumni, discuss in a popular science article in Physics World the latest advancements of the field. 

From how swear words spread out in Japan, to how different languages are mixed in regions such as Catalonia or Belgium, the article covers for a nonspecialist audience the transversal research between physics and linguistics with the aim of elucidating the intricate social phenomena of linguistics and language itself. 

The article "The physics of languages" is freely available in Physics World.

Photo: iStock

Patriarca M., Heinsalu E. and Sánchez D. The physics of languages. Physics World (2023).


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