The modeling methods used could be applied to predict how geography and demographics could affect the language used by speakers of other languages, the researchers noted.

Men, farmers and speakers further from the city of Florence were more likely to use dialectal, Tuscan-specific words than women, while speakers with higher levels of education were more likely to use standard, Italian words, the findings showed.

For the study, Martijn Wieling from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and colleagues used a statistical modeling technique to predict whether speakers in Tuscany use words from standard Italian or words unique to local dialects.

The researchers studied how over 2,000 speakers of Italian and Tuscan dialects referred to 170 different concepts.

The Italian word for cheese, for example, is formaggio; a Tuscan speaker may refer to this instead as cacio.

Using a technique known as generalized additive mixed modeling, the researchers examined how the location of a speaker, as well as demographic information such as their age, sex, and education level, are likely to affect whether a speaker will use the standard (Italian) or dialectal (Tuscan) form for a given concept.

The study provided new insight into dialect patterns.

"For example, old speakers were more likely than young speakers to use their local dialect's terms for frequently used concepts, but both young and old speakers showed similar patterns of usage for less frequently used words," the researchers concluded.

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