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Monolingual Biases in Simulations of Cultural Transmission

Roberts, S. G. (2014). Monolingual Biases in Simulations of Cultural Transmission. In V. Dignum, & F. Dignum (Eds.), Perspectives on Culture and Agent-based Simulations (pp. 111-125). Cham: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-01952-9_7.
Recent research suggests that the evolution of language is affected by the inductive biases of its learners. I suggest that there is an implicit assumption that one of these biases is to expect a single linguistic system in the input. Given the prevalence of bilingual cultures, this may not be a valid abstraction. This is illustrated by demonstrating that the ‘minimal naming game’ model, in which a shared lexicon evolves in a population of agents, includes an implicit mutual exclusivity bias. Since recent research suggests that children raised in bilingual cultures do not exhibit mutual exclusivity, the individual learning algorithm of the agents is not as abstract as it appears to be. A modification of this model demonstrates that communicative success can be achieved without mutual exclusivity. It is concluded that complex cultural phenomena, such as bilingualism, do not necessarily result from complex individual learning mechanisms. Rather, the cultural process itself can bring about this complexity.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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