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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Early online date8 Mar 2018
StateE-pub ahead of print - 8 Mar 2018


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, ).

    Research areas

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

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