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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: The Cultural Evolution of Structured Languages in an Open-Ended, Continuous World
Author(s): Carr, Jon W
Smith, Kenny
Cornish, Hannah
Kirby, Simon
Keywords: Categorization
Cultural evolution
Iterated learning
Language evolution
Sound symbolism
Issue Date: May-2017
Citation: Carr JW, Smith K, Cornish H & Kirby S (2017) The Cultural Evolution of Structured Languages in an Open-Ended, Continuous World, Cognitive Science, 41 (4), pp. 892-923.
Abstract: Language maps signals onto meanings through the use of two distinct types of structure. First, the space of meanings is discretized into categories that are shared by all users of the language. Second, the signals employed by the language are compositional: The meaning of the whole is a function of its parts and the way in which those parts are combined. In three iterated learning experiments using a vast, continuous, open-ended meaning space, we explore the conditions under which both structured categories and structured signals emerge ex nihilo. While previous experiments have been limited to either categorical structure in meanings or compositional structure in signals, these experiments demonstrate that when the meaning space lacks clear preexisting boundaries, more subtle morphological structure that lacks straightforward compositionality—as found in natural languages—may evolve as a solution to joint pressures from learning and communication.
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Rights: Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Cognitive Science published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Cognitive Science Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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