Introduction. Self-organization and selection in cultural language evolution

  title={Introduction. Self-organization and selection in cultural language evolution},
  author={Luc L. Steels},
This chapter outlines the main challenges a theory for the cultural evolution of language should address and proposes a particular theory which is worked out and explored in greater detail in the remaining chapters of this book. The theory rests on two biologically inspired mechanisms, namely selection and self-organization, mapped onto the cultural, more specifically, linguistic domain. Selectionism is an alternative to rational top-down design. It introduces a distinction between… 

Figures from this paper

A Co-evolved Continuum of Language, Culture and Cognition: Prospects of Interdisciplinary Research
It is argued that these problems can be approached in the presented framework from an evolutionary perspective by combining agent-based models, experimental semiotics and insights from comparative linguistics and the importance of the ecological environment in evolutionary models is stressed.
Minimal requirements for the cultural evolution of language
Human language is both a cognitive and a cultural phenomenon. Any evolutionary account of language, then, must address both biological and cultural evolution. In this thesis, I give a mainly cultural
Simplifying linguistic complexity: culture and cognition in language evolution
This thesis reports the first iterated learning experiments to investigate the evolution of complexity in compositional structure at the word and sentence level and provides support for the claim that morphological and syntactic complexity are shaped by an overarching drive towards simplicity.
Languages adapt to their contextual niche
This study experimentally investigates the role of the communicative situation in which an utterance is produced and how it influences the emergence of three types of linguistic systems: underspecified languages, holistic systems, and systematic languages.
Context, cognition and communication in language
It is argued that experiments are better suited to address questions pertaining to language structure and context, with the central aim being to test how manipulations to context influence the structure and organisation of language.
Co-evolving Language and Social Structure Using a Genetic Algorithm
Experimental work demonstrates that agents are able to build social structures that resembles real life social topologies, although the naming game might happen too rapid in respect to the evolving social structure, so the presented model is suited for further investigation of social, or other functional, traits that can influence language evolution.
Integrating Cognitive Linguistics and language evolution research
It is argued that the evolution of language and cognition can gain important insights by integrating evolutionary linguistics and the framework of Cognitive Linguistics, as well as construction grammar and usage-based approaches.
Computational construction grammar and constructional change
After several decades in scientific purgatory, language evolution has reclaimed its place as one of the most important branches in linguistics, leading to high-profile publications in journals such
The Role of Intrinsic Motivation in Artificial Language Emergence: a Case Study on Colour
This work proposes an intrinsic motivation system that allows agents in a population to create a shared artificial language and progressively increase its expressive power, which indicates a relation between population size and consistency in the emergent communicative systems.


Competition and Selection in Language Evolution
The primary thesis of this paper is that selection plays a role in language evolution. Underlying this position is the assumption that a language is a Lamarckian species, a construct extrapolated
Linguistic Selection of Language Strategies - A Case Study for Colour
This paper proposes that linguistic selection, i.e. selection driven by communicative success and cognitive effort, is relevant and shows a concrete case study for the domain of colour on how different language strategies may cooperate and compete for dominance in a population.
Cultural transmission and evolution: a quantitative approach.
A mathematical theory of the non-genetic transmission of cultural traits is developed that provides a framework for future investigations in quantitative social and anthropological science and concludes that cultural transmission is an essential factor in the study of cultural change.
The Origins and Evolution of Culture
A deductive theory is outlined that creates a new way to think about the origins and evolution of culture and concludes that the organisms that create culture actively participate in the creation of descendants who exhibit increasing cultural abilities and who generate increases in productivity and more reliable flows of resources.
Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax
The book defines areas where consensus has been established with regard to the nature, infrastructure, and evolution of the syntax of natural languages; summarizes and evaluates contrasting approaches in areas that remain controversial; and suggests lines for future research to resolve at least some of these disputed issues.
Linguistic Evolution through Language Acquisition: Formal and Computational Models.
This book is really two books, which do not communicate with each other once one gets past the editor’s introduction in chapter 1, and which use computer simulation to demonstrate that agents with no innate syntactic structure can interact to create and preserve both the lexicon and syntax of languages over many generations.
Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life
In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes and offers a richer, more complex view of evolution than the gene-based, one-dimensional view held by many today.
The evolutionary emergence of language : social function and the origins of linguistic form
Part I. The Evolution of Cooperative Communication: 1. Introduction: the evolution of cooperative communication Chris Knight 2. Comprehension, production and conventionalization in the origins of
The emergence of linguistic structure: an overview of the iterated learning model
As language users humans possess a culturally transmitted system of unparalleled complexity in the natural world. Linguistics has revealed over the past 40 years the degree to which the syntactic
Evolution in Four Dimensions
The subtitle of the book is Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life; thus, the four dimensions of the title. ‘‘The challenge [this book] offers is not to