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A Bottom-up approach to the cultural evolution of bilingualism

Roberts, S. G. (2013). A Bottom-up approach to the cultural evolution of bilingualism. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2013) (pp. 1229-1234). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved from http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2013/papers/0236/index.html.
The relationship between individual cognition and cultural phenomena at the society level can be transformed by cultural transmission (Kirby, Dowman, & Griffiths, 2007). Top-down models of this process have typically assumed that individuals only adopt a single linguistic trait. Recent extensions include ‘bilingual’ agents, able to adopt multiple linguistic traits (Burkett & Griffiths, 2010). However, bilingualism is more than variation within an individual: it involves the conditional use of variation with different interlocutors. That is, bilingualism is a property of a population that emerges from use. A bottom-up simulation is presented where learners are sensitive to the identity of other speakers. The simulation reveals that dynamic social structures are a key factor for the evolution of bilingualism in a population, a feature that was abstracted away in the top-down models. Top-down and bottom-up approaches may lead to different answers, but can work together to reveal and explore important features of the cultural transmission process.
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