- Language dynamics in structured form and meaning spaces
- Advances in Complex Systems
- Volume | Issue number
- 15 | 3-4
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
This paper reviews how the structure of form and meaning spaces influences the nature and the dynamics of the form-meaning mappings in language. In general, in a structured form or meaning space, not all forms and meanings are equivalent: some forms and some meanings are more easily confused with each other than with other forms or meanings. We first give a formalization of this idea, and explore how it influences robust form-meaning mappings. It is shown that some fundamental properties of human language, such as discreteness and combinatorial structure as well as universals of sound systems of human languages follow from optimal communication in structured form and meaning spaces. We also argue that some properties of human language follow less from these fundamental issues, and more from cognitive constraints.
We then show that it is possible to experimentally investigate the relative contribution of functional constraints and of cognitive constraints. We illustrate this with an example of one of our own experiments, in which experimental participants have to learn a set of complex form-meaning mappings that have been produced by a previous generation of participants. Theoretically predicted properties appear in the sets of signals that emerge in this iterated learning experiment.
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