Can localized mobility influence language acquisition?

Authors: Yujia Pan*, University at Buffalo, SUNY, Ling Bian, University at Buffalo, SUNY, Jeff Good, University at Buffalo, SUNY, Pierpaolo di Carlo, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: spatial network, social network, network analysis, spatial mobility
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 26
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

It is a common belief that individuals living in small-scale rural areas acquire languages through kinship interactions or between-region migrations. Research on this topic has been conducted mainly in a sociolinguistic context, but seldom from a spatial perspective. It is unknown whether localized spatial mobility could affect language acquisition, especially in travel-constrained environments.
In this study, we aim to assess whether or not localized mobility influences individuals’ languages. The study area, Lower Fungom in Cameroon, is known for individual multilingualism, and most residents acquire four to five different languages. Spatially, the residents mainly travel on foot.
We construct two networks, a language sharing network and a footpath spatial network. In the former, individuals are nodes and their shared languages are edges. In the latter, villages are nodes and the footpaths between them are edges. We conduct a node-centric comparison and an edge-centric comparison between the two networks to assess the role of localized spatial mobility in language acquisition. The influential individuals as key nodes in the language sharing network and the influential villages as key nodes in the footpath spatial network are compared first. Then, the language sharing edges and the footpath edges are compared. Results show partial correspondence between influential individuals and influential villages, and a strong correlation between language sharing and footpath travel. Localized spatial mobility seems to contribute to individuals’ language acquisition.

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