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Subject: Language Learning and Spread rss

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Andrew Nichols
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I've been mulling over some ideas for a game that revolves around language learning and spread among various people groups, so here I am to consult with the wisdom of the crowd:

-Are there any existing designs dealing with this topic?
-Even if it might be of merely secondary importance?
-Does the general theme interest or excite you? That is, would it be a net positive in a potential game buying/playing decision?
-Or does the general theme bore or irritate you? That is, would it be a net negative in a potential game buying/playing decision?
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Anthony Friedman
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Do you mean learning a new language (like a student in school)? Or rather development of language (like a child learning language)?

If you are referencing childhood development, I would steer you to some of Ravensburger's games .
 
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Andrew Nichols
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I mean language learning/spread/development across geographical regions or people groups over many hundreds of years.
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Jim "git yer stinkin' themes offa my mechanic" Puccio
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This sounds way cool. I hope you can pull it off. I'd love to see such a thing.

I don't know of any designs, but haven't looked, either. However, what you've got is a diffusion model, so you could consider any game that deals with some sort of diffusion, such as an epidemiological model, or migrations of species or populaces, to be closely related. Just imagine a re-theme.
 
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Neal Durando
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I use a very simple game to provide an occasion to teach my students (military staff officers) English. Have a look at : http://www.defenselinguistics.org/ > MATREX exercises. Also, Chris Engle's site http://www.hamsterpress.net/news/list is very interesting. Were I teaching lower levels I would invent simpler games.

Generally, it is my experience that game playing makes language learning intensive and "real" in ways that other methods really never get at.
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Mike
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Hm... this is different than my first glance at the topic, but it reminded me of Hippo Family Club. An informal regular gathering of families to play around with multiple languages. Emphasis is on play, rather than strict correctness. Just thought it was kinda interesting... sorry if this has nothing to do with the OP.

I really can't imagine a game about language spread through time... but who knows, there are a lot stranger games.
 
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Russ Williams
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I know of no games on the theme, and the theme interests me.

I've seen various mathematical models of language spread, and how the snowballing effect works and minority languages get squashed by languages of economically and militarily powerful cultures.
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Andrew Nichols
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russ wrote:
I know of no games on the theme, and the theme interests me.

I've seen various mathematical models of language spread, and how the snowballing effect works and minority languages get squashed by languages of economically and militarily powerful cultures.


I've envisioned the game as primarily an economic game and had not really considered military aspects yet; that might make for a good subsystem or abstracted feature.
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T. Nomad
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Interested. Keenly.
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Chris Okasaki
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danweasel wrote:
I mean language learning/spread/development across geographical regions or people groups over many hundreds of years.


Hmm, I think you could retheme Pandemic to model this.
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Andrew Nichols
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cokasaki wrote:
danweasel wrote:
I mean language learning/spread/development across geographical regions or people groups over many hundreds of years.


Hmm, I think you could retheme Pandemic to model this.


And the group wins when all local languages are eradicated in favor of English some universal language? cry

Anyway, I'm happy to see that the idea strikes more than just my wife and I as uniquely interesting. Now it comes down to working out the devilish details.
 
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Andres F. Pabon L.
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The theme sounds awesome!

And no, I haven't heard of anything like it...
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Kevin McPartland
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The topic grabbed my attention as an excellent theme for a simulation game. And then I noticed a familiar icon (no, I'm not stalking! )

I also see something like what Russ said above. If you can work in ideas like how French became the "language of diplomacy", and English became the language used by air traffic controllers around world... that would be cool.

Kevin
 
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Neal Durando
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Boy, did the real subject of this thread go right by me! I simply read what I wanted to! Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I think this would be an excellent theme, obviously. I can think of no other designs like this. If you were to somehow shed some light on the actual dynamics of language spread, rather than simply using it as a theme, then I think you would have a guaranteed, though small, set of automatic sales in the educational market.
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Andrew Nichols
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KMcPartland wrote:
The topic grabbed my attention as an excellent theme for a simulation game. And then I noticed a familiar icon (no, I'm not stalking! )

I also see something like what Russ said above. If you can work in ideas like how French became the "language of diplomacy", and English became the language used by air traffic controllers around world... that would be cool.

Kevin


I've been thinking about it at a more localized level; I suppose it could be done at a global/history spanning scale, but I think it would have to be very streamlined or approaching unplayable.

That said, some kind of bonus/goal scoring along similar but more localized lines might work.
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Andrew Nichols
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Defense Linguistics wrote:
Boy, did the real subject of this thread go right by me! I simply read what I wanted to! Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I think this would be an excellent theme, obviously. I can think of no other designs like this. If you were to somehow shed some light on the actual dynamics of language spread, rather than simply using it as a theme, then I think you would have a guaranteed, though small, set of automatic sales in the educational market.


It's easy to misread people online; I wasn't as clear as I could have been in the opening. Not a problem.

The balance between having a good simulation and a good game seems to be a dominant issue in board gaming and I certainly have it in mind. I intend to develop a good game first, letting real world ideas and theories inform that development. An accurate simulation is a secondary (although not-unimportant) concern. Possibly a modified set of rules could eliminate some of the game mechanics in favor of simulation mechanics.
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Jim "git yer stinkin' themes offa my mechanic" Puccio
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danweasel wrote:
I've been thinking about it at a more localized level; I suppose it could be done at a global/history spanning scale, but I think it would have to be very streamlined or approaching unplayable.

Funny, my impression runs in the other direction entirely. I imagine gobs of language-speaker bits diffusing across a global map, like Risk cubes, but with some kind of Civ-like machine driving the whole thing.

Looking at it in a local snapshot strikes me as quite a bit tougher. Big trends like this aren't so apparent in the microcosm. In fact, I have a hard time imagining how you might go about modeling it that way. It's sort of like looking at the stock market: Given too close a time-span, all you get is noise. You have to zoom out and apply a low-pass filter to see the trends at all.
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Andrew Nichols
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The Abstractionist wrote:

Funny, my impression runs in the other direction entirely. I imagine gobs of language-speaker bits diffusing across a global map, like Risk cubes, but with some kind of Civ-like machine driving the whole thing.

Looking at it in a local snapshot strikes me as quite a bit tougher. Big trends like this aren't so apparent in the microcosm. In fact, I have a hard time imagining how you might go about modeling it that way. It's sort of like looking at the stock market: Given too close a time-span, all you get is noise. You have to zoom out and apply a low-pass filter to see the trends at all.


I mean local as in continent/sub-continent/large archipelago that have or had a rich diversity of languages. Examples of interest being Central Europe, Africa, China, and the Philippines.

But I'm also thinking of the game being driven along economic lines (think Indonesia) rather than a broader spectrum of economic/political/scientific/military lines implied by a Civ like approach. Not to say that couldn't be done, but I have a feeling that language growth and spread would become of non-primary importance in a system so large.

I imagine that if this ever does get to a publishable point, it will have gotten there via extensive testing in many different scopes; at some point I will definitely see if the game mechanics can handle a global scale. In particular, though, I'm doing my best to think in a modular fashion, so that the system can easily be exported to a variety of maps.
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Andrew Nichols
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As a note, it's really quite encouraging to see the interest here; it strikes me that I am much more likely to put the hard work into this (as yet mostly potential) design knowing that more than just myself and my wife are interested.
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Jim "git yer stinkin' themes offa my mechanic" Puccio
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danweasel wrote:
I mean local as in continent/sub-continent/large archipelago that have or had a rich diversity of languages.

I'd think those would be grand enough scales. Even a place like Ethiopia has a mind-boggling array of languages. Then there's the Indian subcontinent... yowza!

danweasel wrote:
But I'm also thinking of the game being driven along economic lines (think Indonesia) rather than a broader spectrum of economic/political/scientific/military lines implied by a Civ like approach. Not to say that couldn't be done, but I have a feeling that language growth and spread would become of non-primary importance in a system so large.

You might want to try to componentize these effects, so that you can try them in concert in various combinations. I think the argument can also be made that with only one effect (eg. economics) driving it, your language-speaking bits just become stand-ins for that other system. I think it becomes more interesting a concept with more overlapping systems interacting. Not to mention the possibility of game expansions based on the componentized breakdown...

danweasel wrote:
In particular, though, I'm doing my best to think in a modular fashion, so that the system can easily be exported to a variety of maps.

This is an excellent idea. If you manage to do something truly groundbreaking, you may find that it spawns a whole subgenre, like 18xx.
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Jim "git yer stinkin' themes offa my mechanic" Puccio
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The Abstractionist wrote:
However, what you've got is a diffusion model, so you could consider any game that deals with some sort of diffusion, such as an epidemiological model, or migrations of species or populaces, to be closely related. Just imagine a re-theme.

Pondering this a little more, I'm thinking that perhaps it works more like a reaction-diffusion process. (Sorry about the über-geeky link. Anyway, you can try googling "reaction-diffusion" to hopefully turn up something on a more conceptual level.)

The idea is that as substances (in this case our language groups) diffuse through a medium and encounter one another, reactions occur, transforming them even as they continue to diffuse.

These models come up in computer graphics as a way of creating very realistic natural textures and patterns, which is why I thought of this in the first place. Think of what happens when you run different watercolor pigments across a wet medium. Two-dimensional cellular automata have been used to implement such models, based entirely on local interactions and simple rules -- this could perhaps be an idea that would be adaptable to game definition.

And, if you think about pidgin and creole languages, and the sorts of changes that invasions and immigrations effect, it is not always a replacement, or overlay of a dominant language masking the conquered one. The French rulers of England left a distinct and detectable mark on English, but did not transform England into a Francophone nation nor English into a dialect of French in the process.
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Neal Durando
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Lots of smart stuff upthread that I only half understand, but I'm reminded that, as a language teacher, I sometimes use Cuisenaire rods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisenaire_rods) to teach grammar and syntax. Perhaps a similar system could be used to indicate shared/borrowed words and grammar.
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Jason M
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In this game, would each player "control" a language that they would try to make dominant in the given area? If that were the case, it might be interesting to have variable player powers that represent characteristics of the individual languages that affect how they spread. Those powers could then be altered when they come into contact with other languages, as the languages borrow elements from one another. "Defeated" languages could have their characteristics merged into more successful ones, and new languages could even be formed in clusters of language speakers that become isolated, etc. etc.
Anyway, sorry about the rambling, but the theme does seem novel and interesting, and there are a lot of possible ways to treat the game mechanics. I'm not sure how broad of an appeal it would have, as the theme is a bit abstruse, but I would be interested in such a game if the game play were good. I think you should get started in designing it :) Good luck.
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John Pierce
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I think it's a very interesting theme. I don't know if any of these are what you had in mind, but here are some things that you may want to consider:

The change that a language itself undergoes as it spreads. Language tend to simplify as they spread geographically. Also, a language may spread over a large area and then slowly diverge into new languages

The formation of trade languages/pidgins and then creoles from different languages coming into contact.

Differential resistance to a dominant language based on different language attitudes (i.e. a group that believes that religious functions are only effective when conducted in their native language is much less likely to give up their native language)
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Jim "git yer stinkin' themes offa my mechanic" Puccio
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jfpierce wrote:
The change that a language itself undergoes as it spreads. Language tend to simplify as they spread geographically. Also, a language may spread over a large area and then slowly diverge into new languages

The formation of trade languages/pidgins and then creoles from different languages coming into contact.

Yes! This is exactly the kind of thing I was getting at by contemplating it as a diffusion-reaction-like process. It may be a somewhat abstruse way to think about it, as it is a concept imported from a completely different field, but it is concise, and may be adaptable into a similarly concise and digestible set of locally-acting rules, in the style of cellular automata. But there's no reason to burden the player with any of those concepts -- I'm merely suggesting that they may be useful abstractions that the designer can use to construct something that effectively and somewhat realistically models these phenomena.
 
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