Evolution of Communication and Language in Embodied Agents

pp 83-101


Emergence of Scale-Free Syntax Networks

  • Bernat Corominas-MurtraAffiliated withICREA-Complex Systems Lab, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
  • , Sergi ValverdeAffiliated withICREA-Complex Systems Lab, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
  • , Ricard V. SoléAffiliated withICREA-Complex Systems Lab, Universitat Pompeu FabraSanta Fe Institute Email author 

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The evolution of human language allowed the efficient propagation of nongenetic information, thus creating a new form of evolutionary change. Language development in children offers the opportunity of exploring the emergence of such complex communication system and provides a window to understanding the transition from protolanguage to language. Here we present the first analysis of the emergence of syntax in terms of complex networks. A previously unreported, sharp transition is shown to occur around two years of age from a (pre-syntactic) tree-like structure to a scale-free, small world syntax network. The observed combinatorial patterns provide valuable data to understand the nature of the cognitive processes involved in the acquisition of syntax, introducing a new ingredient to understand the possible biological endowment of human beings which results in the emergence of complex language. We explore this problem by using a minimal, data-driven model that is able to capture several statistical traits, but some key features related to the emergence of syntactic complexity display important divergences.