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Picture this scenario: all of humanity in its beginning is on a single island roughly the right size to support 1/2/3 million people. For some reason (sea monsters, too much ocean, whatever reason you want) it is impossible to get to another land and colonize that. For another reason of your choice, once the population reaches about 1,500,000 infertility problems are widespread enough that the population doesn't grow, remains stable.

Would linguistic variation/evolution happen? IF so, how much?

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    $\begingroup$ How isolated are various parts of the population from each other? If there's constant intermixing, language is going to be pretty much uniform (though of course it will vary over time); if different groups are largely isolated from each other, each group will go its own way. Note that the isolation doesn't have to be physical; it can be cultural, as e.g the difference between the English spoken on Wall Street and Harlem. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 2 '15 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ My comment below to bowlturner's answer could equally have been applied to the comment by jamesqf. The amount of linguistic variation will depend almost entirely on this factor of isolation of parts of the population from other parts. I don't think the total population size being set at around two million, or the whole island being isolated, makes much difference. Some real world languages spoken by about that many on islands have changed a great deal and split into dialects. Other island languages, e.g. Icelandic with 330,000 speakers, have remained remarkably constant. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Jul 2 '15 at 8:02
  • $\begingroup$ There's another factor: whether, as with Icelandic, they (or some sub-groups) have a literary or oral tradition that helps fix the language. As for example, I find it much easier to understand Shakespeare's English than some modern dialects. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 2 '15 at 18:03
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Language changes based on its use. New ideas come up and new terms are created to hold these ideas and concepts. So as long as people are generating new ideas and new ways to look at things (or just to irritate their parents) language will grow and change. Now how much variation in the language will be primarily dependent on how much mixing and communication is done between everyone. If there are villages that have a couple hundred to a couple thousand people but they don't interact with the 'outside' then they are more likely to first create their own dialect and the longer it goes on the more it will separate into it's own language. Boston, Nashville and St. Paul all have different dialects, whether they continue to grow, merge or stay the same has a lot to do with the interactions between the different populations.

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    $\begingroup$ The amount of linguistic variation in a population depends almost entirely on this factor of isolation. There are languages spoken by only a few thousand people that are nevertheless fragmented into almost mutually incomprehensible dialects because the people speaking these languages live in villages separated by difficult to pass mountains or jungle. Conversely any or all of the factors of a flatter landscape, navigable rivers, a centralising state, mass literacy, printing, or radio & TV will tend to increase linguistic uniformity. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Jul 2 '15 at 7:51
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Language changes unpredictably. I cannot give you a full account; just few examples of totally unmotivated changes happened to Russian in just 1000 years:

  • losing an ancillary verb;
  • eliminating reduced vowels;
  • losing some other phonemes (reflected in reforms of the alphabet) and acquiring one new;
  • losing vocative case;
  • acquiring and losing the honorific form;

The only thing to be said for sure is that printing press stabilizes spelling dramatically.

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    $\begingroup$ I would not call this changes unmotivated. Simillar ones are common in various languages. Auxillary verb is somehow redundant, omitting reduced vowels often saves time, putting distinguishing between many sound is hard, shsh is easier to say than shch, locative without preposition is less clear and people are polite but also lazy. There are certain language errors that people tend to do and such errors often become ineradicable. It is hard to predict when exactly, but some errors lead to other ones and for example after yers become reduced in PS, they dissapeared in all Slavic languages. $\endgroup$ – BartekChom Jul 2 '15 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ I am sorry, I did not have place for much explanation. $\endgroup$ – BartekChom Jul 2 '15 at 5:57

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