New research has shown than two languages can co-exist in the same society. Previously it had been thought that the ‘stronger’ language would overtake the lesser spoken one, until it died out.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, mathematical models were created to show that levels of bilingualism can lead to the steady co-existence of two languages. The research analysed patterns among populations speaking Castilian, the main language of Spain, and Galician, a language spoken in Galicia (north-west Spain). The results could be used to inform other bilingual countries such as Wales.

Joseph Winters from Londons Institute of Physics said: Older models only took the number of each languages speakers and the relative status of each language into consideration, concluding that eventually the most dominant language would kill off the weaker; the decline of Welsh is often cited as an example of this.

The researchers used historical data to show how you can predict the continued existence of a language when you also incorporate a mathematical representation of the languages similarity to one another and the number of bilingual speakers, into the calculation.
If a significant fraction of the population is bilingual in two relatively similar languages, there appears to be no reason to believe that the more dominant language will inevitably kill off the weaker, Mr Winters added.

Researcher Jorge Mira Pmrez said: If the statuses of both languages were well balanced, a similarity of around 40% might be enough for the two languages to coexist.

If they were not balanced, a higher degree of similarity above 75%, depending on the values of status would be necessary for the weaker tongue to persist. (Source: Wales Online)