Modelling Social Structures and Hierarchies in Language Evolution

Conference paper


Language evolution might have preferred certain prior social configurations over others. Experiments conducted with models of different social structures (varying subgroup interactions and the presence of a dominant interlocutor) suggest that having isolated agent groups rather than an interconnected agent is more advantageous for the emergence of a social communication system. Accordingly, distinctive groups that are closely connected by communication yield systems less like natural language than fully isolated groups inhabiting the same world, while the addition of a dominant male who is asymmetrically favoured as a hearer, and equally likely to be a speaker has no positive influence on the quality of the emergent communal language.


Language Evolution Human Language Communicative Success Explicit Feedback Lexicon Size 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Aiello, L.C., Dunbar, R.: Neocortex Size, Group Size, and the Evolution of Language. Current Anthropology 34(2), 184–193 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bigelow, R.: The Evolution of Cooperation, Aggression, and Self-Control. In: J.K. Cole, D.D. Jensen (eds.) Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, pp. 1–57. University of Nebraska Press (1972)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Byrne, R.W., Whiten, A.: Machiavellian Intelligence: Social Expertise and the Evolution of Intellect in Monkeys, Apes, and Humans. Oxford University Press (1988)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Carstairs-McCarthy, A.: The Origins of Complex Language: An Inquiry into the EvolutionaryBeginnings of Sentences, Syllables, and Truth. Oxford University Press (1999)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Chase, H.W., Clark, L.: Gambling severity predicts midbrain response to near-miss outcomes. The Journal of Neuroscience 30(18), 6180–7 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dessalles, J.L.: Why We Talk: The Evolutionary Origins of Language. Oxford University Press (2007)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dunbar, R.I.M.: Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language. Harvard University Press (1997)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gardenfors, P.: The Emergence of Meaning. Linguistics and Philosophy 16(3), 285–309 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Gathercole, V.C.M.: Lexical Constraints in Acquisition: Are They Viable Any Longer? In: C.M. Gruber, D. Higgins, K.S. Olson, T. Wysocki (eds.) Proceedings of the Chicago Linguistics Society, pp. 481–492. Chicago Linguistic Society (1998)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gong, T., Minett, J.W.,Wang, W.S.Y.: Exploring social structure effect on language evolution based on a computational model. Connection Science 20(2), 135–153 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hauser, M.D., Chomsky, N., Fitch, W.T.: The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve? Science (New York, N.Y.) 298(5598), 1569–79 (2002)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hurford, J.R.: Social transmission favours linguistic generalization, pp. 324–352. Cambridge University Press (2000)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Jackendoff, R.: Possible stages in the evolution of the language capacity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences pp. 272–279 (1999)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kirby, S.: Syntax without Natural Selection: How compositionality emerges from vocabulary in a population of learners, pp. 303–323. Cambridge University Press (2000)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kudo, H., Dunbar, R.: Neocortex size and social network size in primates. Animal Behaviour 62(4), 711–722 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Quay, S.: Bilingual Evidence against the Principle of Contrast (1993)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Smith, A.D.M.: Establishing Communication Systems without Explicit Meaning Transmission. Advances in Artificial Life 2159, 381–390 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Smith, A.D.M.: The Inferential Transmission of Language. Adaptive Behavior 13(4), 311–324 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Smith, K.: Natural Selection and Cultural Selection in the Evolution of Communication. Adaptive Behavior 10(1), 25–45 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Steels, L.: Synthesising the origins of language and meaning using co-evolution, selforganisation and level formation. Edinburgh University Press (1996)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Tomasello, M.: Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition. Harvard University Press (2003)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Vogel, C.: Group Cohesion, Cooperation and Synchrony in a Social Model of Language Evolution, pp. 16–32. Springer Berlin Heidelberg (2010)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Vogel, C., Woods, J.: A Platform for Simulating Language Evolution. In: M. Bramer, F. Coenen, A. Tuson (eds.) Research and Development in Intelligent Systems, pp. 360–373. London: Springer (2006)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Vogt, P., Coumans, H.: Investigating social interaction strategies for bootstrapping lexicon development. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 6(1) (2003)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computational Linguistics GroupSchool of Computer Science and Statistics Trinity CollegeDublin 2Ireland

Personalised recommendations