, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 721–734 | Cite as

The change of signaling conventions in social networks

  • Roland MühlenberndEmail author
Original Article


To depict the mechanisms that have enabled the emergence of semantic conventions, philosophers and researchers particularly access a game-theoretic model: the signaling game. In this article I argue that this model is also quite appropriate to analyze not only the emergence of a semantic convention, but also its change. I delineate how the application of signaling games helps to reproduce and depict mechanisms of semantic change. For that purpose I present a model that combines a signaling game with innovative reinforcement learning; in simulation runs I conduct this game repeatedly within a multi-agent setup, where agents are arranged in social network structures. The results of these runs are contrasted with an attested theory from sociolinguistics: the ‘weak tie’ theory. Analyses of the produced data target a deeper understanding of the role of environmental variables for the promotion of (1) semantic change or (2) solidity of semantic conventions.


Signaling game Reinforcement learning Multi-agent account Social network structure Mechanisms of language change 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsEberhard Karls University TübingenTübingenGermany

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