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A social approach to rule dynamics using an agent-based model

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Christine CuskleyORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


A well‐trod debate at the nexus of cognitive science and linguistics, the so‐called past tense debate, has examined how rules and exceptions are individually acquired (McClelland & Patterson, 2002; Pinker & Ullman, 2002). However, this debate focuses primarily on individual mechanisms in learning, saying little about how rules and exceptions function from a sociolinguistic perspective. To remedy this, we use agent‐based models to examine how rules and exceptions function across populations. We expand on earlier work by considering how repeated interaction and cultural transmission across speakers affects the dynamics of rules and exceptions in language, measuring linguistic outcomes within a social system rather than focusing individual learning outcomes. We consider how population turnover and growth effect linguistic rule dynamics in large and small populations, showing that this method has considerable potential particularly in probing the mechanisms underlying the linguistic niche hypothesis (Lupyan & Dale, 2010).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cuskley C, Kirby S, Loreto V

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Topics in Cognitive Science

Year: 2018

Volume: 10

Issue: 4

Pages: 745-758

Print publication date: 01/10/2018

Online publication date: 08/03/2018

Acceptance date: 29/12/2017

Date deposited: 09/05/2019

ISSN (electronic): 1756-8765

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/tops.12327


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