Complex systems in language evolution: the cultural emergence of compositional structures

Smith, Kenny, Brighton, Henry and Kirby, Simon (2003) Complex systems in language evolution: the cultural emergence of compositional structures. Advances in Complex Systems, 6 (4). pp. 537-558. ISSN 0219-5259

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1142/S0219525903001055

Abstract

Language arises from the interaction of three complex adaptive systems — biological evolution, learning, and culture. We focus here on cultural evolution, and present an Iterated Learning Model of the emergence of compositionality, a fundamental structural property of language. Our main result is to show that the poverty of the stimulus available to language learners leads to a pressure for linguistic structure. When there is a bottleneck on cultural transmission, only a language which is generalizable from sparse input data is stable. Language itself evolves on a cultural time-scale, and compositionality is language's adaptation to stimulus poverty.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: First author and corresponding author
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ethnology, Language acquisition
Subjects: Q100 Linguistics
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2008 11:48
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2017 12:04
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/1451

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