Experiments and Simulations Can Inform Evolutionary Theories of the Cultural Evolution of Language

  • Mónica TamarizEmail author
Part of the Interdisciplinary Evolution Research book series (IDER, volume 1)


Language is a complex adaptive system supported by humans. With evidence and illustrative examples from recent computer simulation and experimental work, this chapter defends that much linguistic structure can be explained as emergent phenomena. Cultural processes such as social transmission to new generations or the patterns of speaker interaction, operating in large populations over many generations give rise to structure at different levels, from categories of phonemes to compositional structure. This position shifts the burden of explanation of linguistic structure from a biologically evolved mental organ to more tractable cultural processes, which are being investigated with a host of innovative empirical methods.


Cultural evolution of language Experiments Iterated learning Replication Emergence 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Language Evolution and Computation Research Unit, Department of Linguistics and English Language, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language SciencesThe University of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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