Sergi Valverde and Ricard Solé, "Punctuated equilibrium in the large scale evolution of programming languages", SFI working paper 2014-09-030
Here we study the large scale historical development of programming languages, which have deeply marked social and technological advances in the last half century. We analyse their historical connections using network theory and reconstructed phylogenetic networks. Using both data analysis and network modelling, it is shown that their evolution is highly uneven, marked by innovation events where new languages are created out of improved combinations of different structural components belonging to previous languages. These radiation events occur in a bursty pattern and are tied to novel technological and social niches. The method can be extrapolated to other systems and consistently captures the major classes of languages and the widespread horizontal design exchanges, revealing a punctuated evolutionary path.
The results developed here are perhaps not that surprising to people familiar with the history of programming languages. But it's interesting to see it all formalized and analyzed.