Emergence of Scale-Free Syntax Networks

  • Bernat Corominas-Murtra
  • Sergi Valverde
  • Ricard V. Solé


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.


Language Acquisition Small World Lexical Item Human Language Average Path Length 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernat Corominas-Murtra
    • 1
  • Sergi Valverde
    • 1
  • Ricard V. Solé
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.ICREA-Complex Systems LabUniversitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Santa Fe InstituteSanta FeUSA

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