Original Article

Mind & Society

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 65-76

Language learning, power laws, and sexual selection

  • Ted BriscoeAffiliated withComputer Laboratory, University of Cambridge Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

I discuss the ubiquity of power law distributions in language organisation (and elsewhere), and argue against Miller’s (The mating mind: How sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature, William Heinemann, London, 2000) argument that large vocabulary size is a consequence of sexual selection. Instead I argue that power law distributions are evidence that languages are best modelled as dynamical systems but raise some issues for models of iterated language learning.

Keywords

Zipf curve Iterated learning model Small world distribution Evolutionary linguistics Diathesis alternation