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Spontaneous evolution of linguistic structure-an iterated learning model of the emergence of regularity and irregularity

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1 Author(s)
Kirby, S. ; Dept. of Linguistics, Edinburgh Univ., UK

A computationally implemented model of the transmission of linguistic behavior over time is presented. In this iterated learning model (ILM), there is no biological evolution, natural selection, nor any measurement of the success of the agents at communicating (except for results-gathering purposes). Nevertheless, counter to intuition, significant evolution of linguistic behavior is observed. From an initially unstructured communication system (a protolanguage), a fully compositional syntactic meaning-string mapping emerges. Furthermore, given a nonuniform frequency distribution over a meaning space and a production mechanism that prefers short strings, a realistic distribution of string lengths and patterns of stable irregularity emerges, suggesting that the ILM is a good model for the evolution of some of the fundamental features of human language

Published in:

Evolutionary Computation, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:5 ,  Issue: 2 )