An agent-based model of sign language persistence informed by real-world data

Katie Mudd, Connie De Vos, Bart De Boer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


As evidence from sign languages is increasingly used to investigate the process of language emergence and evolution, it is important to understand the conditions that allow for sign languages to persist. We build on a mathematical model of sign language persistence (i.e. protection from loss) which takes into account the genetic transmission of deafness, the cultural transmission of sign language and marital patterns (Aoki Feldman, 1991). We use agent-based modeling techniques and draw inspiration from the wealth of genetic and cultural data on the sign language Kata Kolok to move towards a less abstract model of sign language persistence. In a set of experiments we explorehow sign language persistence is affected by language transmission types, the distribution of deafalleles, population size and marital patterns. We highlight the value of using agent-based modeling for this type of research, which allows for the incorporation of real-world data into model development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-187
Number of pages30
JournalLanguage Dynamics and Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • agent-based modeling
  • cultural evolution
  • language evolution
  • language persistence
  • language transmission
  • Shared sign languages


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