Cultural emergence of combinatorial structure in an artificial whistled language

Tessa Verhoef, Simon Kirby, Carol Padden

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Speech sounds within a linguistic system are both categorical and combinatorial and there are constraints on how elements can be recombined. To investigate the origins of this combinatorial structure, we conducted an iterated learning experiment with human participants, studying the transmission of an artificial system of sounds. In this study, participants learn and recall a system of sounds that are produced with a slide whistle, an instrument that is both intuitive and non-linguistic. The system they are exposed to is the recall output of the previous participant. Transmission from participant to participant causes the system to change and become cumulatively more learnable and more structured. This shows that combinatorial structure can culturally emerge in an artificial sound system through iterated learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication CogSci 2011 Proceedings
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive Science Society Conference
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'Cultural emergence of combinatorial structure in an artificial whistled language'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this