Biological Theory

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 164–173 | Cite as

Ecological Models of Language Competition

  • Anne KandlerEmail author
  • James Steele


The contemporary global language “extinction crisis” has been analyzed by several influential linguists using concepts from ecology. In this article we study different reaction-diffusion models to explain the dynamics of language competition. We are mainly interested in situations where one language has a status advantage compared with the other. We consider previous applications of competition models from ecology, with particular attention to the implications of the “carrying capacity” term in such models. We derive existence as well as stability conditions for the equilibria of the models considered, and show that depending on environmental conditions both situations—coexistence of competing languages or extinction of the less advantageous language—are possible.


carrying capacity language coexistence language competition language extinction mathematical modeling reaction-diffusion competition model spatial heterogeneity 


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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