Modeling Language Transmission
Languages adapt as they are transmitted from one generation to the next. Modeling language transmission in computer simulations and laboratory experiments shows how this process gives rise to the structure found in language.
Language is a defining characteristic of our species, so understanding its evolutionary origins is central to understanding human evolution. In their seminal paper, Pinker and Bloom (1990) argued that the evolution of language is best understood as the result of conventional Darwinian processes, just like other complex biological traits. However, languages themselves also adapt and evolve over repeated episodes of learning and use, providing two evolutionary mechanisms that shape language: the biological evolution of the human capacity for language andthe cultural evolution of language itself. This entry outlines the consequences of cultural evolution for language and gives examples of how modeling language transmission can shed light on...
- Kirby, S., Cornish, H., & Smith, K. (2008). Cumulative cultural evolution in the laboratory: An experimental approach to the origins of structure in human language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105, 10681–10686. doi:10.1073/pnas.0707835105.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar