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Synthetic Modeling of Cultural Language Evolution

Michael Spranger (Sony Labs, Tokyo, Japan)

Questions about the origins and evolution of language are as old as the field of linguistics. In the past 20 years, there has been an increased interest in using computer simulations and robots to shed light on the evolution of language. This workshop focusses on agent-based, embodied models of language evolution that take a Cognitive Linguistic (CL) point of view on the problem. In particular, we introduce models that combine aspects of Construction Grammar and Cognitive Semantics, in order, to understand cultural language evolution.

The workshop is organized in 4 parts. 1) We start with an introduction to modeling approaches for language evolution. 2) This is followed by a discussion of models for simple language (lexicon and simple phrases). 3) The third part focusses on the evolution of meaning. 4) Lastly, we will discuss models of grammatical evolution and models that combine the evolution of meaning and grammar. Throughout the workshop, we introduce numerous case studies that investigate various linguistic domains such as spatial language, determiners, temporal language, event structure etc.

No prior background in computational modeling is assumed. People interested in trying their hands on these models will have an opportunity to try out open-source software frameworks for agent-based models of language evolution.

Suggested introductory reading:

Michael Spranger and Luc Steels. Synthetic Modeling of Cultural Language Evolution. In Five Approaches to Language Evolution - Proceedings of the Workshops of the 9th International Conference on the Evolution of Language. Evolang9 Organizing Committee, 2012

Steels, L. (2011). Modeling the cultural evolution of language. Physics of Life Reviews, 8(4), 339-356.

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