The complexity of a language is shaped by the communicative needs of its users and by the hierarchical nature of their social inferences

Vlad Nedelcu, Kenny Smith

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

Abstract

Recent experimental and computational modelling work has found that languages are shaped by the referential context in which they operate. Wray and Grace (2007) argue that even compositionality, traditionally regarded as a universal and fundamental feature of human languages, may have only culturally evolved in response to changing social contexts. But how can the referential contexts of individual interactions come to shape the level of compositionality in the language of an entire community? To explore this question, we propose an iterated hierarchical Bayesian model that shows how partner-specific linguistic innovations can be generalized as community-wide features via a context-sensitive pathway. Our simulations show that the degree of compositionality that evolves in the language of a community depends on the communicative needs of its members, but also on the degree of user uncertainty over the nature of those needs, and on the level of heterogeneity in the community's needs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 44th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsJennifer Culbertson, Andrew Perfors, Hugh Rabagliati, Veronica Ramenzoni
PublishereScholarship University of California
Pages1145-1151
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jun 2022
Event44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 27 Jul 202230 Jul 2022
Conference number: 44
https://cognitivesciencesociety.org/cogsci-2022/

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Volume44
ISSN (Electronic)1069-7977

Conference

Conference44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Abbreviated titleCogSci 2022
Country/TerritoryCanada
CityToronto
Period27/07/2230/07/22
Internet address

Keywords

  • communication
  • context
  • compositionality
  • language
  • generalization
  • hierarchical modelling
  • pragmatics
  • cultural evolution
  • convention

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