Complex Systems in Language Evolution: the Cultural Emergence of Compositional Structure


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.

DOI: 10.1142/S0219525903001055

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@article{Smith2003ComplexSI, title={Complex Systems in Language Evolution: the Cultural Emergence of Compositional Structure}, author={Kenny Smith and Henry Brighton and Simon Kirby}, journal={Advances in Complex Systems}, year={2003}, volume={6}, pages={537-558} }