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Smith, K., Brighton, H., and Kirby, S. (2003) Complex Systems in Language Evolution: the cultural emergence of compositional structure. Advances in Complex Systems, 6(4):537--558.

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   Authoritative: http://dx.doi.org/10.1142/S0219525903001055   (Publisher's PDF... likely be available here.)
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Language arises from the interaction of three complex adaptive systems biological evolution, learning, and culture. We focus here on cultural evolution, and present an Iterated Learning Model of the emergence of compositionality, a fundamental structural property of language. Our main result is to show that the poverty of the stimulus available to language learners leads to a pressure for linguistic structure. When there is a bottleneck on cultural transmission, only a language which is generalizable from sparse input data is stable. Language itself evolves on a cultural time-scale, and compositionality is language's adaptation to stimulus poverty.

Keywords: Language; cultural evolution; compositionality

  author={K. Smith and H. Brighton and S. Kirby},
  title={Complex Systems in Language Evolution: the cultural emergence of compositional structure},
  journal={Advances in Complex Systems},
  keywords={Language; cultural evolution; compositionality}