A social approach to rule dynamics using an agent-based model

Christine Cuskley, Vittorio Loreto, Simon Kirby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A well-trod debate at the nexus of cognitive science and linguistics, the so-called past tense debate, has examined how rules and exceptions are individually acquired (McClelland & Patterson, ; Pinker & Ullman, ). However, this debate focuses primarily on individual mechanisms in learning, saying little about how rules and exceptions function from a sociolinguistic perspective. To remedy this, we use agent-based models to examine how rules and exceptions function across populations. We expand on earlier work by considering how repeated interaction and cultural transmission across speakers affects the dynamics of rules and exceptions in language, measuring linguistic outcomes within a social system rather than focusing individual learning outcomes. We consider how population turnover and growth effect linguistic rule dynamics in large and small populations, showing that this method has considerable potential particularly in probing the mechanisms underlying the linguistic niche hypothesis (Lupyan & Dale, ).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-758
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Issue number4
Early online date8 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • agent-based modeling
  • population size
  • population growth
  • regularity
  • rules


Dive into the research topics of 'A social approach to rule dynamics using an agent-based model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this