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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Christine Cuskley
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).
A cornerstone of experimental studies in language evolution has been iterated artificial language learning: studies where participants learn of artificial ‘alien’ languages, and the product of their learning is then passed onto other participants successively. Results over the last decade show that some defining features of human language can arise under these experimental conditions, which use iteration to simulate processes of cultural transmission. The form modalities used in iterated learning studies have expanded considerably in recent years, but the dynamics of how learning a completely novel form system interact with processes of cultural transmission are only beginning to be explored. This paper provides a brief overview of artificial language learning studies in the context of language evolution, situating them in a framework which focuses on forms used in learning and production. This issue is further explored with an iterated experiment which focuses on the role of learning completely novel forms in isolation. This experiment uses a new set of graphical symbols called Ferros, which are produced using a virtual palette. Results show that properties of this novel form space—in particular, ease of articulation—have specific effects on sequence learning and evolution. These results have implications for how forms and modalities might constrain language systems, and demonstrate how the use of truly novel alien forms might be extended to address new questions in cultural and linguistic evolution.
Author(s): Cuskley C
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Palgrave Communications
Online publication date: 06/08/2019
Acceptance date: 18/07/2019
Date deposited: 19/08/2019
ISSN (electronic): 2055-1045
Publisher: Springer Nature
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