Profiles

Anna Jon-And

Anna Jon-And

Forskare

Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies
Telephone 08-16 48 88
Email anna.jon-and@su.se
Visiting address Wallenberglaboratoriet, Lilla Frescativägen 7
Room 446
Postal address Centrum för evolutionär kulturforskning 106 91 Stockholm

About me

 

I study different aspects of language evolution. I am interested in how demographic and social dynamics influence language change and in understanding the cognitive mechanisms underlying human linguistic abilities. I work collaboratively in the field of cultural evolution, which allows for addressing these issues with methods and perspectives from other disciplines, such as mathematics, biology and psychology, and for comparing language to other aspects of human behaviour.

 

Language variation and change

Statistical analysis of variation in natural language data is a key to describing language structure and understanding language change. I have collected and analysed diachronic and synchronic data sets from African varieties of Portuguese, where change has occurred rapidly due to the extensive spread of Portuguese in the past 40 years. This allows for testing how different conditions for language acquisition and use influence the diffusion of innovative linguistic forms. I have also built computational agent-based models to test hypotheses on how demographic parameters, like proportions of first and second language learners in a population, may account for observed linguistic changes.

 

Language contact

Language contact tend to cause relatively drastic structural change and sometimes even the emergence of new languages. Contact languages and varieties provide interesting data for studying how basic cultural selective pressures on language, such as learnability and expressivity, shape and change language structure. I have studied grammatical restructuring in African contact varieties of Portuguese, a mixed language in Brazil, and I am currently working on a cross-linguistic analysis of word length and frequency in pidgins, creoles and non-contact languages.

 

Language origin

Language origin and language change are interrelated because understanding the cognitive mechanisms that enable language acquisition and use is central for modelling language transmission and change. A comparative perspective on cognition, memory and learning in humans and other animals is useful when searching for the roots of language.  I am currently involved in collaborative research on evolutionary transitions in humans, building models based on the theory that sequence handling is human unique and necessary for socially transmitted behaviour like language.

Publications

A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Anna Jon-And, Elliot Aguilar. PLoS ONE
  • 2018. Anna Jon-And, Mikael Parkvall, Alexander Funcke. Applications in Cultural Evolution: Arts, Languages, Technologies, 18-19

    In the study of cultural evolution, human culture is generally assumed to be cumulative, implying increasing complexity and diversity over time (Enquist et al. 2011, Lewis & Laland 2012). Recent studies suggest that evolutionary mechanisms operate differently in different cultural domains (Tamariz et al. 2016), but it has not been discussed whether all mechanisms result in cumulativity. Experiments have shown that compositional language structure emerge as a trade-off between learnability and expressivity (Kirby et al. 2008, 2015), but there is no evidence of languages generally becoming more compositional, or regular, over time. As all modern natural languages are expressive enough for human communicative needs and compressed enough for generational transmission, we suggest that linguistic complexity is 19 not currently cumulative but breaks down and builds up in cycles triggered by demographically determined variation in learnability and expressivity pressures. We focus on pidgins, a special case of natural languages where the expressivity pressure is presumably weaker and learnability pressure stronger than in other languages. We compare pidgins to creoles, where both expressivity and learnability pressures are presumably high, and non-contact languages where the learnability pressure is presumably lower, allowing for more complexity. We analyze compiled material from spoken and written pidgins, spoken creoles and non-contact languages and a parallel bible corpus, applying two complexity measures: the relation between word length and frequency, and pronominal morphology. We observe a smaller degree of exponentiality in the negative correlation between word length and frequency in pidgins than in their lexifiers, likely reflecting the loss of short and common grammatical words. Creoles expose a higher exponentiality in this correlation, which may reflect a newly built up analytical grammar. For pronouns, we observe expected reduced marking of person, number, case and gender in pidgins, increasing in creoles, being highest in non-contact languages.

  • 2018. Anna Jon-And. Språktidningen (1), 40-45
  • 2017. Laura Alvarez López, Anna Jon-And. Journal of Pidgin and Creole languages ( Print) 32 (1), 75-103

    The present paper focuses on the speech of a rural Afro-Brazilian community called Cafundó, situated 150 km from São Paulo. In 1978, when linguistic data were collected, the community constituted approximately eighty individuals, descendants of two slave women who inherited their owners’ proprieties. According to earlier studies, when the inhabitants of Cafundó spoke in their supposed ‘African language,’ Cupópia, they used structures borrowed from Portuguese and a vocabulary of possible African origin. A lexical analysis shows that the etymologies match historical and demographical data, indicating that speakers of varieties of Kimbundu, Kikongo and Umbundu dominated in the community. Through a morphosyntactic analysis, specific features were found in the data, such as copula absence and variable agreement patterns. By showing that some of Cupópia’s specific grammatical features are not derived from the Portuguese spoken by the same speakers but are instead shared with more restructured varieties, this paper defends the hypothesis that this lexically driven in-group code is not simply a regional variety of Portuguese with a number of African-derived words.

  • 2017. Anna Jon-And, Juanito Avelar, Laura Álvarez López. Bulletin of Hispanic studies (Liverpool. 2002)

    The present paper deals with contact-induced change in existential constructions in the variety of Portuguese spoken in Cabinda, Angola. Portuguese is the official language of Angola, and the officially adopted norm is European Standard Portuguese. The focus of the analysis is on the use of the possessive verb ter ‘to have’ in existential constructions, rather than the existential haver ‘to exist’, which is the standard form in Portugal. The analysis is based on data from 40 interviews with 20 male and 20 female high school Cabinda students between 18 and 30 years of age. The aim is to investigate the role of language contact in the emergence of existential sentences with ter, as well as to verify if the use of ter in existential constructions in Cabinda has the same linguistic constraints as in Brazilian Portuguese. The paper also analyzes social factors related to multilingualism in order to discuss how social and linguistic constraints interact in shaping new varieties, such as Cabinda Portuguese. The conclusion is that the use of ter sentences as existentials in Cabinda Portuguese may be an effect resulting from the confluence of two linguistic factors: (i) changes linked with the pro-drop parameter in Portuguese emerging in Angola, and (ii) the transference of a grammatical property from Bantu languages to Portuguese, specifically, the morphological identity of possessive and existential verbs. Moreover, the only registered social influence over the presence of existential ter constructions is the level of use of Bantu languages, a finding that does not rule out that these constructions may initially have been triggered by more general acquisition effects.

  • 2017. Anna Jon-And.

    Accelerated language change in contact settings, especially language shift, has commonly been attributed to innovation during the second language acquisition process (Weinreich, 1979; Thomason & Kaufman, 1988). The role of second language speakers in contact-induced change is investigated quantitatively by Bentz et al. (2013) who find negative correlations between the proportions of L2 speakers and morphosyntactic complexity in synchronic cross-linguistic data. At the same time, evolutionary models and experiments have revealed learnability as a general force in language evolution (Kirby 2001, Kirby et al. 2008), suggesting that more learnable features (such as morphological simplicity or compositionality) would be favored by language acquisition in general and not only by second language acquisition. The aim of this paper is to use agent-based modeling and simulations in order to test if diffusion of linguistic innovation in a language shift setting may result from a general acquisition effect reinforced by large proportions of learners, or if special weight needs to be attributed to second language acquisition. The models’ predictions are compared to linguistic and demographic diachronic data from the ongoing language shift from Bantu languages to Portuguese in Maputo, Mozambique.

    To model linguistic interaction, I adapted Jansson et al. (2015)’s model of creole formation. Speakers interact pairwise and chose a variant of a linguistic feature based on their probability distribution of usage. Each agent modifies their distribution of usage based on what they heard. The simulation starts with a conservative linguistic variant fixed. After a round of interactions, population turnover occurs with some individuals dying and new first and second language speakers entering. New individuals are assigned with a probability of introducing a novel variant during a period of acquisition.  Experienced speakers accommodate less to learners than vice versa.  To investigate the role of first and second language acquisition, we test if a rate of innovation low enough not to spread in a situation with no recruitment of second language speakers, may result in the observed spread of reduced verbal morphology in Maputo Portuguese when demographic parameters are fixed to data on the number of first and second language speakers in Maputo over the period 1975-2007. The linguistic data comprehend recordings with 20 participants in similar circumstances from two time points (1993 & 2007), where variation between the conservative pre-contact variant (full verbal plural agreement) and the innovative variant (deletion of verbal plural suffix) is quantified. Results show it is possible to account for a stable low level of use of the new variant with standard population turnover, as well as to account for the diffusion of the new variant when the proportion of learners increases due to language shift. With parameters set to demographic data on language shift from Bantu languages to Portuguese in Mozambique, changes in proportions of learners are sufficiently high to account for the spread of new variants. The model where all learners introduce the new variant is a better fit to data than the one where only second language learners introduce the new variant. This suggests that learnability This qualitative deviation suggests that mechanisms included in recent models for replicator-neutral language change may also be important to account for contact-driven change where some variants are inherently favored.

  • 2017. Anna Jon-And.

    Language contact, especially language shift, is known to accelerate language change. This has commonly been attributed to innovations during the second language acquisition process. At the same time, cultural evolution experiments and models have revealed learnability as a general constraint in language evolution, suggesting that more learnable features (such as morphological simplicity), would be favored by language acquisition in general and not only by second language acquisition. I use multi-agent simulations to test if diffusion of linguistic innovation in language shift may result from a general acquisition effect reinforced by large proportions of learners compared to experienced speakers. Learners introduce a new variant, and experienced speakers accommodate less to learners than vice versa. Results show that this way it is possible to account for a stable low level of use of the new variant with standard population turnover, as well as account for the diffusion of the new variant when the proportion of learners increases due to language shift. With parameters set to demographic data on language shift from Bantu languages to Portuguese in Mozambique, changes in proportions of learners are sufficiently high to account for the spread of new variants but the trajectory of change differs from linguistic data. This qualitative deviation suggests that mechanisms included in recent models for replicator-neutral language change may also be important to account for contact-driven change where some variants are inherently favored.

  • 2017. Torun Reite, Anna Jon-And. Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 12
  • 2016. Anna Jon-And, Torun Reite.
  • 2016. Anna Jon-And, Elliot Aguilar. The Evolution of Language
  • 2015. Laura Álvarez López, Anna Jon-And.
  • 2011. Anna Jon-And, Thomas Johnen, John Lipski.

    This study investigates variable noun phrase number agreement (VNA) in two second language varieties of Portuguese, spoken in Maputo, Mozambique and in Mindelo, Cape Verde. Quantitative VARBRUL analysis is carried out based on recordings made in Maputo and Mindelo 2007 and 2008.

    Previous quantitative studies on VNA in varieties of Brazilian Portuguese (Guy, 1981; Lopes, 2001; Andrade, 2003) as well as on VNA in first and second language varieties of Portuguese from São Tomé (Baxter, 2004; Figueiredo, 2008, 2010) indicate contact between Portuguese and African languages as the main origin of this phenomenon. VNA in Brazilian Portuguese is, however, interpreted by Scherre (1988) and Naro & Scherre (1993, 2007) as the result of language internal drift.

    Varieties of Portuguese from Mozambique and Cape Verde are particularly interesting to contrast in order to investigate influences from African languages on VNA, as in Mozambique Bantu languages are first languages of the vast majority of Portuguese speakers, whereas in Cape Verde, practically all Portuguese speakers are first language speakers of Cape Verdean Creole, whose substrates are West African, and not Bantu, languages. Comparison is also made with previous studies from Brazil and São Tomé.

    The results of this study comment previously postulated explanations for VNA in Portuguese in various ways. The analysis of the variables onset age and age stratum indicates that VNA in the analyzed varieties is a phenomenon linked to the acquisition of Portuguese as a second language and/or language contact rather than the result of internal drift. The fact that all the compared varieties tend to mark plural on pre-head components contradicts Bantu transfer as an explanation for this pattern, and raises the need to also consider more general explanations based on language contact. The basic structural similarity between the compared varieties suggests the existence of a grammatical restructuring continuum.

  • 2014. Anna Jon-And, Mikael Parkvall.
  • 2014. Anna Jon-And, Elliot Aguilar.
  • 2014. Anna Jon-And, Mikael Parkvall, Alexander Funcke.
Show all publications by Anna Jon-And at Stockholm University

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Last updated: October 29, 2018

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